Last decade saw rapid innovation and experimentation in the tech industry. We saw solutions from Big Data, blockchain and RPA generate a huge amount of hype, with many eventually becoming reality.
As we move into the 2020s, CIOs and business leaders should be considering what technologies will emerge, and which will shape the way we do business. To that end, there are several trends in the year ahead worth taking a closer look at:
AI – the rubber has finally met the road
From the cloning of an employee to becoming a mainstream tool for critical financial services decisions, the popularity of AI is rapidly continuing its ascent. The chat bot is one application of AI that is fast becoming the centrepiece of customer services and we will continue to see this use case of AI explode within businesses too, specifically in cross-department services, such as IT support.
Artificial Intelligence will also proliferate across devices and software packages, especially cloud-based SaaS offerings. The uses will range from simple UI manipulation to give the user the best experience – for example, customising menu bars to the tools one commonly uses – to removing people from processes where they have remained due to the need for critical decision making.
Facial recognition on the rise
Facial recognition has finally overcome the barrier of resistance from consumers, and thanks mainly to Apple devices since the iPhone X, it is now part and parcel of personal identification systems. In recent years several organisations have started to use facial recognition as a tool to confirm a person’s identity. Now, we’re seeing financial services organisations use the technology in ATMs instead of PIN numbers, and the Home Office used it with its very successful EU Settlement registration application. As we move into a new decade, we can expect more and more devices to integrate facial recognition into their product offerings as a more secure and reliable way to logon.
Document signing, payment services and approvals within automated processes will begin to use facial recognition as the norm for authorisation. But while facial recognition technologies give businesses ample opportunities for the digital transformation of their processes, from a security perspective it is a double-edged sword. Although it is the introduction of a more secure authentication mechanism it is now also another service that needs to be made secure and is packaged with its own unique set of challenging edge cases, such as dealing with a facial injury and associated bandages.
In the next 5 years or so, we may finally see an end to the lanyard pass around the neck with the introduction of facial recognition for physical door and building entry. The key benefit here will be the lack of something to lose or steal, while at a personal safety level no one will be able to read your name from your pass on trains or at lunch time. There is also a big opportunity for products to develop in this area in the home security market, with the obvious advantage being keyless entry to houses. We must also consider the advantages of being able to authorise someone to go into your house remotely to feed the fish or water the plants while you are away.
Another trend to consider is the latest Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) paradigm that has now become a staple with mobile and tablet devices and is becoming more commonplace in organisations where suppliers use their own company laptops. The use of the same device for work and home is becoming ever more convenient which means organisations will need to think carefully about security incidents like the loss of a device. Meanwhile, cordless charging will become common within the office with charging extending from mobiles into tablets and laptops too.
Moving away from the users’ devices towards the centrally hosted application domain, where the adoption of cloud services is exploding. While this is beneficial from a development and deployment perspective in allowing IT to meet business needs quicker, it is becoming a challenge for IT Managers who are trying to map out the estate and understand the risks and business impact an outage might have. IT monitoring systems will need to incorporate machine learning to monitor what is on the network, identify new applications being deployed and to what they are connected to. The speed at which new services, systems and components are being deployed means it is already impossible to understand this effectively using manual or even semi-automated processes.
IoT – a full takeover
The proliferation of connected devices doesn’t seem to be slowing down either, and now encompasses larger objects such as cars, rather than just small devices like lightbulbs. If we couple this with the data each device produces, we can easily imagine the development of more complex capabilities. For example, cars are now appearing with cameras instead of mirrors – Landrover ClearSight digital rear view mirror and the Audi Etron wing mirrors. Data gathered by these systems could be streamed, stored or used in the event of an accident or theft, or leveraged to improve driving skills by insurance companies.
The ability to remotely control IoT devices – for example, turning your house’s heating on while on your way back from holiday or opening your car with your phone – is becoming increasingly common. Furthermore, many anticipate the demise of the TV remote control, with it being replaced with a simple customisable phone app that allows viewers to cast applications such as Netflix and Prime, whilst also controlling the TV.
This evolution in home-based manipulation and monitoring technologies provides opportunities for the development of new services and applications. For example, we could see home security services that learn your patterns of behaviour and mimic them when you are not in to give the impression that you are at home. Additionally, they could alert you or the police when it detects an intruder through an anti-pattern of behaviour. This opportunity also brings challenges in that it needs to be secure, with each component frequently being updated and patched, otherwise an attacker could simply hack in and unlock the house remotely. Unfortunately, this is something we seldom see done effectively today, with eBulbs frequently being built with core operating systems that are significantly out of date and therefore vulnerable.
Some of the security problems related to the introduction of these new technologies will be due to the encryption protecting the connection or the data being broken. The application of Quantum Cryptography to the problem of encryption key distribution, namely quantum key distribution (QKD), is one area of development IT departments and development shops should keep an eye on, as it serves as a means of extending the boundaries of what hackers can crack and becomes a replacement for traditional connection encryption technologies.
Climate change – tech also has a role to play
Finally, climate change is seldom out of the news nowadays and organisations are coming under more pressure to respond. For example, Tesco announced the removal of shrink wrap packaging for multi-buys. IT departments will now not only need to worry about the impact on the environment of their IT estates carbon footprint, but also consider the impact of whom they procure from, and more subtle aspects such as the impact of packaging on the devices and products they buy.
The decade ahead
While the technologies above have been discussed in relation to consumers, the implication on development, integration and delivery of these capabilities stretch far and wide. While businesses grapple with the whiplash between Agile delivery techniques versus waterfall delivery approaches, Enterprise Architecture processes have also adapted and become more iterative, with a more balanced approach between the short and long-term needs of the organisation. One thing is clear; as these technologies mature, it is important for an architect to get a true representation of their impact on the business and, more importantly, an accurate assessment of the changing technology risks across the IT estate.
No matter the product or service, the enhanced capabilities of these differing technologies will have a powerful impact across global business. The time is now to level up and stay ahead of these trends to ensure your business isn’t left behind.