In these times, when the digital revolution is no longer novel and technology has penetrated every aspect of our lives, it goes without saying that disruption is the name of the game. And that's in virtually every industry. Technology has changed everything from taxi cabs to gambling, even dramatically altering the way we socialize with one another.
But just because digital technology is ubiquitous and familiar doesn't mean the digital revolution is over, or that it ever will be. Indeed, our newfound technological prowess lends itself to quicker, bigger, better breakthroughs; it compounds its own evolution on an exponential scale. As we fast approach the third decade of the 21st century, there are four schools of technology that hold the promise to not just disrupt, but transform the way we all approach day-to-day business.
The rise of artificial intelligence has been a long, gradual slog; long ago, AI entered the zeitgeist, but until recently much of the public was unfamiliar with the technology beyond Hollywood dramatizations or abstract doomsday scenarios.
Now, however, more people are aware that AI does not necessarily mean the robots of Skynet. Whether its customer service chatbots or customer relationship management tools that use machine learning algorithms, it's not uncommon to interact with AI multiple times a day.
AI at its core, is simply a program that is able to learn over time as it processes massive amounts of data. There are two key components here; one, obviously, is the processing of massive amounts of data that human beings are incapable of sifting through in a lifetime. This has long been humanity's obsession with computers, as well as building ever more sophisticated ones. The novel component of AI, however, is that these programs actually learn as they are fed more data. That means the more you use AI for a specific purpose, the better it gets at predicting outcomes.
The business applications are apparent and vast. Sifting through troves of business intelligence and augmenting human insight with data contextualized in real-time offers businesses in every industry powerful uses for AI. Whether it's a manufacturing plant monitoring its machines for signs of lower productivity or potential failures, or a financial firm that's predicting outcomes on the stock market, AI is an immensely powerful tool that cannot be ignored moving forward.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) goes hand-in-hand with AI. After all, to contextualize vast troves of data, you need to capture vast troves of data. IoT is often referred to as the process by which "dumb" machines are made "smart," or by which new products are produced with smart capabilities. In plain English, IoT means everything is networked and communicative. Not only can IoT enabled devices process what is happening to them (e.g. a machine that recognizes its overheating) but can also transmit that data to a central location.
Imagine an entire factory floor, for example, of networked machinery feeding data back to a central database in real-time. That information can prove critical to avoiding reductions in productivity or dispatching predictive maintenance to keep machines running longer and more efficiently.
But what do you do with all that data? No human could ever sit down and make sense of it in one lifetime, and it would cost a fortune to employ an army of people to sift through it. And even if you did pay them that fortune, they'd have great difficulty communicating the fragmented bits of information they each uncovered. Enter AI to work in tandem with the data collecting powerhouse that is the IoT.
Proponents of blockchain say within the next 10 to 20 years, we could be looking at the replacement of conventional financial institutions and other forms of "middlemen" that currently track transactions. Blockchain, they argue will empower peer-to-peer transactions in a way that has never been possible before, reducing costs and expediting business processes.
Serge Beck, the CEO and founder of Optherium, a global research and development company building transformative blockchain solutions to reform defective functions within financial and security infrastructure, said the priority for his company right now is better securing business data, a major priority as cyber attacks continue to increase across the globe.
"Right now, the biggest issue is data breaches," Beck said. "All companies dealing with centralized data storage, any kind of data storage, they'll adopt blockchain tech first to get away from liability of storing data in one location."
While Beck said it could be a decade or more before we see anything we can consider "mass adoption" of blockchain tech, the process is already underway and companies that are on the cutting edge have begun implementation.
"In 2018 more and more companies will start implementing blockchain in their phase one," Beck said. "It has already started and it will continue going."
These emerging technologies are here. It will transform small business, large corporations and everything in between. Jump on the bandwagon today.