Are You Confused? How To Decide What Tech To Use in Your Business.
Do you use tech in your business? And would you like to know what technology to invest in next, to make your business even better?
Perhaps you are looking at all the new technologies like 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc. and wondering how it will impact your business. Maybe you are sitting on the fence because you don’t want to be caught out investing in the wrong technology – like back in the day when people didn’t know whether to go with VHS or BetaMax. Potentially you are simply confused and scared to do anything because you are overwhelmed by all the choices?
But imagine instead you are in a place where you feel comfortable that you are not tied in to any one path. What if you could “dip your toe” into the tech pool to try it quickly and cheaply, minimising your exposure before you know you want to move forward? Picture this, you have invested in technology and are seeing big benefits for your business, your people and yourself.
What I’m talking about is the 4th Industrial Revolution.
But what is the 4th Industrial Revolution? Many define the 4th Industrial Revolution as the embedding of tech into human society and lives, and even into the human body.
You may be wondering, how does this differentiate it from previous industrial revolutions?
It is generally agreed that the 1st industrial revolution took place with the development of the steam engine and the vast mechanisation of what were traditionally human powered tasks, driven from textiles.
The 2nd was created by growing industries and changing from steam power to electric power, which increased flexibility and introduced mass production.
Then the 3rd – which is more commonly termed the digital revolution, saw the advancement of computing and the move from the analogue and mechanical world developed during the 1st and 2nd revolution to be digitally represented. This also brought with it an explosion of information and the ability to freely share information globally.
So, what are examples of early 4th Industrial Revolution Tech?
Crypto currencies – these are gaining more popularity and there is an increase in use for transferring between currencies along with transactions for real world goods & services.
Block chain contracts – working with the same technology as crypto currencies, there is a lot of effort going into creating a system by which any legal contract would be held by all parties. This is expected to extend to personal details such as birth certificate, marriage, death, driving license, passport, etc. As well as transactional contracts or wills or anything that involves multiple parties.
Millennials - Millennials are receiving a lot of focus at present in how they are wanting to work, consume and create. They are less eager to work simply for money and expect a more flexible working environment. Couple this with the fact that many have not learned how to fail well, with a schooling system that only rewards success, and there are some significant challenges not only for the IT systems but also for the training and management of these users.
Identify unification, BYOD & Zero hours contracts – There is still a drive for casual working, zero-hour contracts, freelancers and others to help manage the number of people on the books. This drive does not seem likely to diminish and in many cases may be fuelled by the Millennials desire to live a more fulfilling life.
Always connected – it is now accepted that members of the public expect WiFi internet to be available where ever they go. As more services become cloud driven and people expect to consume these services wherever they are, including while traveling on trains planes and automobiles (I think that’s a film!), the demand for high bandwidth, low latency and unmetered internet connectivity to be delivered will increase.
AI (Augmented Intelligence) – Alongside the artificial intelligence view of fully autonomous systems, there is a movement around Augmented Intelligence, which uses Machine Learning, Big Data mining and other techniques to provide answers to the human operator faster and in context. The Lawyers, Doctors and other professionals that systems like IBM Watson has been touted to replace, work better, faster and more accurately with AI support rather than finding themselves completely replaced.
Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are certainly 2 of the ‘hot topics’ I see raised specifically in the context of cloud IAAS project related conversations. Effectively using computing clusters developed by other companies to find the patterns in a body of information and act appropriately upon the results.
In this area, we can certainly see early ‘green shoots’ with key technology vendors all attempting to, for example, embed the foundations for machine learning in consumer photo library services Google Photos, Apple Photos – or commercially – within the Big Data cloud services analytics space, such as Google Big Query.
AI is a hugely broad subject, but perhaps, fundamentally has the potential to create a shift from people performing the more mundane tasks to more creative or higher level work and the opportunities this creates within a business.
If we look to the current role AI plays today, perhaps four key areas look set to be first to exploit this technology:
Machine Learning / Neural Networks – Development of big data analytics within cloud platforms such as Google Cloud Platform, see financial institutions looking to this technology to provide insight into issues such as trading analytics, patterns to predict catastrophic events such as corporate bankruptcy, fraud, and other irregularities.
ChatBots – More commonly seen currently in social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger, chatbots are being successfully used by businesses to engage with consumers for tasks such as FAQ’s and extended to even take orders or bookings. Within education, big scale online education events could accommodate large volume questions – a use case which scaled down would certainly be pertinent to any business and could perhaps be an opportunity to leverage this technology within customer services.
Self-Driving Vehicles – As Apple has been the poster child for smart phones, so Tesla promises to ‘drive’ forward the image of self-driving vehicles. Some 35+ companies are developing self-driving technologies with Tesla already showcasing its autopilot system. Perhaps one product of note here is Drive AI’s artificial intelligence which is purported to be able to learn from humans driving a car. Though driving then through space is a long way off (sorry Tesla and Starman!).
3D printing – or more specifically the use of additive or reductive technologies for “micro manufacturing” in businesses, remote locations, workshops or at home. Similar in concept to the Star Trek replicator, imagine not having to visit a store for a part or have it delivered or even having to settle for a generic version that doesn’t quite fit, when you can print one yourself!
You can 3D print just about anything – including food – yes, I have seen a 3D sweet printing machine at a 3D exhibition in London last year – definitely very Star Trek!
But what if you are wedded to building out your own service platform, just like becoming a new electricity generator, how will you build up your computer power and connectivity?
Potentially the Data Centre of the Future will concentrate on delivering ever-improving levels of connectivity, reliability and sustainability.
Increasing demand for information means increased connections. Add to this the predicted growth of IoT (Internet of Things) devices and future data centres will be expected to handle and maintain millions of connections and billions of requests. Disruptions to services (regardless of cause) will be tolerated by customers less and less.
Therefore, Data Centres and their housing must handle unpredictable weather events, power management and supply issues, and incidents arising from terrorism and cyber-terrorism.
Finally, data centres and any hosting of physical infrastructure must deliver constantly improving Power Usage Efficiency ratings, while achieving Carbon Neutral and beyond Carbon Neutral footprints.
Distributed models, less dependent on individual locations, can be seamlessly replicated into new locations, delivering localised infrastructure and network services, while providing resiliency through self-healing.
Adaptable and seamless delivery of infrastructure and software environments allows cost-effective locations to be used, either permanently, during the process of transition and phasing, or in the event of disaster or the testing of business continuity operations.
Data Centres and Building Management Services will become less dependent on local support presence to operate the physical infrastructure. This is driven by factors of increasing cost-efficiencies, and the vulnerability of relying on personnel who may be restricted in attending locations in the event of weather, transport or security issues. Self-repairing and autonomous, robotic management systems will maintain Infrastructure reliability and connectivity.
Select services will be provided by cloud-based services, e.g. SaaS, PaaS, increasing the dependency on connectivity to these services. Inter-site/location connectivity will rely on fibre, including to and from the cloud and hybrid wired/wireless connectivity will maintain connectivity between private and public cloud services.
Localised environments will be self-sustaining, relying on self-provisioned renewable technology, reducing carbon footprint, while providing reliability in the event of power supply (e.g. National Grid) delivery issues. Reduced energy consumption, combined with reduced heat output through virtual and containerised services will reduce cooling requirements, further optimising costs and carbon efficiencies.
So where next?
Well, the speed of adoption will not be uniform everywhere. There will be regional variations (‘West vs East’) or by country or nation state in adoption rates and future of connectivity, in addition to ‘green supply chains’.
Just like in the 1st Industrial Revolution when workers would throw their Sabots into the machines to break them, we are at the start of a wonderful age that many will portray with fear, as an Orwellian or a Huxleyan totalitarian dystopia.
But I believe the future is still what we make it and we have the opportunity to use these technologies along with those that we still await us, to complement the best parts of what makes us human and propel us to new levels of understanding, creativity and cooperation.
If you have any questions about this or any other technology question – email me anytime on firstname.lastname@example.org