Digital technology is not only changing the way we live and work, it is also transforming global businesses from the inside out. From the industrial sector to the healthcare market, and from energy to the banks, globally-focused organisations are embracing the process of digital transformation as a critical business strategy that can help cement their position in the ever-evolving digital landscape.
It is vitally important though to look beyond the hyperbole that surrounds many new and emerging technologies in order to truly understand where those technologies are heading, how your own organisation can fully capitalise on their commercial potential…and who you will need on your leadership team in order to achieve that goal.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most disruptive digital technologies and cut through the noise to determine how they are likely to advance in the year ahead.
IoT: Edge computing will open up new use cases for the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things generates vast quantities of data, and the volume of that data is certain to balloon for most organisations as they deploy more IoT devices. However, for some use cases network latency can erode (or even eliminate) the value of IoT data.
While cloud computing is critical to the success of any IoT project, the time it takes to transmit large volumes of IoT data to the cloud, process it centrally and then transmit the relevant output back can prove a major stumbling block for IoT use cases where latencies of even milliseconds can make all the difference, such as in financial services or advanced manufacturing.
In 2018 the growing proliferation of edge computing deployments could change all that, opening up many new use cases for IoT devices in industrial and commercial operations by enabling organisations to process and analyse IoT data in real-time, at or very close to the point it is generated.
According to a recent market forecast from Forrester Research most commercial IoT deployments still rely on cloud-based processing today, but 2018 could be the year many global organisations begin to implement local data analysis beside IoT devices, dramatically reducing the operational cost of network latency and opening up a wealth of new use cases for the Internet of Things.
3D printing: The growth of custom printing materials
3D printing has moved far beyond plastics, with a wide (and growing) range of raw materials now used in the additive manufacturing process, from paper to metal to ceramic to food.
One particularly important development, though, and one which could come into its own in 2018, is the development of printing materials specifically tailored to a manufacturer’s exact requirements.
In the traditional manufacturing process manufacturers could tackle a design challenge by formulating a custom polymer or compound that has the specific properties required to address that challenge.
Until recently, though, the additive manufacturing process required manufacturers to use standardised printing materials, meaning design challenges had to be tackled in another way. But not anymore.
Some of the biggest players in additive manufacturing, such as GE and BMW, have recently been demanding printing materials customised to their specific requirements, and materials companies have been working to comply.
It seems likely that this trend towards custom printing materials will also begin to benefit smaller organisations before too long.
AI: The rise of AI-driven metadata
Artificial intelligence and machine learning were the talk of the town in 2017, and these transformative technologies will play an equally prominent role in 2018.
Data is the driving force behind AI, so it is vital that AI algorithms are fed the best and most accurate data, and that they understand what this data relates to.
Metadata, which is data about data, can help with that last point, by providing artificial intelligence algorithms with contextual information about specific datasets and their interrelationship.
However, in addition to providing context this metadata will increasingly help organisations begin to realise a wealth of other opportunities too. By applying AI to metadata across the entire organisation, businesses will be able to make intelligent predictions and identify unexpected correlations, including things they never thought to consider.
Automation: The rise of intelligent automation
Process automation is advancing almost as quickly as artificial intelligence, but 2018 could be the year when those two technological trends come together to create a true quantum leap forward, particularly for the manufacturing sector.
Intelligent automation combines process automation with the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence to create flexible manufacturing processes that can react to changing conditions in real time.
While it has been on the cards for a long time, 2018 could the be year intelligent automation gains real traction.
Quantum computing: The year of ‘quantum supremacy’
According to Gartner the true commercialisation of quantum computing is still more than a decade away, but before they focus on commercialisation many technology firms are first racing to build their own quantum computers.
And as that races heats up, 2018 could be the year that at least one tech firm declares ‘quantum supremacy’, meaning their quantum computer has advanced to such a level that it is able to accurately perform computations that an ordinary supercomputer would be incapable of performing.
While most of the quantum computers currently in development comprise fewer than 20 quantum bits, or qubits, which is enough for only simple calculations, teams are racing to expand their own machines to comprise up to 100 qubits – enough quantum processing power to perform some computations that the world’s most powerful supercomputers could never get to grips with.
From a commercial perspective global organisations may have quite a while to wait before they can begin to benefit from the commercialisation of quantum computing, but forward-looking leadership teams should keep an eye on how this technology continues to evolve in the year ahead.
The right leadership team for the year ahead…and beyond
In order to capitalise on the incredible growth potential presented by these fast-moving trends, global organisations will need to ensure they have innovative and adaptable influencers on their leadership teams to drive these changes. Paul Marks, Partner of Miramar Global, explains:
“Preparing for a digital future is no easy task. The rapid pace of change will result in business model disruptions that will have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years leading to a continuous need for new skills and ideas. Business leaders will need to develop agile and innovative environments to stay ahead of the disruption caused by this revolution. Business leaders need a strong people agenda in place now!
Organisations must overhaul their traditional structure and shifting away from hierarchical, functional business models toward cross-functional networks of teams to become more agile, collaborative and customer-focused. It is a must to recruit business leaders capable of building teams that are comfortable with short delivery cycles and are able to operate across silos and within cross-functional teams.”
Miramar Executive Search Consultants are globally reaching and have an impressive track record of success with high profile clients. With a global reach, our consultants and researchers are perfectly placed to broaden your search. Contact Miramar today – we have offices in the UK, the USA and Asia.