The future hurtles toward us, and never do we sense this more than at the turn of the calendar year. What will 2018 bring? Advancements in technology continue to dramatically shift the business landscape and our society. Keeping on top of it all can seem like a full-time job.
So we’ll try to make this quick. Here is our digest of some of the most authoritative analysis of IT trends, forecasts and predictions for 2018. Not surprisingly, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain continue to weigh on fortune-tellers minds.
What do enterprise IT leaders expect for next year? This expansive annual survey is a good place to start. A few highlights:
- IT budgets will stabilize or even go up — 44% of companies expect budgets to increase (by 19%, on average); 43% anticipate no change at all.
- Budgets for cloud-based services are on the rise — 55% of companies plan to increase spending in this area, compared to hardware (52%), software (50%) and managed services (42%). Drilling in to what services will dominate budgets, online backup/recovery (15%) represents the highest proportion, followed by productivity solutions (10%), email hosting (9%), and web hosting (9%).
- Cloud-based infrastructure services are also up — Key workloads include communications/collaboration (42%), backup/disaster recovery (41%), and productivity apps (29%).
- IT departments are jumping on board with IT automation and emerging tech (AI, 3D printing, VR) — 29% of organizations have adopted IoT, 18% have adopted VR, and 13% have adopted AI. An additional 19% of organizations plan to adopt IoT next year while another 14% and 17% plan to adopt VR and AI, respectively.
Think 2017 was challenging? Just you wait. In a downloadable 16-page guide, the consultancy lays out multiple areas of concerns for business leaders. Here are three big ones:
- Digital Transformation — “In 2018, CEOs must show the political will and, with the CIO and CMO, orchestrate digital transformation across the enterprise.”
- Empowered Machines — “Platforms and associated intelligent agents will collect preferences, behaviors, transactions, and emotions, creating a rich view of an individual. Intelligent agents will use that data to increasingly influence consumer options and decisions.”
- The AI Reset — “In 2018, 75% of AI projects will underwhelm because they fail to model operational considerations, causing business leaders to reset the scope of AI investments — and place their firms on a path to realizing the expected benefits.”
Writing for PCMag.com, Tim Bajarin of Silicon Valley market research firm Creative Strategies touches on a few device trends, such as foldable screens and all-day laptop battery life. However, he also warns of two broader issues that could impact how companies operate:
Cyber-security threats worsen
“…‘state’ actors have now entered the scene, reportedly with backing from countries like North Korea, Russia, and China. They fund armies of hackers, who try to steal everything from nuclear secrets to bank codes, hacking into power grids and private accounts.…What makes this worse for us in America specifically is that we just don’t have enough security experts to counter many of these major threats. Without the talent to develop more powerful cyber-security tools (and hold on to the ones we do have), our networks are highly vulnerable.”
Social Media Regulation
“…my contacts in Washington say legislators from both sides of the aisle are increasingly concerned about the negative impact social media has had on the election process and the political climate in general.…Full regulation is probably not likely, but I would not be surprised if we do see some legislation.”
Back in October, Gartner published its research report on what technology-focused business leaders should expect. Spearheaded by David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow, the research focuses on the ongoing digital business evolution and how new digital models align the physical and digital worlds for employees, partners and customers. Here are four big ideas:
“…using AI correctly will result in a big digital business payoff…Narrow AI, consisting of highly scoped machine-learning solutions that target a specific task (such as understanding language or driving a vehicle in a controlled environment) with algorithms chosen that are optimized for that task, is where the action is today.”
Cearley recommends that enterprises focus on “business results enabled by applications that exploit narrow AI technologies”.
Intelligent Apps and Analytics
“Over the next few years every app, application and service will incorporate AI at some level. AI will run unobtrusively in the background of many familiar application categories while giving rise to entirely new ones. AI has become the next major battleground in a wide range of software and service markets, including aspects of ERP.
“Intelligent apps also create a new intelligent intermediary layer between people and systems and have the potential to transform the nature of work and the structure of the workplace, as seen in virtual customer assistants and enterprise advisors and assistants.
“Augmented analytics is a particularly strategic growing area that uses machine learning for automating data preparation, insight discovery and insight sharing for a broad range of business users, operational workers and citizen data scientists.”
“Intelligent things use AI and machine learning to interact in a more intelligent way with people and surroundings.…As intelligent things proliferate, expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things. In this model, multiple devices will work together, either independently or with human input.”
“…digital twins are linked to real-world objects and offer information on the state of the counterparts, respond to changes, improve operations and add value. With an estimated 21 billion connected sensors and endpoints by 2020, digital twins will exist for billions of things in the near future. Potentially billions of dollars of savings in maintenance repair and operation and optimized IoT asset performance are on the table.…In the short term, digital twins offer help with asset management, but will eventually offer value in operational efficiency and insights into how products are used and how they can be improved.”
Business Insider recently reported on the predictions of frog, a global strategy and design firm. Here are a couple that caught our eye:
Businesses will use data and machine learning to cater to customers
“Companies will look to combining user data with new technologies like augmented reality and machine learning systems to help customers better engage with products both in their stores and in the world-at-large.” — Toshi Mogi, frog assistant vice president of strategy and innovation, and Madhavi Rao, senior strategist.
Artificial intelligence will inspire how products are designed
“As AI becomes embedded into our products and services, designers are tasked not just with creating machines for humans, but creating machines that are human-like.” — Senior strategist Viral Shah and technology director Matteo Penzo.
As InfoWorld contributor Jessica Groopman writes, “The most powerful disruptions rarely occur from single technologies but well-timed convergence of multiple existing technologies to foster something altogether unprecedented.” Here are two key areas:
Edge computation + consumer devices = erosion of the cloud
“…The broad trend has been away from centralized hub-and-spoke model, where all data are sent to the cloud, toward a more distributed model where processing occurs at the edge, usually on the device or other local node.…this shift away from cloud-based processing has other implications to watch for in 2018. First, it spells new design options for consumer privacy…Second, it is an enabling factor in shifting market share from mobile devices towards more hands-free devices like hearables and other classes of wearables that still suffer from battery limitations. Third, it may also signal a competitive quake, as cloud providers cede market share to edge analytics providers.”
Blockchain + advertising = new business models for the business model of the internet
“Even if modern advertising has become highly programmatic and automated for scale, the truth is that it remains highly opaque. Traceability of placements—never mind the authenticity of stats, nor scores of intermediaries—means companies still have a very hard time ensuring they are getting ads they paid for.…Blockchain-based protocols [distributed ledger technologies] offer a range of potential improvements to current advertising woes, from greater transparency and accuracy to cryptographically secure tracking, from fraud reduction to compensation for content creators.”
If even half of those predictions come true, 2018 promises to be an eventful year of opportunity and change. Here’s to making the most of it all for your business.