Article by Mohammed Amin, Senior Vice President, Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Dell EMC
Our research partners at The Institute for the Future (IFTF) recently forecast that we’re entering the next era of human machine partnership, and that between now and 2030 humans and machines will work in closer concert with each other, transforming our lives.
We’ve worked with machines for centuries, but we’re about to enter an entirely new phase – characterised by even greater efficiency, unity and possibility than ever before.
Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and advances in Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing – made possible through exponential developments in software, analytics, and processing power – are augmenting and accelerating this direction.
This is evident in our connected cars, homes, business and banking transactions already; even transforming how farmers manage their crops and cattle. Given this dizzying pace of progress, let’s take a look at what’s coming down the pike next.
Prediction 1: AI will do the ‘thinking tasks’ at speed
Over the next few years, AI will change the way we spend our time acting on data, not just curating it. Businesses will harness AI to do data-driven ‘thinking tasks’ for them, significantly reducing the time they spend scoping, debating, scenario planning and testing every new innovation. It will mercifully release bottlenecks and liberate people to make more decisions and move faster, in the knowledge that great new ideas won’t get stuck in the mire.
Some theorists claim AI will replace jobs, but these new technologies may also create new ones, unleashing new opportunities for humans. For example, we’ll see a new type of IT professional focused on AI training and fine-tuning. These practitioners will be responsible for setting the parameters for what should and shouldn’t be classified good business outcomes, determining the rules for engagement, framing what constitutes ‘reward’ and so on. Once this is in place, the technology will be able to recommend positive commercial opportunities at lightning speed.
Prediction 2: Embedding the IQ of Things
Starting in 2018, we’ll take gargantuan strides in embedding near-instant intelligence in IoT-enhanced cities, organisations, homes, and vehicles. With the cost of processing power decreasing and a connected node approaching $0, soon we’ll have 100 billion connected devices, and after that a trillion. The magnitude of all that data combined, processing power with the power of AI will help machines better orchestrate our physical and human resources. We’ll evolve into ‘digital conductors’ of the technology and environments surrounding us. Technology will function as an extension of ourselves. Every object will become smart and enable us to live smarter lives.
We’re seeing this in our cars – the ‘ultimate mobile device’ – which are being fitted out with ultrasonic sensors, technology that makes use of light beams to measure distance between vehicles and gesture recognition. In time, these innovations will make autonomous driving an everyday reality. Well before, we’ll get used to cars routinely booking themselves in for a service, informing the garage what needs to be done and scheduling their own software updates.
Prediction 3: We’ll don AR headsets
It also won’t be long until the lines between ‘real’ reality and augmented reality begin to blur. AR’s commercial viability is already evident. For instance, teams of construction workers, architects and engineers are using AR headsets to visualise new builds, coordinate efforts based on a single view of a development and train on-the-job labourers when a technician can’t be on-site that day.
Of course, VR has strong prospects too. It will undoubtedly transform the entertainment and gaming space in the near term, thanks to the immersive experiences it affords, but smart bets are on AR becoming the de facto way of maximising human efficiency and leveraging the ‘tribal knowledge’ of an evolving workforce.
Prediction 4: A deeper relationship with customers
Dell Technologies’ Digital Transformation Index shows that 45% of leaders in mid- to large-sized organisations believe they could be obsolete within 5 years and 78% see start-ups as a threat to their business. It’s never been more important to put the customer experience first.
Over the next year, with predictive analytics, machine learning (ML) and AI at the forefront, companies will better understand and serve customers at, if not before the point of need. Customer service will pivot on perfecting the blend between man and machine. So, rather than offloading customer interactions to first generation chatbots and predetermined messages, humans and automated intelligent virtual agents will work together as one team.
Prediction 5: Bias check will become the next spellcheck
Over the next decade, emerging technologies such as VR, AI, will help people find and act on information without interference from emotions or external prejudice, while empowering them to exercise human judgement where appropriate.
In the short-term, we’ll see AI applied to hiring and promotion procedures to screen for conscious and unconscious bias. Meanwhile VR will increasingly be used as an interview tool to ensure opportunities are awarded on merit alone, e.g. by masking a prospective employee’s true identity with an avatar. By using emerging technologies to these ends, ‘bias check’ could one day become a routine sanitiser, like ‘spellcheck’, but with society-wide benefits.
Prediction 6: Media and entertainment will break new ground with e-sports
In 2018, we’ll see increasingly vast numbers of players sitting behind screens or wearing VR headsets to battle it out in a high-definition computer-generated universe. As hundreds of millions of players and viewers tune-in, esports will go mainstream.
The e-sports phenomenon points to a wider trend. Namely that even quintessentially ‘human’ activity like sport has been digitalised. Technology has widened ‘sport’ to all types. You don’t need to have a certain physique or build. If you have quick haptic responses and motor skills, you can play and claim victory. Additionally traditional sports, like cycling, have upped their game by harvesting data to identify incremental but game-changing gains. In the future every business will be a technology business, and our leisure time will become a connected experience.
Prediction 7: We’ll journey toward the ‘mega cloud’
Cloud is not a destination. It’s an IT model where orchestration, automation and intelligence are embedded deeply into IT Infrastructure. In 2018, businesses are overwhelmingly moving toward a multi-cloud approach, taking advantage of the value of all models from public to private, hosted, managed and SaaS. However, as more applications and workloads move into various clouds, the proliferation of cloud siloes will become an inevitability, thus inhibiting the organisation’s ability to fully exploit data analytics and AI initiatives. This may also result in applications and data landing in the wrong cloud leading to poor outcomes.
As a next step, we’ll see the emergence of the ‘mega cloud’, which will weave together multiple private and public clouds to behave as a coherent, holistic system. The mega cloud will offer a federated, intelligent view of an entire IT environment. To make the mega cloud possible, we will need to create multi-cloud innovations in networking (to move data between clouds), storage (to place data in the right cloud), compute (to utilise the best processing and acceleration for the workloads), orchestration (to link networking, storage and compute together across clouds) and, as a new opportunity, customers will have to incorporate AI and ML to bring automation and insight to a new level from this next generation IT environment.
Prediction 8: The year to sweat the small stuff
In this increasingly interconnected world, our reliance on third parties has never been greater. Organisations aren’t simple atomic instances; rather, they are highly interconnected systems that exist as part of something even bigger. The ripples of chaos spread farther and faster now that technology connects us in astonishing ways. Consider that one of the most substantial data breaches in history occurred because attackers used credentials to log into a third party HVAC system.
Due to our increasingly interwoven relationship with machines, small subtle failures can lead to mega failures. Hence, next year will be a year of action for multinational corporations, further inspired by the onslaught of new regulations such as GDPR. Prioritising the implementation of cybersecurity tools and technologies to effectively protect data and prevent threats will be a growing imperative.