The world is becoming more and more digitized – there are no two ways about that. A recent study by Accenture has projected that the value of the global digital economy will soar to $24600 billion+ by 2020 (an increase of ~28.5% over 2015). The rates of technological innovations and adaptations are, expectedly, the highest in the developed countries – with the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark and Finland in particular) taking the lead in this context. There’s already a lot of buzz about smart things and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and 5G cellular technology, and we will here look forward to some likely digital transformations in 2018 and beyond:
Big data and analytics to become more manageable
By the end of this decade, the daily count of B2B and B2C transactions online will move past 450 billion. The total volume of big data worldwide has been estimated to show a 50% jump in 2020 (compared to 2015) – with the annual growth hovering around the 39% mark. In the next year, the application of big data will continue to spread to different business sectors – manufacturing and finance and healthcare and automation – and the benefits of optimized big data analysis will become more and more prominent. The steadily growing popularity of Hadoop (thanks to the recent improvements in both accessibility as well as overall performance) has made it possible to carry out detailed analytics reports on big data. A recent report suggests that close to 90% users are now able to examine critical data in more detail – while data retention has also gone up to 82%. In future, big data will drive all important predictions and estimations, and will add an additional layer of ‘smartness’ to business intelligence (BI).
The growth of edge computing
Cisco and IBM have already come together (with Watson) to push the limits of Internet of Things (IoT) with edge computing/fog computing. It can be reasonably expected that hardware capabilities and software-based innovations will continue to pick up momentum in 2018. The remarkable increases in both the volume and the speed of transactions are making real-time data responses essential in many cases – and that, in turn, is pushing up the demand for edge computing (there are several instances where transferring the data to the cloud (and back) is neither feasible nor efficient). More than 5.5 billion IoT devices will be actively used for edge analytics and computing by the government and enterprises (cumulatively), by 2020. We are coming towards the end of the experimentation phase with IoT – the ‘Internet of Everything’ might well start picking up pace from next year on.
Note: The International Conference on Edge Computing will be held at Seattle, from the 25th to the 30th of June 2018.
Surge in demand for low-code platforms
In 2015, vendors of low code platforms earned just a tad over $1.7 billion in revenue. By the middle of 2018, that figure is set to soar to more than $6.1 billion – and the revenues will move beyond the $10 billion mark by the end of 2019. The adoption of full-featured low code platforms is being particularly fueled by the shortage of qualified software developers worldwide (as per a Forrester report, 83% recruiters have reported such shortage). These platforms typically have intuitive drag-and-drop features and simplistic visual designs – enabling general users to create applications quickly (the process can be 10 times quicker than traditional development methods) and efficiently. With investments on digital transformations going up all the time, the collaborations between IT and businesses is getting stronger – and transformative enterprise software like these low-code platforms are witnessing spikes in number of users.
Note: Mendix, Appian, Zoho Creator and Google App Maker are some of the popular low code platforms at present.
AR applications to find a solid footing
Within the first three months of its launch (in July 2016), Pokemon Go had managed to deliver a whopping $600 million in mobile augmented reality (AR) alone. Interestingly, it is wide expected that AR growth will start to outpace growth in virtual reality (VR) from 2018 (VR was the dominant segment in 2016 and 2017) – and this trend will continue, with AR taking up 80%+ share by 2021. With the help of cutting-edge 3D visualization methods, enterprises are making their marketing campaigns (training, pitching and product envisioning) more engaging and effective than ever before. What’s more, basic AR applications are also not as expensive as VR tools and headsets – and this factor is providing a further boost to the former. Mobile AR will consolidate its position as the leader in the $108 billion global VR/AR market in 2021. For reaching out to the masses (i.e., large scale commercialization) – there is a need for a ‘hero device’ with AR though – and the fact that the recently released iOS 11 platform has built-in ARKit indicates that thinking on these lines is already underway.
Note: Building a strong AR-based ecosystem and ensuring seamless mobile connectivity are key challenges in this context. In 2018 and beyond, VR will also continue to grow – but all eyes will be on the performance of AR.
Artificial intelligence deployment to pick up pace
From marketing communications and mobile personal assistants (Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Alexa), to smart, automated chatbots and tools to deliver personalized user-experiences on digital platforms – artificial intelligence (AI) has started to make its presence felt in myriad walks of life. Over the next few quarters, experts are likely to ramp up work on the implementation of AI for robotics, data analytics, and of course, customer servicing. Market leaders like Amazon and Netflix have shown that the ability to offer customized solutions/recommendations/display results to end-users can be THE most important factor between success and failure – and it is precisely over here that AI can make a difference. There is also a definite trend towards using open development practices to enable ‘cognitive computing’ wherever possible, with the help of AI platforms like Cortana Intelligence Suite and Amazon AI. In 2018, expect developers to move away from closed-system tools and solutions – where AI cannot be easily integrated. The total market size for AI will nearly double on a YoY basis ($4066 million in 2018; $2420 million in 2017). Artificial intelligence will be ‘all around us’, so to speak.
Note: AI will also be at the core of the self-driving Uber vehicles, and the proposed drone technology by Amazon. We are not likely to see final prototypes of these before 2019, however.
Digital transformation on the radar of enterprises across the world
The value of the ongoing technological disruptions and innovations is not lost on leading companies. At the start of this year, a massive 87% of all Global 2000 companies reported that they either were already had digital transformation projects underway – or had plans to start them soon. By the next year, these tech disruptions will start to have a modifying effect on organizational workflows and charts too . 6 out of every 10 of the companies are setting up new cross-functional units to monitor, maintain and operate the digital transformations/innovations. In general, the global digital economy will grow by an impressive 26% in the 2016-2021 period (in the same time, the growth in the non-digital economy will be a much more modest 8%).
Note: Digital development has also been cited as a proven productivity multiplier. For every 1-point growth in digital density (combining digital skills, accelerators and technologies), factor productivity levels can go up by 0.04% in the developed countries.
Moving beyond consumer experiences
Digital transformation is too broad a topic to focus solely on improving customer experience (CX) levels. While that remains a critical factor, the objectives of the tech transformations will become increasingly diversified in the next few years – to ensure that all the dimensions of business are taken under its purview. Nearly 8 out of every 10 respondents in a survey earlier this year stated that their digital transformation projects do not put the spotlight only on CX-optimization. Instead, the focus is shifting towards integrating agility, business logic and efficiency at each and every stage of corporate operations. Once the overall operational processes are fully optimized, CX levels will automatically be bolstered. Developers will take a broader view of things, to improve overall user end-experience of a product, rather than wasting time on single tasks/screens/processes.
Note: Performance, reliability, speed and security are all key elements of CX. In 2018 and later, the emphasis will squarely be on improving all of these elements – preferably with the help of past experiences of customers.
More remote workplaces to become operational
We are slowly but surely moving away from the traditional ‘9-to-5’ workplace regime. The demands among employees for flexible working hours and ‘work-from-home’ options are pretty much well-documented. Yet another fascinating trend has been the steady growth in the number of remote workplaces. Two factors are primarily driving this growth – firstly, the launch of overseas branches/chapters of many companies, and secondly, the growing number of ‘virtual companies’ (75 in 2015; 125+ in 2016). It has also been projected that nearly 50% of the total workforce in the United States will be working remotely, by the turn of this decade. In 2018, we should witness a steady rise in the number of such remote workplaces – and that, in turn, will pull up the importance of high-end business collaboration tools, chat and video platforms on the cloud, and endpoint/device security solutions. Workers will actively start to look for jobs that give them the opportunity to work remotely. Many enterprises have also reported that remote workplaces have the potential to pull up productivity levels.
Note: In March this year, IBM bucked the trend by calling back its remote workers to office. In general though, the number of remote workplaces will go on increasing in the foreseeable future.
Apps and APIs will continue to grow
In the enterprise domain, the importance of mobile apps (‘appification’) is immense. Experts from the field of software and app development agree that apps can boost employee engagement levels in a big way, thereby opening up chances of higher productivity levels becoming achievable. Rather startlingly, nearly 88% of employees across the world are not engaged enough to their respective jobs – and the employers are either not aware of the problem, or have done nothing about. From 2018, things should get a makeover – with mobile social platforms, apps and gamification all likely to get employees involved and ‘into the fold’. Collaboration, communication and performance will be the three main pillars of such digital employee engagement. In addition, enterprise API strategies will also be validated by the apps – with the user-experience data collected by the latter likely to offer useful insights. By 2020, US-based companies will be spending $660 per year for API management (up by 371% over 2014). API-enabled enterprise solutions will continue to grow smarter.
Note: In terms of EPS, companies with highly engaged employees generate nearly 150% higher returns than than their competitors. This explains the demand for apps/APIs to bolster worker engagements.
10. Reliance on cloud computing will keep growing
We have earlier highlighted the growing importance of edge computing. That, however, is not going to slacken the importance of robust cloud services in any way. More than 60% of all CRM software tools will be powered by cloud computing by the end of 2018 – with the overall size of the market set to touch $128 billion (the 2014-2018 CAGR will be a shade under 23%). By 2020, the lion’s share of all data center traffic (~92%) will be stored on, and accessed from, the cloud. The benefits of cloud services in the context of digital transformation will be manifold – from bringing down data management and operational costs, to making business processes agile, ensuring data security and superior backend connectivity for apps, offering greater operational scalability and bringing down the time-to-market spans. Both public and private sector companies are relying on cloud resources for secure data storage.
Note: Last month, Huawei announced ‘Enterprise Intelligence’ – an all-new enterprise cloud platform powered by artificial intelligence.
11. The 5G revolution is coming
The vast increases in the big data volumes and transactions will automatically create a need for higher data/network speeds – and this is precisely where 5G will start to step up. Although 5G-enabled smartphones are not expected to arrive before 2019 (according to a Qualcomm report) – interest on the new technology will continue to surge next year, as more and more use cases arise where existing 4G speeds cannot cope up. The capabilities of the breakthrough Gigabit LTE technology were showcased earlier this year on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium – and 5G is expected to take things to an altogether higher level (with ~10GB/s download speeds, it will be considerably faster than 4G). More players are expected to join the 5G revolution in 2018 (in addition to Qualcomm) – and although there might be initial snags, we will be moving closer to faster, better network speeds and performance.
Note: This year, Samsung has also been active in the 5G domain, collaborating with leading providers like SK Telecom, AT&T, Arqiva and Charter Communications.
12. Blockchain technology to the fore
The blockchain open, distributed ledger technology (DLT) is growing – albeit at a sedate pace – across industries (the finance sector, understandably, have been the first adopters). In February 2017, ‘blockchain’ was reported as the second-most frequently searched term on the Gartner website – with the annual growth in the search volume skyrocketing by more than 400%. Over the next couple of years or so, many new and interesting use cases for blockchain deployment will emerge – from different business sectors. Blockchain startups will be funded by interested venture capitalists, and the technology itself will become faster, more reliable and more scalable. The adoption of blockchain technology in developing/emerging markets will grow too.
Note: Blockchain has a role to play in the creation of smart cities too, with Dubai set to be managed by the world’s first-ever blockchain-powered government in 2020. The graduation event of Ethereum blockchain developers was recently held there.
13. More ‘XX-as-a-Service’ markets
From backend-as-service (BaaS and mBaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), to software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) – the ‘as-a-service’ markets are growing exponentially. With the advancements in infrastructure, software and technical capabilities brought about by the digital disruptions – more types of ‘aaS’ are likely to become available within the next few years. Things like workplace-as-a-service (WaaS) and unified-communications-as-a-service (UaaS) will become increasingly mainstream. There will be greater focus on failed cases of service delivery (although expecting ‘failure-as-a-service’ to become an actual thing will probably be too far-fetched) as well. The onus will be on companies to track failures, learn from them, and make their ‘aaS’ operations properly optimized and efficient.
The growing demand for new and customized business apps, together with the relative paucity of developers, is boosting the concept of ‘citizen development’. These so-called ‘citizen developers’ use low-code platforms to create the applications that they require. A survey found that 7 out every 10 IT entrepreneurs are looking for tools to manage these developers – and in 2018, research on this will continue. There is also a lot of buzz over Apple AR smart glasses – with the Cupertino company announcing a patent earlier this year.
While 2018 will witness a wide range of data transformations and disruptions – the most important thing will not be the tech per se. Instead, the way in which these transformations affect the everyday operations of businesses (or lives of individuals, for that matter) will be the main point of interest. Technology is constantly evolving, and there’s a lot of ‘new’ things to watch out for next year.
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