Top 10 Trends for ICT in 2018
Technology, Innovation, Thought Leadership, Digitization, Smart and Connected Communities
“Facebook is a new world order – without any Magna Carter” – Wired.
2017 was a global tipping point that permanently changed the world. A common thread linked political change to the retirement of stalwarts of industries to new trading methods and payment systems. That thread was characterised by trust - or the lack of it, between individuals and institutions - and pervasive online technology. It is a new world order where digital blurs national boundaries, is boundless and is attracting capital and reshaping value like never before. It is providing exciting new opportunities that promise to improve our lives and generating new challenges including excessive power in the hands of a few large tech companies.
Gartner projects the IT industry to grow 4.3 percent to US$3.7 trillion. Really? When you look at the massive migration to cloud, mobile and software, can this be correct? Alternatively, is the IT industry actually shrinking but the use of IT in lines of business (ie operations or OT) growing faster?
1. Augmented Intelligence – Extending human intelligence pervasively, at machine-scale
Artificial Intelligence (AI) hype peaked in 2017. There was also tangible progress in the various elements of AI including robotics, computer vision, language processing, virtual agents and machine learning. Business leaders recognise the importance of data and AI and are investing with urgency. Those that aren’t probably won’t be around for much longer. But there is much work ahead. Single-skill AI is already common in the form of Siri, Google maps, Amazon Alexa, advertising and online shopping, for example. AI will become multi-skilled, ‘ambient’, pervasive and enable devices to adapt to people in contrast to people having to adapt to the device. The global race is on in software for the master (multi-skilled) algorithm and in hardware for AI chip dominance.
2. Intuitive Systems – Sensing, thinking, acting
As humans, we realise that our capability using only our brain, is limited. Yet we are concurrently experiencing a massive opportunity where technology - specifically compute, network and storage performance - is improving at almost exponential rates. Research into the human body and brain, such as sight and intuition, is informing how we can leverage machines and technology to automate. Automation involves eliminating or re-engineering human involvement in a specific process and it requires three critical ingredients – measurement (to generate data), computation (to process the data) and action (to do something with the data). Intuitive-based systems will proliferate across IT in our quest to automate by ‘closing the loop’.
3. Cyber and Trusted Systems – From Denial of Service to Destruction of Service
Cyberattacks are now the third-largest threat facing the world, following natural disasters and extreme weather. Revenue generation is still the top objective of most threat actors. However, some adversaries have both the ability and the inclination to lock systems and destroy data as part of their attack process. Researchers see this more sinister activity as a precursor to a new and devastating type of attack that is likely to emerge in the near future: Destruction of Service (DeOS). Therefore, we must raise our warning flag even higher. Education is required to change user behavior. Cyber technology will adopt an ‘intuitive system’ model comprising local measurement and global, near real-time intelligence. Governments will enforce cyber security as a priority with new legislation (eg Data Breach Notification, GDPR, ePrivacy) and higher penalties.
4. IoT – Systematically combining IoT, AI, Network, Fog and Cyber for true digital transformation
Most IoT projects are failing, despite much enthusiasm and optimism. The inaugural phase of IoT was characterised by numerous point solutions from a multitude of new (often startup) vendors. Typically, these solutions were designed to solve a particular societal problem such as lighting or parking. Customers now find themselves with multiple siloes from multiple vendors that don’t interoperate, are not cyber secure, use different protocols and generate more complexity at greater cost. The next phase will be characterised by “platforms” that incorporate modularity, interdependency and functionality to address multiple different sensors and applications from different vendors. When IoT is combined with AI, smart networks, FOG (edge computing) and security (eg Blockchain) as an “intuitive” system, there will be less failure and more successful transformation.
5. Crypto, Blockchain – Cash is (almost) dead, long live digital, mobile and crypto
Mobile payments grew to around $5 trillion in China, almost half of the county’s GDP. The Global Financial Crisis, royal commissions and multiple bank investigations have dispelled the assumed trust in traditional banking systems. Payment systems are becoming decentralised, digital, cryptographic systems underpinned by decentralized ledgers (eg Blockchain) that provide more confidence and more data. The transition from plastic cards to mobile apps will accelerate. Fiat and crypto currencies will combine and we can expect more government intervention and regulation. Practical, non-currency Blockchain applications emerge.
6. Workspace – Meet digitally-by-default, in-person by exception
Gen-Y predominantly meet, speak and make arrangements digitally using social apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. As the dominant segment in the workforce, their expectations will influence and change the workspace. They expect digital social habits to be the default workspace practice. Unfortunately, most organisations have deployed a plethora of collaboration tools, introducing complexity and fragmenting teamwork. Organisations will start consolidating collaboration options to empower people, projects and teams. The user interface will become more intelligent, frictionless and intuitive, leverage technologies such as AI, VR and AR and respond to speech and presence. Digital distraction will be an increasing challenge at work and in your car.
7. Cloud – Spotlight on DevOps, microservices, orchestration and pay-per-second compute
Cloud has permanently changed the IT industry. In 2017, cloud services grew three-times faster than cloud/DC hardware and software. In 2018, more than half of global enterprises will rely on at least one public cloud platform. However, some public workloads will also back-track to private cloud. Hyperconvergence dominates private cloud infrastructure and the use of containers as a deployment vehicle for applications will grow quickly. Kubernetes wins the war for container orchestration and by 2021, over 95 percent of new microservices will be deployed in containers. Cloud functions (serverless, or pay-per-second compute) will transition to mainstream. By 2021, 80 percent of Fortune 1000 companies will conduct at least one routine task using cloud functions.
8. Mobile – Demand for speed & richer user-experience spurs 5G & Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality
Mobile data traffic is expected to surge eight-fold over the next 5 years, reaching 110 Exabytes per month by 2023. Over 70 percent of this traffic will be video. Industry is responding to this inexorable demand by providing better performance (primarily investing in 5G for higher speed and lower latency) and a richer user experience (with VR, AR and MR). 5G is developing faster than expected with the initial 5G New Radio (NR) specifications being approved 6 months earlier than expected (by 3GPP), heralding the start of the 5G era and a new battle amongst the mobile sector's leading players to claim industry firsts. In the long-term, industry not humans will be the chief 5G driver. Practical AR use-cases in industry grow and scale.
9. Autonomous Vehicles – Accelerating journey to autonomous, connected, electric, shared (ACES) vehicles
The vehicle industry continues to be a global exemplar for both constructive and destructive disruption enabled by mobile, IoT, AI and cloud. All-electric car sales will surge in 2018 and car ownership will decline as sharing and subscription grow rapidly. The incentives leading transformation of the industry are more compelling – fewer lives lost, lower costs and a cleaner environment. We can expect further government legislation to enable accelerated progress in intelligent transport systems.
10. M&A, Innovation – Cash repatriation windfall, “Double-A” (Amazon/Alibaba) paranoia
It is estimated that US-based companies have about $2.5 trillion worth of capital stashed internationally and that much of this will soon be repatriated, due to changes in US taxes in 2017. This large cash windfall will give large tech companies even more power and inevitably impact global IT, investment and M&A. “Double-A” will impact almost every industry positively for those who are prepared, and destroy those that aren’t. Companies will race to develop their ‘tech edge’ (in particular in data/AI) through M&A and investing in startups as ‘outsourced R&D’. Countries will grapple with the employment paradox: unemployment concurrent with skills shortages. Fortunately, growth in new businesses (startups) looks promising – 50 million globally in 2015 (137,000 per day!).
The above is a summary of my predictions of the ICT trends for 2018. They have been selected because of their impact on the networking industry and they forecast what is expected to happen or start happening, within the next 12 months. This information incorporates input and insights from several sources, which are available upon request.