INTELLIGENT ENTERPRISE: TOP TECH PREDICTIONS

It is an amazing time for technology and to be a citizen of the world. Every company is transforming into a software company and finding ways to disrupt themselves. Software is powering digital transformation and will enable the Intelligent Enterprise—and a new way to work.

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Over the next 10 years, there will be five billion connected users on one high-speed, highly reliable network—the Internet. Surpassing humans, one trillion machines will come online and the von Neumann computer architecture will be replaced with Quantum Computing (enter Q2K and the Qubit). Over the next five years, the world will add 10 million more programmers as rules-driven, white-collar work (by actuaries, lawyers, etc.) is replaced by software or machines. We will all need to automate ruthlessly to free up our best talent.

Informing all this automation is artificial intelligence (AI). With extreme automation, extreme connectivity and extreme computing, we will apply algorithms to mine all the data, processes, and behaviour that we store digitally. This will give us greater business insight, real-time decision-making, and better planning to repurpose skills. The mother of AI is autonomy. It is time to embrace AI, place your no-regret bets, mainstream machines and data, and build out key algorithms for your business.

Beyond these “silicon-based” changes, there will be massive “carbon-based” changes—humans. Medical advancements are extending life spans. Big data will uncover a cure for cancer, nanotechnology will change drug delivery and targeted therapy, and three-dimensional (3D) printing will make prosthetics affordable and liberating. It is not hard to conceive that life expectancy may almost double to 150 years of age.

Through computer-assisted learning and Internet-enabled knowledge, IQs will increase. Is an IQ of 1 000 possible? And who says it needs to be human?

When we consider the changing nature of the workforce, those who manage the workforce, and work itself, it becomes clear that the greatest impact of all in the next decade will be Generation Z entering the workforce.

The 2018 headlines will focus on AI, self-driving cars and drones, cybercurrencies, the Internet of Things (IoT), security, and the cloud and edge devices. Perhaps there will be a huge medical breakthrough that solves hereditary diseases. For me, it is all about the technologies and trends that will shape the future of the Intelligent Enterprise.

AI and the Intelligent Enterprise

AI skills, such as pattern recognition and decision-making, played an important role in the much-talked-about AlphaGo win against expert (human) player, Lee Sedol. The most groundbreaking technique AlphaGo demonstrated, however, was reinforcement learning, which is the tendency to produce an action that is followed by an increase in reward. Algorithms based on reinforcement learning are already available. In 2018, they will be applied to autonomous vehicles on the road and robots on factory floors

Over the next year, interest in AI will grow across every industry. By 2020, the AI market will grow to US$47 billion. But how will these investments pay off for the enterprise? Equipped with AI and cognitive systems, big data analytics, and machine learning, the insights-driven Intelligent Enterprise will outpace its competition. Better data will mean better algorithms and better algorithms will mean better data, and so on. We will become much more productive as we offload collecting and processing data to AI systems. The Intelligent Enterprise will leverage agile development to build apps in the cloud, automate processes and menial tasks to optimise efficiency and explore data lakes for sophisticated insights and better decision-making.

Autonomous cars, trucks and drones—oh my!

AI-based algorithms that leverage reinforcement learning will “drive” autonomous vehicles, robots and drones. More intelligent robots (like Baxter) are being built to not only think for themselves, but also to sense their surroundings in more accurate ways. Intelligent drones are helping farmers better service and monitor their crops. And all major car manufacturers are test driving autonomous cars.

Driverless cars are expected to be in use all over the world by 2025. In fact, by 2020, Uber plans to have a fleet of self-flying cars as part of its aerial taxi service. Autonomous transport trucks may even hit the road before self-driving cars. When they do, they will radically overhaul both logistics and transportation industries. The use of drones will expand (and impact these industries) to include the delivery of goods like medicines to remote locations, groceries to consumers and component parts to manufacturers. Reductions in fuel consumption, faster delivery times and the number of lives saved will make autonomous vehicles an attractive alternative. When they are culturally accepted, future generations may never have to learn to drive. Once liability, privacy, and regulatory wrinkles are ironed out, the sky will be the limit—literally.

Cybercurrencies and the blockchain revolution

In 2017, cryptocurrencies burst onto the scene, led by Bitcoin (which has been around since 2009)—and today, there are over 1 100 cryptocurrencies available. Because they disintermediate traditional financial institutions (and remove any fees or friction costs associated with financial transactions), these peer-to-peer companies are gaining traction with consumers, retailers, and investors. On 3 March 2017, Bitcoin overtook gold, trading at US$1 290—showing investors that all that glitters is not gold. Since the beginning of the year, its value has increased by 1000%. A growing number of businesses are recognising cryptocurrencies as legitimate, including 260 000 new retailers in Japan who plan to accept bitcoins as payment.

One of the most significant innovations in cryptocurrency is its use of blockchain technology. Bitcoin’s application of it is revolutionising the industry, but its potential lies far beyond changing the way we exchange and manage wealth. By linking a chain of records, or “blocks,” that can’t be altered, blockchain has the capacity to create more transparent and secure systems. Its applications will be multifaceted—from the way we transact to the way we renew passports, vote, rent a car, pay taxes and even in terms of how we identify ourselves. 2018 will be the year of the blockchain start-up, especially in areas of security and encryption.

The Internet of Everything

The IoT is creating a giant, global network of devices and machines that are connected, communicating and exchanging data. This market will see billions of devices connected by 2020 at a value of US$14.4-trillion.

While we might not feel the immediate effects of the IoT, its potential impact is huge. Advances in IoT-connected biotechnology will take healthcare to the next level, with around-the-clock monitoring, targeted treatment and even automated doses of medication. In smart cities, when everything is connected to the IoT grid, autonomous vehicles will eliminate car crashes caused by human error to save one million lives annually. In the Intelligent Enterprise, the IoT will connect the global supply chain from end-to-end, enabling pervasive visibility, proactive replenishment and predictive maintenance. With the IoT, data-driven decision-making will become standard in all industries and in our daily lives.

Super-intelligent beings (with an IQ of 1 000)

Over time, humans have been getting demonstrably smarter. With computer-assisted learning, programmes like massive open online courses (MOOCs), and Internet-enabled knowledge helping to increase our IQs, we could be smarter than Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein in mere decades. But is there a cap on our potential intelligence? Not if it doesn’t need to be natural (or even human). Human enhancement technologies (HET) and brain-computer interfacing (BCI) technologies increase the brain’s capacity to store information. Exocortices are external processing systems that allow us to store and access everything we have ever read, learned, and experienced. These technologies, along with computer-assisted learning, will make IQs of 1 000 possible.

As super intelligence becomes part of the human experience, what will be the threshold when our brains can store, index, and search on troves of data faster than Google?

Edge computing and devices

IoT-connected devices are pushing the limits of the cloud, creating a new computing paradigm where the cloud and edge computing meet.

As the “brain” behind the IoT, edge computing moves processing power closer to the source of data. In this new paradigm, not all data is equal. Only device data that is worth keeping is sent to the cloud. This reduces the costs associated with handling and storing growing volumes of IoT-related data. Time-sensitive data can be processed by the device itself, allowing for quicker response times while reducing network latency. This is far more efficient than using the cloud alone where, with its split-second latency, turn-around time can be too slow. As the number of devices requiring immediate or high-volume data processing continues to increase, edge computing will push the cloud to the sidelines, where it will act as a supporting technology. Together, the cloud and edge computing will offer the benefits of agility and savings, while providing the infrastructure we need to support the ever-expanding IoT universe.

Biotech and longer life expectancy

Using techniques like gene therapy, which modifies immune cells to fight disease (such as HIV, Alzheimer’s and cancer), scientists are looking to manipulate our genetic makeup to slow down or even stop the ageing process. As medical technologies advance, doctors will be able to cure (rather than just treat) a growing number of genetic diseases to make living to 150 a reality.

Scientists around the world are working together to build a cell atlas, which involves cataloguing 37.2-trillion cells in the human body. Each cell will be assigned a molecular signature. Technologies are coming together to make this mapping possible. The atlas will allow researchers to capture and analyse millions of cells to understand and combat disease. Other groundbreaking advances in biotech include brain transplants.

Neural researchers are connecting real-time data from the brain to electrical stimulators on the body to create a “neural bypass” to heal paralyzed limbs. Plans are underway to treat blindness similarly (with a chip in the eye), and even to restore memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Over the next decade, the demand for brain implants will increase dramatically.

The next generation of cybersecurity

Cyberspace has emerged as a new battlefield where bits, bytes, and botnets are the weapons of choice. This is creating the Internet of Botnets, which are global networks of compromised devices that hackers can deploy or rent out to criminal organisations. This is particularly unsettling given the fact that there is currently a botnet out there (dubbed the IoT Reaper) that is powerful enough to take down the entire Internet.

Firewalls and other traditional security measures do not cut it anymore. As the battlefield moves into cyberspace, new tools will be needed to address the changing nature of conflict. AI, quantum computing, and quantum cryptography are particularly promising countermeasures against cyberattacks. AI (in the form of machine learning) is being used to monitor networks and any associated devices for anomalies and report deviations in real time. Quantum computing can sift through 150 000+ daily threats in an organisation’s network to identify which events are the riskiest. And quantum cryptography can ensure secure communications. These emerging technologies are redefining cybersecurity as we know it. Moving forward, they will be our best line of defence against sophisticated cyberattacks.

Sometimes, future technology and magic are indistinguishable, and worry is a waste of imagination. Industry by industry, enterprises are becoming more intelligent and more Gen Z.

Digital is connecting workers and consumers through software. In 2018, everything from the cloud, edge points, machines, automation, supply chains, security and customers will become more intelligent. But the greatest impact will be on the workforce. As Baby Boomers retire, Gen X turns its attention to knowledge transfer, and Millennials are the dominant demographic, Gen Z is preparing to enter the workplace.

Gen Z represents the greatest generational shift the workplace has ever seen. They take hyper-connectivity to new levels; their use of technology sets them apart from other generations. As they enter the workforce, they will bring their habits, technology, and culture with them.

In the gig economy, it is about experiences over education, market viability over marketing, and making a difference over making a dollar. The Intelligent Enterprise will be based on their beliefs and expectations.

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