By Stefanie McCann, Editor, Connected Futures
During the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in October 2016, the analyst firm released its list of trends you couldn’t afford to ignore this year.
“These trends will have the biggest impact to digital disruption,” Gartner’s David Cearley, VP and fellow, said at the time.
Now that we are a few months into 2017, let’s look at how some of these technologies are truly trending.
- Advanced Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI is beginning to impact IT, retail, banking, transportation, and many other sectors. And it shows no sign of slowing. “Three years ago, you might have been too early to start on AI,” said Dan Olley, CIO of Elsevier, “now, if you wait three years, you will be left behind.”
- Intelligent Apps: These have the potential to transform the structure of the workplace, if not the very nature of work. For example, organizations are creating intelligent collaboration rooms that use facial recognition, RFID, Bluetooth, and near-field communication. When combined, these technologies schedule, configure, and prepare meetings, even down to setting the temperature to your preferences and needs.
- Intelligent Things: Just about everything is joining the Internet of Things. Sensors, advanced analytics, and network connectivity are transforming appliances, medical devices, robots, drones, vehicles, you name it.
In law enforcement, drones and other digital technologies are enabling even small police forces to take the high ground.
Detective Donnie Hammons of the Crossville, Tenn., police department said that a helicopter would cost his organization’s entire yearly budget. But its new video-equipped drone costs less than a car and about the same as a tracking dog. “The drone can do almost anything that a helicopter can do,” he said. “Search and rescue, chase bad guys, find Alzheimer’s patients that have wandered off.”
Deep in the South African bush, IoT is playing an unlikely but important role in saving the endangered rhino. A variety of sensors, video cameras, and drones monitor even the most remote areas of a rhino reserve, and all data is coordinated in a highly secure network.
The goal is to stop poachers before they cause harm.
“The technology has a deterrent effect,” said Loucks, “because the poachers are not 100 percent sure of what they can and cannot do.”
- Augmented and Virtual Reality: These immersive technologies allow consumers to explore features and access information to aid in a buying decision. According to Gartner, such human-to-machine interactions may become a standard customer experience.
And CIOs are seeing the promise. At NRF, the retail industry’s largest event, Ratnakar Lavu, CIO of Kohl’s Department Stores, said he had employed everything from mobile payments to artificial intelligence to virtual reality to drive a deeper customer relationship.
“This transformation required us to be focused on one thing and one thing only, which is our customer,” Lavu said, “We understand our customer, we understand what our customer’s needs are, and we want to provide the right experience end to end.”
- Digital Twin: A dynamic software model of a thing or system. The model relies on real-world sensors and data to create a virtual duplicate that reveals insights to improve operations and add value. One potential application? Predictive maintenance of a (real) vehicle or industrial machine based on failures in its (digital) twin.
- Blockchain and Distributed Ledger: By creating an unassailable record of transactions on a “chain” of computers, this technology could impact everything from financial exchanges to machine-to-machine communications. Its impact will be broad and far-reaching.
In effect, blockchain increases the reliability of transactions while ensuring the privacy — and eliminates the slow, complicated middle layer of verification. This will allow ecosystems of partners, customers, or machines to interact with more freedom, diversity, and security than ever before.
“We have come to the conclusion, unequivocally, that blockchain is the most important invention in computer science in a generation,” said Alex Tapscott, co-author with Don Tapscott of The Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World.
“A lot of people assume that this technology is about changing the financial services industry; we think it’s about reinventing the economy.”
- Conversational Systems: Intelligent personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa allow consumers to buy items or receive daily updates that can influence their habits and lifestyles. For example, they can create to-do lists, set alarms, play music to fit a mood, and share real-time updates on weather, traffic, or news.
- Digital Technology Platforms: New digital opportunities and evolving threats demand a platform that brings resources together to create value.
“The digital transformation is going to come from the network,” said Kevin Bandy, chief digital officer, Cisco. He talks to many executives who say they are looking at all of the data that digital is generating. CIOs understand it has to be highly secure. After all, it’s where all of their business processes run. It’s where their employees connect. And it’s where every application lives. “The network is the foundation of digital transformation,” said Bandy.
“Business models are changing so rapidly now that setting that solid network strategy is going to allow you to constantly pivot with the needs of the market,” Bandy continued.
- Intelligent Digital Mesh: According to Gartner, CEOs predict that by 2020, 46 percent of the customer-perceived value proposition of their products and services will be digital. And according to Gartner, the primary driver of digital business value will be a blending of the physical and digital domains.
The upshot is that every organization is becoming a technology organization. People are connecting in more relevant ways, converting data into intelligence, delivering the right information to the right person or machine at the right time, and using the Internet to unite physical devices and objects for smart, automated decision-making. These capabilities boost workforce collaboration and mobility while driving better business outcomes.
- Adaptive Security and Architecture: Gartner also states that CIOs should shift their security mindset from “incident response” to “continuous response.” In short, assume that systems will be compromised. And prepare for continuous monitoring and remediation.
Swift response is critical. According to The Cisco 2017 Security Capabilities Benchmark Study, nearly a quarter of the organizations that have suffered an attack lost business opportunities. Four in 10 said those losses were substantial. One in five organizations lost customers due to an attack, and nearly 30 percent lost revenue.
All of these technologies are already having a significant impact in 2017. Any company that strives to be a successful digital organization will need to assess them and incorporate the ones that will drive clear business outcomes. If they do it in a planned and strategic way, they will reap the benefits of agility, innovation, and growth for years to come.
Kevin Delaney, Senior Writer, Connected Futures, contributed to this article.