As 2015 draws to a close, top researchers and analysts around the world are looking into what the new year will hold for the technology sector.
Already, it’s a given that technology will be ubiquitous in every aspect of business and everyday life, but how it will be used and the impact it will have is up for discussion.
Audrey William, Frost & Sullivan head of ICT research for Australia and New Zealand, has highlighted five big technology predictions for 2016.
1. Security will be the biggest issue in the ICT industry driven by rapid adoption of cloud, mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT).
As platforms become more open due to the rapid adoption of cloud, mobility and the IoT, security threats will rise and this will become the single biggest issue to tackle in the ICT industry, says William.
The Ashley Madison incident was an example of how hackers broke into the company’s network and leaked customers’ personal information.
The incident brought about greater awareness of cyber security threats amongst organisations, Williams says.
Cyber insurance will rise in the coming years. We will witness more insurance companies step in to offer cyber insurance policies for more than just compensation and protection from liability in the event of a cyber-attack, she says.
In the home environment, as Smart Home solutions witness greater adoption, this will mean that users will use their mobile phones and tablets to control power, cooling, heating, lighting and security.
By allowing one interface to control the various applications of the smart home, security challenges will be a big issue for the industry players to grapple with, Williams says.
She says targeted attacks on computer Industrial Control Systems (ICS) are the biggest threat to a nation’s critical infrastructure.
Such attacks have the potential to bring down critical systems, which can then lead to damaging a customer’s brand and reputation.
Some of the attacks in recent years on Industrial Control Systems have not been publicised, but the best known instances of targeted attacks on industrial control systems include the Stuxnet attack on an Iranian nuclear plant and the Shamoon attack on Saudi Aramco.
These examples demonstrate how security attacks are getting more sophisticated and can eventually lead to costly consequences, Williams says.
In 2016 we will witness vendors and service providers acquire specialist security vendors or grow their own practices internally to tackle the diverse issues in security impacting organisations, she says.
2. The Enterprise Communications Market will witness disruption from an emerging class of start-ups.
Cloud and mobility are driving discussions around what the office of the future will look like, and the use of the mobile devices will take greater precedence in the years to come.
While it will still be compulsory or necessary for many organisations to have a desk phone, several organisations are eliminating the need for one.
As such, Microsoft’s Skype for Business is set to disrupt the traditional communications market, according to Williams.
Although the traditional vendors still dominate in the voice space, Microsoft has started taking market share and with the recent innovation to its Skype for Business platform, Frost & Sullivan expects them to be a greater disruptive force in the market place.
“We have also witnessed how well Microsoft has done with its Office 365 solution.
“Moving forward, Frost & Sullivan expects more companies to embrace Skype for Business as a replacement for its legacy communications platform,” says Williams.
On top of this, new start-ups such as Acano, Pexip and Slack are disrupting the traditional conferencing and collaboration space, she says.
Frost & Sullivan expects more start-ups to emerge in this space offering new ways of delivering voice, video, contact centre and collaboration capabilities to organisations by taking advantage of the cloud architecture and making the platforms more dynamic, collaborative and social in nature.
3. Increased use of sensors across various industries will lead to a tsunami of data driving massive developments in Big Data.
Williams says, Frost & Sullivan are starting to see sensors being embedded in physical objects ranging from medical devices, wearables, highways, cars, industrial machines to mobile phones and these are then linked to very high speed and powerful networks.
The volumes of data generated will lead to a huge repository of data, she says.
Frost & Sullivan has highlighted a number of potential use cases. In farming and agriculture, for instance, sensors can help gather information about the condition of the crops, and humidity, which will eventually assist in understanding water and fertiliser requirements.
In the healthcare segment, when doctors need to analyse the traces of a disease that could be arising within an individual, it could mean swallowing a pill that has a camera attached to the pill and these cameras through sensors can help doctors determine the cause of the disease or what should be done to prevent the condition from worsening.
In Smart City initiatives, such as Songdo in South Korea, nearly every device, building or road is equipped with wireless sensors or microchips.
The data generated will help the government make smart decisions about lighting, traffic, waste and other segments of a Smart City initiative.
“All these examples point to what the future of big data will mean for organisations,” Williams says.
4. Smart Machines will disrupt the market place.
Smart machines, which include drones, driverless vehicles as well as robots, are set to introduce efficient ways of delivering output, says Williams.
As cost pressures rise in developed economies and emerging economies, smart machines will negate the need for staff in certain segments of the business.
Rio Tinto recently rolled out fully automated driverless trucks at two of its iron ore mines in the Pilbara in Western Australia, for instance.
The company is said to also be trialling driverless trains and will be deploying other technologies to cut costs.
Wal-Mart Stores recently announced that it has applied to US regulators for permission to test drones for home delivery. Amazon was also trialling the use of drones for its online delivery business.
The biggest challenge for the drone industry has been the ability for organisations to get approval from the respective aviation authorities, Williams says.
Furthermore, robots are starting to be used in several Asian markets in hotels and restaurants to eliminate the need to have front desk staff or waiters.
Toyota recently announced that it would be investing $US1 billion over the next five years to build Toyota Research Institute, a new company based in Silicon Valley focused on artificial intelligence and robotics.
“These recent developments point to a market ahead of us that will see how smart machines will be used widespread across various industries, but whilst it will drive efficiencies and help reduce costs, it will also start having a negative impact on jobs,” says Williams.
5. Cognitive Computing and Artificial Intelligence platforms will become big across industries.
The Cognitive Computing platform is mirrored closely to how the brain works - it is based on how humans make decisions.
The computer systems do not follow a specific pattern or fixed programming protocol, instead the computer intelligently identifies patterns thinking like a human brain.
“We can expect more cognitive computing platforms to bring about a new way of delivering services,” Williams says.
Frost & Sullivan says this is starting in healthcare, for example.
Memorial Sloan Kettering clinicians are partnering with IBM to train Watson Oncology to interpret cancer patients’ clinical information and identify individualised, evidence-based treatment options for its patients.
In the contact centre space, contact centres have begun using various technologies to create efficiencies such as cloud computing, self-service applications, web based platforms and analytics.
IVR technology has been used for years by contact centres around the world and when you add artificial intelligence to that equation, it changes the face of how the contact centre of the future will look like, Williams says.
Last year IPsoft unveiled ‘Amelia’ which is an AI contact centre agent.
‘Amelia’ is designed to think like a human and can help answer complex customer queries.
Whilst artificial intelligence solutions will gain in adoption, it is worth noting that the human element is still important as not all services can be taken over by AI, Williams says.
Intelligent Personal assistants are also making its way in the market with Facebook’s M and Baidu’s Duer.
The battleground for Intelligent Personal assistants will increase with nearly every large technology company investing in developing an intelligent personal assistant platform.
Other popular solutions in this space vying for a share in this market include Siri, Cortana and Google Now. These platforms will offer a wide range of services which include booking a taxi, ordering food, groceries and other online goods.