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Sapphire’s Richard Hudson takes a look at what are set to be the top tech trends and predictions for 2018.

With 2018 just around the corner, now is very much the time to consider what the year ahead might bring when it comes to technology. With the concept of Industry 4.0 still looming large over industry as a whole, the technologies that are set to make a real difference over the next 12 months will all help to build new ways of working, doing more for less, and putting in place the right processes and procedures for businesses to not only survive, but positively thrive in our global digital economy.

 

Artificial Intelligence


While not a new technology, AI, in a number of different guises, looks set to make a real difference to businesses next year. While we’re not talking about the AI of sci-fi films, with AI systems replacing humans, the potential for AI to play a role in virtually every kind of technology is very real. And, a recent Gartner survey shows that many businesses recognise this, with 59% of organisations already gathering information to use to build AI strategies as they can see the potential for AI to not only inform robust decision-making, but to also reinvent business models to make them fit for purpose in our digital economy. In the main, developments in AI will focus on three areas: intelligent things, intelligent apps and narrow AI.

An increase in intelligent things will come about as AI is used to increase the intelligent interaction between people and things, incorporating AI into existing ‘things’ to make them more autonomous or self-directing (such as vacuum cleaners or vehicles within controlled environments). Narrow AI builds on this further, with machine learning solutions being used to handle specific tasks, again such as driving a vehicle within a predefined environment. In addition to this, advances in intelligent applications and analytics mean that software providers will now be under pressure to use AI to add real value to businesses with advanced analytics and intelligent processes, using these to not replace people, but to enhance their user experience and increase efficiency at the same time. This proliferation of intelligent apps and things is also predicted to lead to a situation where you have multiple devices working together, with little or no need for human intervention. This ‘swarm’ mentality of collective thinking devices or applications is definitely an area to look out for as it has the potential to disrupt the status quo considerably.

 

Digital twins


Another technology advance set to gain real traction in 2018 is the idea of digital twins. This is where a digital version of a real world object or system is created. This digital representation is linked to its real life ‘twin’ and provides real time updates as to its real time status. In a world where the Internet of Things is growing ever larger by the second, with connected sensors and endpoints predicted to number 21 billion by 2020, digital twins not only offer the immediate benefits of comprehensive maintenance savings, particularly with regards to ensuring preventative maintenance as opposed to reactive maintenance, and improved asset performance, but in the longer term, the notion of digital twins will provide real business insight into operational efficiency and how best to optimise this.

 

The Edge of the Cloud

 

Where Cloud and Edge computing have both been standalone technological innovations of the past few years, 2018 will see a coming together of both of these concepts to increase business efficiencies further still. At first glance, they might seem at odds with each other, where cloud can be viewed as a remote concept as opposed to edge computing which is closer to the user, but when implemented together, cloud creates the service-centric model while edge computing affords the ability to fulfil any disconnected parts of cloud service.

 

Immersive user experiences


2018 will see augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality technologies really change how users interact with systems, software and equipment. By changing the way people interact with (and expect to interact with) the digital world, at home and at work, these technologies will become part and parcel of new offerings from software providers in particular. Again, we’re not talking the stuff of movies here, but more a focus on mixed reality where the user virtually interacts with both digital and actual objects while maintaining a strong foothold in the real world.

 

Block chain

 

One fast developing technology that could have a dramatic effect on the business world is the concept of block chain. This is the existence of shared, decentralised ledgers, independent of major vendors and applications, which ultimately should smooth out any business friction, challenging centralised authority and increasing the efficiency of the entire business world. While in theory a breath of fresh air for global markets, the fact that it would allow untrusted and unknown parties to freely exchange commercial transactions does mean that, for the moment, it could be a risky path to pursue. Add to this the fact that it’s so far unproven, still in its relative infancy, and largely unregulated and you can see why it might just be one to watch for now. However, it’s still on the cards for the coming years and should definitely not be disregarded just yet.

 

Connectivity is key

 

What underpins all these new and emerging technologies is the concept of connectivity, giving further credence to Gartner’s notion of the ‘digital mesh’, where people, businesses, devices, content and services are all inextricably linked by technology in a fully immersive digital environment. Without a doubt, savvy businesses need to be investigating new technologies as they emerge, but with a particular focus on the real business results that the exploitation of such technology can bring. Technology for technology’s sake is never good, but with a well-thought out digital strategy in place, underpinned by robust core business systems, organisations will be well placed to make full use of new and emerging technologies to fully exploit new digital business models and opportunities, all of which will stand them in good stead for the years to come.

For more information on how Sapphire can help your business prepare for 2018, visit our website now. 





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