Paving the way forward

With a whole new year ahead brimming with opportunities and challenges, the IT industry’s elite weigh in with their predictions for 2017

Tags: Accenture ( Inc. ( IncorporationRiverbed Technology IncorporatedUnited Arab EmiratesZebra Technologies Corporation
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Paving the way forward Greater visibility and using data quickly 2016 saw significant progress in the development of a number of advanced technologies, which included AI, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and robotics.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  January 12, 2017

The start of a New Year always brings with it fresh opportunities and challenges to tackle, whether at an individual level, or for enterprise aiming to break into new territory.

This is tempered of course by the high expectations of the market, as is the case with the global information technology market.

Building off a dynamic 2016 year, which saw great advances in automation, big data, IoT, cloud, and artificial intelligence (AI), to name a few, expectations for IT continues to soar skyward. With another full year ahead, it is time to discover what 2017 has in store.

Greater visibility and using data quickly 2016 saw significant progress in the development of a number of advanced technologies, which included AI, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and robotics. Last year also saw a sharp rise in the number of connected devices.

According to the latest figures from Gartner, the number of connected things in use across the world in 2016, is expected to reach 6.4 billion. Up by 30% from 2015, this figures is expected to further increase and hit 20.8 billion by 2020.

“In 2017, there will be growing ‘chatter’ in the business environment, thanks to devices that are now able to ‘speak’.  This will spur more interest for enterprises to increase their visibility to know better where an asset is, or even what condition it is in,” comments Hozefa Saylawala, sales director, Middle East, Zebra Technologies.

Maintaining visibility on these assets will require heavy reliance on data capture devices, such as laser barcode scanners, 2D barcode imagers, RFID readers and beacons to communicate. Equally as important as gaining operational visibility will be maintenance and performance of these devices, where the failure of one could dramatically impact staff productivity, and ultimately, the organisation’s bottom line.

While many businesses are quickly becoming aware of the many benefits of data generated through IoT-enabled devices and wearables, many have yet to implement the necessary data analytics to really capitalise on the information gathered.

There is also the added challenge that the majority of organisations are unable to translate data fast enough, before it loses its business value. According to research produced by IDC, each person online will generate 1.7 megabytes of new data every second by 2020.

This rapid generation of information will lead to what some are already referring to as ‘perishable data’, which will need to be translated quickly into actionable insights, or risk becoming outdated.

“At Zebra, we believe data is perishable. Its value is time-sensitive and has a limited shelf life. Businesses must make sense of data before it expires,” explains Saylawala.

“However, enterprises are losing valuable insights as there are many disjointed sources generating and collecting data on their own, contributing to only bits and pieces of the big picture, instead of rendering a broad view.”

The era of Digital Transformation

One of the more common exercises undertaken by Middle East enterprises in 2016, involved the initiation of their respective digital transformation journeys. While this led to increased adoption of third-platform enterprise mobility and big-data initiatives, as well as the development of hybrid networking infrastructures, the recent shift did bring to light a number of issues and challenges.

“In 2016, we saw that while most organisations were eager to begin their digital transformation journeys, few based this on a strategic top-down approach. This resulted in pocketed initiates driven by line of business managers from various departments including HR, IT, sales or marketing,” comments Taj ElKhayat, regional vice president, Middle East and Africa at Riverbed Technology.

“Without an overarching plan, these initiatives either failed or brought little impact to the business as a whole. In fact, IDC has predicted that, by 2017, 60% of digital transformation initiatives will be unable to scale due to a lack of a strategic architecture.

“And by 2018, 70% of siloed digital transformation initiatives will ultimately fail due to insufficient collaboration, integration, sourcing, or project management.”

Research produced from MIT Sloan Management and Deloitte University press concluded similarly, both finding that less-mature digital organisations would often opt for a more targeted approach, deploying individual digital technologies to solve specific business challenges.

This would then result in numerous disconnected digital technologies across business operations, the underlying infrastructure issues remaining unsolved and causing frequent application performance issues, as well as a failure to deliver the needed technical capabilities at scale.

“Enterprises will realise that, for application, compute, storage, and networking infrastructure to work optimally, it all must work together, seamlessly, as a system. Any point of weakness or failure anywhere in the infrastructure can make the whole system fail,” explains ElKhayat.

“Thus, a strategic architecture must extend across the enterprise and unite all the components into a seamless, software-defined system delivering high-performing applications, data, and services.”

Security remains top priority

Intel Security recently unveiled the results of its McAfee Labs Threat Report: December 2016, which highlighted key developments in cyber security threats over the last year, as well as how enterprises are utilising their respective security operations centres (SOCs).

The report explored the continued growth of ransomware threats, along with mobile malware, macro malware, and Mac OS malware.

“One of the harder problems in the security industry is identifying the malicious actions of code that was designed to behave like legitimate software, with low false positives,” comments Vincent Weafer, vice-president of Intel Security’s McAfee Labs.

“The more authentic a piece of code appears, the more likely it is to be overlooked. Just as 2016 saw more ransomware become sandbox aware, the need to conceal malicious activity is driving a trend toward ‘Trojanising’ legitimate applications.

“Such developments place an ever greater workload on an organisation’s SOC-where success requires an ability to quickly detect, hunt down, and eradicate attacks in progress,” he adds.

Part of the report focused on how enterprises utilised their respective SOCs. Insights gained from interviews conducted with nearly 400 security practitioners from different industries and geographies, found that 93% of respondents acknowledged being overwhelmed and unable to triage all potential threats.

Additionally, 67% of respondents also reported a sharp increase in security incidents, while 57% shared that they are being attacked more often. Roughly 73% also believe they are better placed to spot incoming attacks.

The report also found that on average, organisations are unable to effectively investigate 25% of their security alerts.

Of the many threats reported, ransomware was reported to be the most pressing with the number of new ransomware samples reported at the end of Q3 totalling at 3,860,603. This was an increase of 80% in total ransomware samples since the start of 2016.

“The year 2016 may indeed be remembered as ‘the year of ransomware,’ with both a huge jump in the number of ransomware attacks, a number of high profile attacks that generated wide media interest, and significant technical advances in this type of attack,” comments Weafer.

Intelligence comes to the fore

In its annual global Technology Vision report, which collected responses from more than 3,100 businesses and IT executives worldwide, Accenture identified five key technology trends that the company believes will dramatically impact the global IT market in 2017.

These trends include the creation of an interconnected platform economy, the formation of a liquid workforce, predicting disruptions, as well as achieving digital trust, through the deployment of robust security systems and ensuring data remains secure. One of the new trends is also focused on intelligent automation and the possibilities it holds.

“With the majority of employees in the region foreseeing their organisation making more investments in machine learning and natural language processing as well as embedded artificial intelligence solutions, intelligent automation is set to witness immense growth and attract great interest over the next year,” comments Omar Boulos, regional managing director of Accenture in the Middle East and North Africa.

“This trend will bring about access to greater chunks of consumer data, which will also spark an increase in the utilisation of big data in analytics and measurements. Powered by AI, robots and augmented reality, intelligent automation is the launching pad for new growth and innovation, and companies are beginning to financially back it.”

Referring back to the results of Accenture’s Technology Vision report, Boulos points out that 77% of respondents expect that their organisation will invest in machine learning, video analytics, deep learning, natural language processing, as well as embedded AI solutions, over the next three years.

When asked about which verticals he believed would be pushing for wider adoption of enterprise technologies within the region in the coming year, the regional managing director expects digital transformation will be felt across all industries in MENA.
He did expect that the sectors of healthcare, airlines, communications and banking, would see the most disruption, and within MENA, UAE will continue to lead as an early adopter of new technologies.

“Moreover, with the regional commitment to lead the fourth industrial revolution, we expect the coming year to witness more investments in the automation of different aspects of manufacturing processes. This is especially evident with the launch of Dubai Industrial Strategy, which will also have an impact on the healthcare sector,” adds Boulos.

Beyond 2017

In Q4 2016, market intelligence firm Gartner unveiled its top predictions for the IT industry for 2017 and beyond. In devising these predictions, Gartner examined three fundamental effects of continued development of digital technologies: experience, engagement and business innovation. The company also delved into the secondary effects realised from constant improvement in digital capabilities.

“Gartner’s top strategic predictions continue to offer a provocative look at what might happen in some of the most critical areas of technology evolution. At the core of future outcomes is the notion of digital disruption, which has moved from an infrequent inconvenience to a consistent stream of change that is redefining markets and entire industries,” shares Daryl Plummer, managing vice president, chief of research and Gartner Fellow.

“Last year, we said digital changes were coming fast. This year the acceleration continues and may cause secondary effects that have wide-ranging impact on people and technology.”

One of the key predictions lay with augmented reality (AR), an arena that Gartner projects will see 100 million consumers shopping using AR by 2020. Aiming to enhance the shopping experience, brands and their retail partners may look to utilising AR applications to layer digital information on top of the physical world, in an effort to evoke deeper engagement with customers.

By 2022, Gartner states that the global blockchain-based business will be worth $10bn. In addition to quickly becoming the premiere approach to transaction recording, blockchain applications can aid in reducing transaction costs and accelerating business processes.

Also by 2022, the market intelligence firm expects that IoT will save consumers and businesses roughly $1tn a year in maintenance and services, while by 2020, IoT will increase data centre storage demand by less than 3%.

In the case of the latter, Gartner expects IoT discrete sensor storage will represent only 0.4%, with consumption of storage from multimedia sensors consuming an additional 2%. This is indicative of how IoT will be able to scale and delivery business value, via data, while remaining a cost-effective technology.

Not all of Gartner’s predictions hold promise however. The company expects that by 2019, 20% of brands will cease operation on their mobile apps. The reason it suggest lies with the fact that many brands experience diminished returns in terms of adoption, customer engagement and ROI.

Additionally, faced with new approaches to development that have emerged, boasting a lower barrier to discovery and installation, as well as improved levels of engagement at a fraction of the overall investment, many businesses may opt to reduce losses by abandoning their apps.

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