It seems like only yesterday we were talking about things like mobility and unified communications as tools that could power the enterprise. But this coming year, Gartner’s annual Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends predicts newer technologies like artificial intelligence will find an increasing number of real use cases in the business landscape that will make them less of a cool trend and more of a must-have for many businesses. Indeed, it’s never really the technology that makes the disruption—it’s the people who find new and different ways to use it. And while it’s hard to predict how or when those disruptions will erupt in the marketplace, we can definitely take a stab at understanding the technology that will likely back them. For me, it boils down to artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain.
Artificial Intelligence Goes Mainstream
Hands down, this is the year of AI. In fact, with data growing so much—and providing so many insights into customer behaviors—I’d say any company not investing in AI is digging themselves an early grave. There will simply be no way to keep up with competitors without harnessing AI’s power, be it to automate and personalize marketing campaigns or to track the ups and downs of your customer journey. But there are a few more areas where I believe we’ll see growth for AI in the coming year:
- Conversational AI platforms: Move over, Siri and Alexa. Conversational platforms will soon become the norm in business, with companies using them to manage customer service, reservation inquiries, sales leads, and everything in between.
- Intelligent Apps: It’s all about the data. And more and more, today’s apps are being designed not just to inform or entertain the customer, but to gather information about them—where they are, what they are buying, and when they’re jumping ship—so they can bait them back in for the sale. Indeed, your phone is kind of like and undercover spy. Intelligent apps learn the best time to tempt you with offers—the right time to ask if you need help—the right time to present another product you might like, all in hopes of improving the bottom line.
- Intelligent Things I recently read that MIT had created intelligent tattoos that can change color when a diabetes patient’s insulin level changes. The truth is, now that we’ve developed the connectivity of the IoT, we’re able to insert those powerful sensors almost anywhere, and process that data in real time—potentially saving lives. It will be interesting to see what other smart devices pop up in 2018.
The IoT isn’t exciting in and of itself. Instead, its power comes in what it can tell us about our customers’ habits and lifestyles. I believe it will impact the tech environment this coming year in two major ways:
- Digital Twins: The rise of connected devices means a rise in connected models—digital twins that can emulate how a certain machine or object would work or react in real life. Digital modeling itself is not new. But digital twins take that technology to a higher level, allowing users to test products like cars and buildings to see how they will stand up in certain weather conditions and other real-world scenarios. It’s believed digital twins could save billions of dollars in maintenance repair and operation (MRO). I’m guessing it would also save lots of lives.
- Edge Computing: With the growth of the IoT, there will simply be too much information for the cloud to handle—let alone handle it fast. Companies today can’t afford to lag when it comes to processing customer data. In today’s market, real-time is the only time that matters. To manage the real-time data stream, companies will need to find faster, more, and better places to process—and that means they’ll be pushed to the edge.
- Event-driven Approach: I’d say this is more of a trend than a power at this point, but nevertheless it’s possible. The outgrowth of IoT and continued development of artificial reality and virtual reality will allow companies to market to customers in new and immersive ways. To me, this is more of a change in mindset—better understanding the customer journey so you can be there with your customer every step of the way.
It seems like you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about blockchain—and for good reason. The tech powerhouse that serves as the foundation of Bitcoin is finding even stronger footing in industries like banking and finding new use cases daily. While offering transparency, it also offers enhanced security and billions in savings by removing the middle man from transactions like payments, processing fees, etc. I predict blockchain will move from “up and comer” to a real-life player in the coming year.
It goes without saying that businesses will also need to get more savvy with cybersecurity as connected devices and mobility continue to grow. Sound like a lot to digest? It is. But the beautiful thing about digital transformation is that many of these processes will be working seamlessly—automatically—saving your company time and money in the process.
Here’s to a prosperous and exciting 2018.