Technology Trends for 2018

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Happy New Year!

Every new year, individuals and organizations across the world predict what the next year (and beyond) in technology will look like. We are not always right, of course, but we look at broad trends and the right level of analysis where specific accuracy is hard to verify after the fact. I have taken a look at what organizations like Accenture, PWC, Deloitte, etc have predicted for 2018 technology outlook. While I agree with some of them, there are some that I disagree with.  Let’s take a look at trends that I believe will shape 2018 and beyond:

Trend 1: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and virtual and augmented reality are delivering compelling and complementary outcomes and this would improve in 2018.

Over the past year, many companies have embarked on the pilot and small deployments of robotic technologies to automate manual, mundane, repetitive tasks and have seen varying levels of success. The stage is set for 2018 to be the year in which companies deliver automation at the scale which, when combined with transformed business process and operational improvements, will result in many thousands of robots being deployed in organizations. These will vastly improve employees’ roles by removing monotony and allowing for more creative work.”

Increasingly we’re seeing how these technologies collectively have the potential to deliver disruptive outcomes. Let’s look at some examples: logistics giant, DHL, is successfully using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality in its warehouse picking operations through the use of smart glasses.

The glasses place a display in front of the wearer’s eye, which provides a visual display of order picking instructions, the exact location of the goods in the warehouse, and where they should be placed on the cart. This has resulted in massive improvements in employee productivity and in the accuracy of deliveries.

Use cases for augmented reality are moving into the consumer space. Air New Zealand is currently trialing a solution to improve how they serve their passengers.

As flight attendants walk down the aisle wearing augmented reality glasses, they immediately know each passenger’s details – how many miles they’ve flown, what their meal preferences are, and where their final destination is – all of which enhance their ability to provide a more personalized service.

I actually believe the greatest technology impact in 2018 will be Artificial Intelligence.

Trend 2: Decentralised Transaction Models (BlockChain) and Cybersecurity

The increasing demand in the ICO (initial coin offering) space will become yet more prevalent this year. This will disrupt traditional organizational structures and the means of investments and raise funds.

People across the world are starting to move away from only financial services organizations looking at uses for blockchain, and are seeing more activity in energy and utilities, manufacturing and healthcare which we predict will continue in the year ahead. There is a big opportunity for blockchain to provide transparency and accountability in the supply chain. Blockchain for digital identity purposes will also become more tangible over the next 12 – 18 months.

Over the last year, blockchain has gone from strength to strength. In the financial services sector, we saw both the US and European capital markets moving onto Blockchain platforms in a large way, with similar activity in more conservative markets like Japan. Considering how conservative and compliance-focused this sector is, that’s quite remarkable.

In 2018 there will be a potential for blockchain to deliver on the promise of IoT will become better understood because IoT requires a peer-to-peer mechanism to be practical and executable.

In the world of IoT, you’re generating millions of small transactions collected from a distributed set of sensors.

We also expect to see interesting applications of Blockchain and IoT in the area of cybersecurity in the year ahead.

2018 will be the year in which organizations deliver a step-change in their cybersecurity capability by embracing emerging technologies, most notably AI and blockchain.

Trend 3: Quantified enterprise: Data analytics

Data remains king – so, while emerging technologies like AI, the blockchain, and drones are becoming the new ‘it’ crowd, let’s not forget about the magic ingredient behind them all – data.

Last year there was a rise of intelligent machines, today business decision makers say artificial intelligence (AI) is pivotal to their organization’s future success. In 2018, companies will harness the “data exhaust” from their digital systems to quantify the business and become even more productive. This quantification will emerge as a primary driver of digital transformation. it will be more important than ever for organizations to ensure they have a clear picture of the data assets they’re sitting on, in order to mine it for better business outcomes and to take advantage of the latest technologies.”

Forced to rethink big data, companies will use advanced machine learning to make better decisions with less data.

The best companies are over 40 percent more productive than their peers — leading to operating margins 30 to 50 percent higher. So the potential benefits are huge. When it comes to determining what affects productivity, companies will stop guessing and start measuring. They’ll start shifting from making decisions based mostly on stories and gut feelings, to making decisions based on experiments and measured results.

The first opportunities will be the often-dysfunctional business processes that bring so much friction to productivity and revenue realization.

Trend 4 : Digital Business Extensions

The digital core will provide enterprises with an information-rich, scalable foundation. In 2018, companies will grow by leveraging that information and scale, extending their digital capabilities into every facet of the organization — as well as into new markets and new businesses — through digital business extensions.

Amazon’s journey – from online bookseller to online-everything marketplace, to cloud platform, to online- and offline-everything platform, including groceries – is not about a company being irrationally greedy and trying to put a finger in every pie. It is a story of smart digital extensions. In other words, Amazon can run some of those businesses better because of its digital capabilities.

GE’s big plans for the industrial internet of things and its Predix platform can also be seen as a digital business extension.

To make the right digital extensions, companies need a “strategic backflow” from digital capabilities to corporate strategy. This backflow must be embedded in strategic planning rather than based on heroic behaviors, water cooler conversations and special relationships.

That means ensuring that corporate strategy and, ideally, all functional strategies (e.g., marketing, manufacturing, logistics) have mechanisms to consider digital extensions. Ask: “What can I do now?” and “What should I do next?”

The technology sail for 2018 is on, what are your own predictions?

 

Written by: Austine Abolusoro, Group Head, Online Banking at UBA Group

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