What does Digital 2.0 hold in store for us in 2018?

Frank Palermo,
Executive Vice President

Every year, new technologies and innovations basically reinvent how business gets done.

The term “digital” has pretty much become passé and is losing most of its muster. Yet many companies are still struggling to fully embrace the digital shift. Digital 2.0 technologies — machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, augmented reality, Internet of Things, cloud robotics, robotic process automation — are here to stay. Here are some of the trends that you should be prepared for in the new year.

A New Approach To Digital Transformation

The narrative around digital transformation will begin to change significantly in 2018 with companies finally taking a more holistic approach.

Digital transformation was never about executing a few random projects such as updating a website or launching a new mobile app. It requires a complete overhaul of your entire business — how you interact with your customers, how you drive operational excellence and how you approach innovation. It requires cultural change, new skills and the courage to shed legacy business models.

GE is a great example. The company has made hard decisions about what businesses are most important. It divested many of its financial services businesses, doubled investment in R&D, re-established itself as a technology company and went global with its presence in 180 countries. GE essentially became a 125-year-old startup and digital company by focusing on the industrial internet with solutions like Predix, a cloud-based platform that connects people and machines with big data and analytics. This resulted in generating $7 billion in new software sales in 2016.

As 2017 comes to a close, expect to see the following digital transformation stories begin to emerge.

As next-generation devices such as drones and autonomous vehicles continue to come online, the demand for real-time processing will increase. It will no longer be possible to send all the device data over a network to a centralized cloud. To support the volume of data and the requirement for real-time insights, it will need to be processed at the device itself (i.e., the edge). Data will be synthesized and actioned at the device itself before sending some aggregated information to a central cloud. In 2018, expect to see many architectures emerge where intelligence moves to the edge.

 

Blockchain Gets Out Of The Lab

Over the past 10 years, blockchain has created tremendous buzz with the promise of transforming entire industries. However, it has struggled to find mainstream applications beyond the origins of cryptocurrency. This is beginning to change as it appears adoption is occurring in certain industries and for particular applications.

Following are some examples:

  • The State of Delaware enacted a law that lets corporations maintain shareholder lists and corporate records using blockchain technology. It is significant because the state is America’s corporate law capital, with more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies being incorporated there.
  • JPMorgan Chase recently indicated it will create a blockchain-based system with a couple other financial institutions to reduce global payment transaction speeds from weeks to hours.
  • UK-based Revolut is launching a virtual bank based on blockchain. All banking happens online, and its assets are built on blockchain. Revolut’s success has been its ability to offer all-in-one banking services with features like savings, person-to person payments, direct deposit and limits on spending. It just hit a million customers and plans to arrive on U.S. shores by 2018.

Expect the trend of targeted blockchain applications to continue in 2018. It’s still the early innings for the technology, but the game is on.

Almost every application and device will now be powered by artificial intelligence(AI). There will be a shift from stand-alone intelligent objects to more of a connected ecosystem of things. Devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are changing the ways we interact in our homes by integrating a series of things, including our lighting, home security, thermostats, audio-visual devices, etc. Expect that trend to continue to provide a more cohesive way for us to interact with our surroundings beyond the home environment.

In 2018, AI technologies will significantly improve the interaction model between man and machine. Emotional recognition will deeply enhance the bot-human relationship. A chatbot will be able to recognize when a person is getting frustrated and adjust its reactions accordingly. AI will bring big data analytics to the masses by streamlining the effort required to draw relevant conclusions from big data.

These advancements will undoubtedly conjure more heated debates on the ethics of AI. When AI commits a crime or something goes wrong, who is accountable? The discussion around AI governance and regulations will become paramount.

 

Reality Becomes Virtual

Virtual and augmented reality have long been a technology looking for a solution. Adoption has been very slow due to the high cost of devices, lack of content and the fact that many people who use such devices suffer from motion sickness. While some industries such as travel and leisure have made progress, VR is still missing its killer app.

That will all change in 2018, as you can expect Apple and Google to put more emphasis on pushing the technology into the mainstream. Augmented reality (AR) is evolving more rapidly than VR. Apple updated iOS 11 to support the ability to run AR apps, launching a wave of new apps. Now apps are moving beyond basic entertainment.

For instance:

  • Sky Guide AR allows people to overlay images in order to view constellations in the sky, which have always been difficult for people to find and visualize.
  • Replacing the need for a tape measure, PLNAR allows you take rapid measurements through your phone.
  • Fitness AR allows cyclists to generate 3-D models of their cycling routes to share with friends.

In 2018, expect an onslaught of new creative augmented apps to hit the App Store. Markets and Markets estimates AR will be worth $61 billion by 2023.

As Digital 2.0 takes root, expect to see some exciting shifts in our computing landscape.