Digital transformation is driving change on many fronts, which means IT professionals have a lot to face in 2017. As part of this march toward IT-based reinvention, technology leaders are monitoring some emerging technologies that they believe will be reagents for long-term innovation.
The 196 IT professionals who participated in Computerworld’s 2017 Tech Forecast survey focused on the Internet of Things (IoT), self-service IT, mobile payments, artificial intelligence, and Wi -Fi technologies like those that have the potential to affect their business.
Here’s a brief explanation of emerging areas, with ideas on how IT leaders are preparing to meet next year’s challenges.
Pundits projects that more than 26 billion devices will be connected to the IoT by 2020 and that more than half of the new business processes and systems will in some way imply IoT functionality by then. Today, corporate IT departments seem to be taking a measured approach, pursuing pilot projects rather than full-out deployments – a strategy that seems prudent in light of incidents such as device-driven DDoS attack in October, which wiped out a significant portion of the Internet.
In Computerworld’s Forecast 2017 survey, 20% of respondents said that the elements of the infrastructure supporting the emerging ecosystem of inter-device devices – IoT technologies, M2M systems, and telematics – collectively constitute the number one area of the new expenses. And another 20%, separately, said that this category appears as the disruptive technology that is likely to have an impact on their organizations in the next three to five years.
That said, only 13% of respondents stated that they are currently testing or piloting IoT projects, although 24% have projects underway or are expected to launch one in 2017.
If we leave security issues aside, the benefits of IoT remain vague. It can be seen as the great potential in the idea of harnessing the sensors to control everything from how long buyers delay in a particular exhibitor to the impact of greenhouse gasses on operations.
Business users, empowered with easy-to-deploy cloud services and easy-to-use consumer technologies, are doing what they want, increasingly controlling technology deployments without IT oversight.
Instead of fighting such efforts, IT groups should consider the emergence of the so-called ‘shadow IT’ as an opportunity to unload some mundane work and be able to focus on more strategic initiatives. Implementing tools that help business users help themselves would free IT workers so they can work on other things.
22% of respondents in the 2017 Forecast survey said self-service IT was their companies’ most disruptive technology, an indication that IT organizations are beginning to capture and factorize IT self-service capabilities in their long-term plans.
For example, Washington State Department of Corrections self-service capabilities has improved the ability of 185-person IT staff to cover all the support needs of 9,500 penitentiaries effectively, employees, volunteers, and contractors. The IT helpdesk is now able to handle all the calls it receives – between 400 and 600 per day – mostly related to password reset and account access – thanks to a service management platform and a knowledge portal which allows users to solve common problems on their own.
The reconfigured self-service portal accepts users’ emails, automatically inserts default themes in the subject line (such as “Reset my password in SAP-GUI”), and responds with relevant data from the knowledge base. It provides an instant benefit, as well as coverage for 24 hours a day and seven days a week, prison time.
As the smartphone transforms from a communication tool into a lifestyle device, businesses that sell things to the public are starting to adopt mobile payments as a prerequisite for doing business, especially if they are trying to get the attention of millennials and consumers in urban areas.
According to research by Pew Charitable Trusts, nearly seven in ten adults have smartphones, and having one is the most common catalyst for adopting some form of mobile payment. Of the people who already use a mobile payment tool, 72% are Millennials or Gen X, and most live in metropolitan areas, have bank accounts and have college degrees, according to Pew research. Younger people see the value of mobile payments for a variety of reasons, from convenience to their desire to cash in on incentives and reward offers.
For organizations that sell products to this demographic, mobile payment tools have advanced in the list of IT project priorities. In Computerworld’s Forecast 2017 survey, 20% of respondents cited mobile payments as the most disruptive technology in their records.
Monical’s Pizza has adopted the mobile payments thanks to the demand of its university students clients. In addition to allowing customers to use a number of mobile payment options, including Apple Pay and Google Wallet, the chain is also investigating the use of mobile applications to help customers manage gift cards and direct sales to independent stores with electronic incentives.
As has ever happened with the material from successful summer films and science fiction novels, artificial intelligence and knowledge-based systems are leaking into business thanks to emerging technologies like IoT and big data, and are popularized by high-profile initiatives such as some of the projects that IBM has undertaken with its Watson platform.
A recent study by Stanford University looked at how artificial intelligence and smart technologies will affect life in 2030 in eight categories, from employment to health and transportation. In their conclusions, they argued that artificial intelligence will boost advances in autonomous vehicles and air transport drones that will change both travel and city life; In health care, intelligent sensors will be people’s lifesavers, helping to monitor vital signs and collect data on blood pressure, glucose levels and more.
As a result, in Computerworld’s Forecast 2017 survey, 19% of respondents said they believed that artificial intelligence and knowledge-based systems were the most disturbing technologies on the horizon for years to come.
In the business sector, companies are exploring how artificial intelligence doubles in business and automation applications – primarily through the use of predictive analytics. However, despite the potential of artificial intelligence to climb the fence and bring efficiency to customer service, business operations, and even cybersecurity, it is still too early.
Next generation Wi-Fi
The vision of a connected universe of intelligent homes, cars, and cars has paved the way for a new iteration of Wi-Fi technology, one specifically designed to support low-power and long-range The IoT applications.
An emerging wireless protocol known as Wi-Fi HaLow, based on the IEEE 802.11 development standard and promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance, promises to double the range of standard Wi-Fi connections and take advantage of the 900MHz portion of the spectrum to overcome obstacles, such as walls, and cover long distances to deliver energy-efficient connectivity.
In addition to numerous security and interoperability enhancements, HaLow is said to be able to support thousands of devices per access point, making it much easier for municipal officials, businesses, and individuals to track all possible connected access points.
Although Wi-Fi HaLow is still in its infancy and certified products are not expected until 2018, IT organizations are already feeling the pressure of putting the next-generation Wi-Fi roadmap in place. In Computerworld’s Forecast 2017 survey, 18% of respondents named next generation Wi-Fi as the most disruptive technology they will have to deal with for the next three to five years.