Technology Trends and Your Business

August 26, 2021
Backup, Data Protection, Disaster Recovery, IT Security, IT Services, Network, US Signal

There’s a good reason the market for crystal balls never took off. Predicting the future is next to impossible. That’s unfortunate for businesses striving to gain a competitive edge or to at least make the right decisions to ensure their success in an uncertain, always-changing world.

What is possible, however, is to identify trends in technology, business practices, and leadership practices that will drive – and potentially transform – organizations. The ultimate outcomes of these trends may be difficult to determine, but knowing what the major influences on businesses and their markets will be over the next few years can help organizational leaders better plan their next steps. And the good thing about it: it doesn’t require a crystal ball.

Research, analysis, and interviews with thought leaders and industry experts can provide useful insights regarding future trends. That’s why they were among the key resources used by the team at Ball State University’s Center for Information and Communications Sciences in developing the CICS 2021 Horizon Report: Technology Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade.

Unlike many reports that focus on statistics, the Horizon Report takes both a broad and close look at 10 trends that are anticipated to have a profound impact across all industries. The report includes sections for each trend that cover what the subject matter at the heart of the trend is, how it works, who’s doing it, why it’s significant, what the downsides are, and where it’s going, along with professional insights from thought leaders.

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You can get the full report here, but here are a few highlights that we found particularly compelling.

AI & Machine Learning

AI and machine learning offer a variety of advantages that aren’t specific to any single one industry or practice, increasing their potential to impact a wide range of industries. For example, because AI and machine learning make decisions on data inputs and algorithms, they’re less prone to human error. That has huge implications for everything from healthcare delivery to manufacturing.

Both can also be used in around-the-clock operations, significantly increasing productivity. In addition, AI and machine learning offer the ability to directly impact and enable more effective communication. Already there are AI-powered technologies that enable information to be translated in real time without a human translator. Again, these developments hold great potential for use in numerous industries.

With most developed countries investing billions of dollars into the development and understanding of AI and related technologies, the far-reaching impact will be great.

Internet Connectivity & 5G

Most wireless technology is built for and relies on 4G infrastructure. Offering greater speed, range and reliability, along with lower latency, the new 5G backbone will dramatically improve the capabilities of this foundation. Automation, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) , and smart cities are only a few of the diverse industries, technologies, and concepts that will be optimized by 5G.

It’s estimated that in North America, 48% of all connections will be on 5G networks by 2025; 50% will be in Asia. Even as the upgrade from 4G to 5G remains an ongoing process that is far from being fully realized, China, the U.S., and other global technology leaders are already racing to begin exploring possibilities for 6G, the sixth generation of cellular technology.

Big Data, Analytics, Visualization

For all the benefits of big data, it still entails integration and compliance challenges. So much information is available about consumers and companies that anonymity can be lost and data easily exploited. Furthermore, governments may take action to regulate industries dealing in large amounts of consumer data to protect privacy and identity of users.

While the business world is familiar with data analysis and visualization, new tools are making it easier for non-technical people to work with data as well. That could further complicate things in terms of privacy and compliance issues.

Augmented & Virtual Reality

VR/AR adoption hasn’t taken off in the consumer market due to issues such as high prices and the fact that VR/AR products look awkward and unattractive. That’s not the case with the enterprise market, where VR and AR are expected to reach an estimated market size of more than $209 billion by 2022.

In one survey, 80% of the executives interviewed stated they believed it will be important to leverage these kinds of solutions to close the gap of physical distance when engaging with customers and employees.

Case in point: the pandemic amplified the need for VR/AR-powered training and simulation to support remote training and worker enablement in a socially distanced way.

Cybersecurity Threats

Expect to hear more about what Gartner calls “digital-first, remote-first,” an IT operating model designed for anywhere operations. Anywhere operations are essential for providing smooth, scalable digital experiences to accommodate customers and employees. But they also increase the number of IT assets outside traditional network perimeters, exposing organizations to more cybersecurity risks and requiring them to rethink their security approach.

One solution may be cybersecurity mesh architecture, defined by Gartner as “a composable and scalable approach to extend security controls to distributed assets by decoupling policy enforcement from the assets being protected.” A mesh network doesn’t have centralized access points. Instead, it uses wireless nodes to create a virtual wireless backbone.

The idea behind it is to enable any person or thing to securely access and use any digital asset, no matter where either is located while providing the necessary level of security.

Biotechnology & Digital Medicine

While many of the innovations we’re seeing in healthcare and related fields were already in progress, the COVID-19 pandemic drove advances even faster. For example, smartphones are being used as streamlining devices to decrease time spent registering for appointments, waiting in a doctor’s office, or transferring prescrip­tions. VR and AR technologies are being used to remove the physical dis­tance between professionals and between caregivers and patients.

Expect to see an increase in the use and acceptance of prescribed digital therapeutics (PDTs) ─ software programs that support therapeu­tic interventions with patients, as well as big changes in how care is delivered, and hospitals are structured.

IoT & Next-Gen Networks, Cloud

IoT devices are increasingly becoming part of the cloud network. They enable distributed cloud capabilities, and the ability to operate anywhere with a distributed cloud frees organizations from the confines of a specific geographical area so they can put their network anywhere over the internet.

Automation & Robotics

An IBM study noted that one in five respondents stated that machines will perform cross-enterprise transactions across multiple departments; five percent say ma­chines will perform expert work—problem-solving based on real-time information or multiple inputs.

Intelligent automation will optimize business pro­cess workflows. It will als0 help organizations generate higher revenues and control costs, and enable them to build a more flexible workforce by striking the right balance between human and digital labor.

Blockchain, Encryption & Digital Currencies

There are many consortiums, alliances, and organiza­tions working to productize blockchain, standardize applications, and build confidence in blockchain systems. These groups also have non-commercial strategies in play such as growing the talent pool, supporting collaborations between academia and industry, and simplifying the technology to address common pain points.

Massive Computational Power

Global and U.S. security priorities indicate that AI ─ and the massive computational power it requires ─ will occupy a much more significant role in economic and defense pol­icies. China will continue to challenge the U.S. for leadership in chip manufacturing, as the US assesses how it can reduce the financial barriers to computational power innova­tion to maintain its competitive edge. Meanwhile, chip design start-ups offer exciting possibilities for collaboration involving large-company resources and small-company inno­vation.

What It All Means

While the Horizon Report offers a lot of good information, three key points stand out regarding the trends identified:

1. They’re largely interrelated.

2. They have the potential to drastically change many aspects of how business is done and, in many cases, are already doing so.

3. They involve IT assets, and require attention to both the enabling infrastructure and issues such as security and compliance.

If you’re interested in learning how to equip your organization to leverage these trends – and make sure you have the right assets in place to do so, US Signal can help. call 866.2.SIGNAL or email [email protected].