As the business world marches towards the digital with an ever-quickening pace, CIOs need to be constantly on the cusp of strategic technology to keep up. This task has been made more difficult with tech innovation in recent years blurring the lines between the digital and the real. Fittingly, at the Gartner 2017 Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Florida, David Cearley, Vice President and Gartner Fellow, predicted that in 2018 'the continuing digital business evolution [would] exploit new digital models to align more closely the physical and digital worlds for employees, partners and customers. Technology will be embedded in everything in the digital business of the future.'
With innovation being the only constant in the digital world, it's difficult for businesses to know which strategic technologies are going to have the biggest impact. Here is a comprehensive list of our own predictions as to which strategic technology trends CIO's need to be aware of over the next year:
1. Artificial Intelligence
It feels like this is all anyone can talk about these days, huh? AI is set to dominate all aspects of business over the coming years, and will entirely innovate the way decision-making is done, how business models are reinvented and the way the customer experience is handled. Don't imagine this taking the form of the sleek metal robots we see in sci-fi films though. The way AI will transform business in 2018 will be very much focused on the revolutionized handling of big data. Machine learning has the capacity to sift through huge quantities of data at a considerably higher rate than humans can and is able to use intelligent reasoning to engage in decision-making for the business with increased reliability and efficiency.
Netflix is a great example of a company who have used AI to improve their data analysis to great effect. According to a McKinsey Global Institute study, by providing better search results, machine learning has saved them $1 bn annually. A Forrester Research Report predicts that in 2018, 70% of enterprises expect to implement AI in a similar way. With AI's increased efficiency and effectiveness, it will inevitably transform those businesses beginning to adopt it. So it's a trend CIO's can't afford to not get on board with.
2. Digital Twins
A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world system or entity. Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be 21 billion connected sensors and endpoints, connecting the real-life system to the digital model through the IoT. And as a result, by 2021, they estimate that around half of all large industrial companies will use digital twins. This will see companies experiencing a 10% improvement in effectiveness on average.
The benefits of employing digital twins in your technological strategy are endless. By forming a bridge between the digital and the physical, companies are able to trial systems and products without having the same risks attached as would be in the real world. For example, engineers will be able to gain insights into the real-world usage of the products they have designed. NASA is currently using digital twins to model missions that would be impossible to monitor in real time in the physical world, meaning they are able to keep crews safe while ensuring systems are running efficiently. GE are also using digital twins to make their wind farms 20% more effective.
IDC predicts that by using data gathered from digital twins of IoT connected products and assets will improve product innovation success and general productivity by 25%. It is clearly worth 'getting on the hype' sooner rather than later and employing digital twins in your technological strategy in 2018.
3. Augmented Reality and Virtual reality
AR and VR are technologies that also serve to blur the lines between the physical and the digital world. They began to be implemented in many business strategies in 2017, being used in real estate, with companies like Matterport offering virtual tours, gaming companies, such as Oculus, in their AR gaming device Oculus Rift (which was later purchased by Facebook - a sure sign that they were onto a winner), to name just a few. The trend will continue to gather pace in the coming year. According to one IDC study, the worldwide revenues for augmented and virtual reality market will grow to $162 billion in 2020, demonstrating just how integral this will become to business strategy.
Many media outlets kicked off 2018 by announcing that it will be the year augmented and virtual reality go mainstream. This will not be exclusively for entertainment purposes as is the common misconception. AR and VR will help maintenance workers when building, with AR products like SCOPE AR providing instructions directly within the task space. It will also revolutionize staff training, as 'newbies' will be able to trial their skills in a virtual world, without the risk of damaging equipment or making mistakes that could potentially affect the company. There are countless more applications of this tech, some of which will be uncovered over the course of the coming year.
4. Edge Computing
The application of edge computing is on the rise, and expected to drastically affect business strategy in 2018. The mobile edge computing market is expected to grow from $185.8 million in 2017 to $838.6 million by 2022, this large jump demonstrating the magnitude of businesses that will switch to using edge computing. It's a strategy is particularly useful in situations where time is of the essence. For example, in an industrial setting where IoT devices are being used to monitor oil and gas pipelines, time-consuming, dangerous and often costly human inspection can be augmented or replaced using technology that can swiftly detect leakages, among other anomalies. These devices can automatically alert the right parties to ensure the issue is resolved. Decentralized, distributed computing at the edge has the potential to dramatically cut response times, meaning safer, more efficient and cost-effective work environments.
Currently, around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2022 Gartner predicts this figure will reach 50%. In 2018, expect to see a lot of changes coming about due to the application of edge computing.