No one could have predicted the impact that technology has had on our lives this year. Amidst a global pandemic, our health, economy, businesses and livelihoods have been upended. At the same time, the rate at which companies have had to adapt to survive has meant many have adopted disruptive technologies at a more rapid rate than we could have imagined.
These new technology trends are set to transform businesses. While no one can truly predict what the future holds, there are benefits to be gained from these five technological innovations for a competitive advantage.
All-photonics networks (APN) will power next-generation communication
It is no secret that power and energy consumption from IT systems has had a large and detrimental effect on the environment. However, the introduction of all photonic networks (APNs) can significantly reduce this impact.
APNs use optical and hybrid cabling for end-to-end information transmission between terminals and servers. This allows for the transfer of large volumes of traffic while keeping latency low. The technique uses one-hundredth of the power consumption required by today’s networks.
As well as clear environmental benefits, these networks are intuitive, allowing people to connect from any location or environment. In time, experts expect that transmission capacity could increase to the extent that you could download 10,000 2-hour movies in a fraction of a second. The result is a next-generation communications platform that represents a major leap forward towards a smart, sustainable and energy-efficient business.
Cognitive Foundation technology will connect and control everything
Cognitive Foundation (CF) technology links virtualised ICT resources and integrates them with diverse systems and networks to create a robust information-processing platform. CF can analyse and forecast data without being constrained by the format or systems in which data resides.
This allows businesses to orchestrate information from various interfaces including voice and video to sensor data from the Internet of Things. CF provides a centralised place for IT to manage all of its ICT resources from – the foundation for innovative projects like smart cities.
In fact, CF is used by the City of Las Vegas in a ground-breaking project that combines various data points to predict and prevent incidents. The City uses orchestration capabilities, based on virtualisation software, to analyse video, voice, and sensor information automatically. The City is now looking at how to evolve the system into a fully automated and autonomous operation that can, not only analyse automatically but ‘think and act’ on its own.
Digital twin computing (DTC) integrates the real and virtual worlds to predict the future
Digital twins are not new. They are virtual representations of real-world environments, products or assets used to test or simulate the impact of new and different environments. For example, digital twins are used by manufacturers to manage the performance and effectiveness of new machines or plants and by city planners to simulate the impact of new developments and roads.
Digital twins can be used to simulate environments and also assist in designing solutions themselves. By freely copying, combining and exchanging various digital twins of things and people, information is integrated into applications such as traffic congestion prediction systems. Digital twins could even go as far as to make accurate predictions in the field of disease control.
A person could even have their own digital twin. The twin could perform certain routine tasks in cyberspace, in place of the actual person. The twin could even make decisions online. The technology could integrate people’s minds, thinking, habits and attitudes into their digital twin.
Of course, there is the matter of ethics and social responsibility when it comes to such innovations. But, as the application of digital twins and regulation continues to evolve, the impact for businesses and productivity is clear.
The rise of the citizen developer: How robotic processes automation will reshape business
With tech giants including Google, Amazon and Facebook offering AI-as-a-service and data-as-a-service, we are seeing the birth of the ‘citizen developer’. These companies offer tools that range from robotic process automation (RPA) to graphics processing units in the cloud. The move means anyone can create business applications using company data with little to no coding skills.
This is set to be a game-changer for many businesses who could build simple process applications, with very little oversight, to automate certain tasks and processes. This will free up time for employees to focus on higher-value work.
Business users are often better subject matter experts as well as being closer to the challenges with an understanding of the best ways to solve them. By putting them in the driving seat, organisations will be able to accelerate digital transformation.
RPA has the potential to transform the future of work. But, as new complexities are added, companies will need to establish the correct data strategy with flexible intelligent infrastructure and open systems to make this innovation accessible, but also safe, for all parties.
Quantum and edge computing ushers in a new era
The rise of powerful computing capability that gives more processing at or near the source of data is already starting to transform companies of all sizes. Two computing paradigms—quantum computing and edge computing—are at the forefront of innovation.
Quantum computers solve problems that are too difficult for a traditional computer to solve using extra power. Whereas a traditional computer processes information in 1-2 seconds, in the quantum world, those 1 and 0 bytes can exist in two states, called qubits, simultaneously, allowing computations to be performed in parallel. Quantum computers require special algorithms that are capable of performing tasks we would never imagine possible, making them more powerful than anything built to date.
Edge computing, on the other hand, focuses on processing information closer to the source, for increased speed. Today, most computing takes place in the cloud with the potential for latency. Edge computing requires custom chips and hardware but works alongside the cloud to leverage its benefits without latency. For example, edge computing would allow an autonomous car’s computer vision system to process and recognise images immediately, rather than sending the data to the cloud for verification.
With as many as 50 billion devices online in the future, all generating data, edge computing will be needed to deliver the Internet of Things and 5G. It will enable near real-time applications and artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge. As virtual reality (VR) becomes more popular, and more processes happen in headsets, edge computing will play a vital role in delivering a good VR experience.
Technology undoubtedly has the power to transform. Despite the challenges the world faces, businesses have an opportunity to accelerate change by tapping into the very latest innovations. From reducing power consumption to innovative ways of moving and analysing data, these five technology trends are set to help companies carve out a much needed competitive edge as we approach 2021 and beyond. Now, more than ever, it is a time to reflect, learn and refocus on crafting a future centred on improving our wellbeing and a more sustainable environment.—The author,
Andy Cocks is Chief Go-to-Market Practices Officer at NTT Ltd. The views expressed are personal