New and emerging technologies could pose some of the biggest opportunities to enterprises in the near future, but they will also present challenges. Technologies that are being developed now and have been taken on by early adopters will become increasingly common and influential over the next couple of years. We cannot yet know all the implications of these innovations but businesses will need to predict and plan for how these technologies will disrupt them and their industry.
1. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been huge over the past few years and the staggering number of possible applications presents a huge opportunity. Machine Learning is an advanced form of AI where the machine can learn as it goes rather than having every action programmed by humans
AI is only as good as the data it is exposed to, which is where certain challenges may present themselves. How a business teaches and develops its AI will be the major factor in its usefulness. Humans could be the weak link here, as people are unlikely to want to input masses of data into a system.
Another dilemma that comes along with AI is its potential to replace human workers. As machines become more “intelligent” they could begin to replace experts in higher-level jobs. Alternatively, AI also has the potential to take the burden of laborious and time-consuming tasks from these people, freeing up their time and brainpower for other things e.g. doctors using diagnostic AI to help them diagnose patients will analyse the data presented by the AI and make the ultimate decision. Managing the challenges posed by AI will require careful planning to ensure that the full benefits are realised and risks are mitigated.
2. Automation and Robotics
With automation and robotics moving from production lines out into other areas of work and business, the potential for humans losing jobs is great here too. As automation technologies become more advanced, there will be a greater capability for automation to take over more and more complex jobs. As robots learn to teach each other and themselves, there is the potential for much greater productivity but this also raises ethical and cyber security concerns.
3. Crypto-currency and Blockchain
Though they have been around for some time, in recent years cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have become increasingly common and legitimised (as well as valuable). These purely digital currencies that are not backed by any government or institution could pose a destabilising risk. However, blockchain, the system used to register Bitcoin, could be a real opportunity for established institutions.
Blockchain distributed ledger technology creates hacker- and fraud-proof decentralised databases which have already disrupted banking and mortgage systems, but has the potential to be applied to many industries. Everledger uses blockchain technology to register diamonds to prevent counterfeits and track conflict diamonds. The transparency and security of blockchain has the potential to rebuild public trust in institutions.
4. Internet of Things
As more and more connected devices (such as smartwatches and fitness trackers) join the Internet of Things (IoT) the amount of data being generated is increasing. Companies will have to plan carefully how this will affect customer-facing application and how to best utilise the masses of data being produced. There are also severe security implications of mass connectivity that need to be addressed.
5. Big Data
Almost all the technologies mentioned above have some relation to Big Data. The huge amount of data being generated on a daily basis has the potential to provide businesses with better insight into their customers as well as their own business operations.
Although data can be incredibly useful for spotting trends and analysing impacts, surfacing all this data to humans in a way that they can understand can be challenging. AI will play a role here, as well as applications like Splunk that surface machine-generated data in a human way.
New and emerging technologies pose significant opportunities for businesses if they utilise them well and understand their true value early on. They also pose risks and questions not only to business but to society as a whole. Planning for how to deal with these emerging technologies and where value can be derived while assessing potential risks before they become a fully-fledged reality is essential for businesses that want to thrive in the world of AI, Big Data and IoT.