Even though many local businesses have been watching technology innovation taking place in the market, the coming months will see them actively embrace the benefits on offer. These extend from operations all the way through to reimagining how to use the cloud.
Away from the glitz and glamour of the likes of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is a fundamental focus on operational strategy and application development. Operationally, having the right skills in place and putting those individuals in positions where they can maximise return on investment will be critical. Decision-makers must therefore push their organisations to upskill and reskill their human resources and equip them with the tools needed for a digital environment.
As part of this, departments must collaborate better to gain a more unified view of the data at their disposal. Not only will this result in the optimisation of cost efficiencies, but it will also see mobile devices used in more innovative ways to harness data opportunities ‘in the field’. As these data points increase, so too must the company’s ability to capture and analyse that data to deliver meaningful insights. This is where automation will play a significant role in taking care of much of the menial administrative-intensive work, leaving employees available to deliver higher cognitive value.
Application development becomes critical in this regard to tie together automation, AI, machine learning, with existing processes to provide solutions that can harness data insights faster than before, resulting in more customised products and services for customers. Through this development, other technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing, blockchain, and the hybrid cloud can be incorporated to further enhance operations.
Given that there will be approximately 29 billion connected devices by 2022, 18 billion of which will be directly related to IoT, companies must re-examine their data gathering techniques as it moves further away from the ‘central’ cloud data centre. As with laptops, mobile phones, and tablets, these devices must be secured as any compromise could have significant consequences for the data integrity of the organisation.
With 5G around the corner, the reliable connectivity of these IoT-enabled devices must also be taken into consideration. It is critically important to capture the data and pull it back into the central hub in the most effective way possible. This is where the growth of edge computing in the country will play a vital role.
The edge delivers data processing capabilities at the source where these devices operate. This reduces the latency and cost involved in getting that information back to the organisation. Identifying problem areas quickly (think mining) can often mean the difference between life and death. Inevitably, AI will start playing more of a role to introduce machine learning capabilities to these edge devices. This will result in IoT becoming increasingly autonomous thanks to the availability of more powerful computing capabilities at the edge.
Blockchain déjà vu
In this digitally-connected environment, the blockchain will have an increasingly important role to play. This is especially the case in developing markets. Typically, the potential of cryptocurrencies in such volatile countries that see traditional payments become a challenge thanks to exchange control, difficult economic conditions, political instability, and other contributing factors, will be significant.
In Africa, it is especially cross-border payments of vendors and partners where the blockchain will start coming into its own. The simplicity (and lack of middle-man) means transactions can be processed in near real-time with security being inherently stronger thanks to how the blockchain is designed. Identities and transactions can be verified more accurately resulting in more companies opting to go the blockchain route as a reliable delivery mechanism.
Wrapping up the technology to watch will be the hybrid cloud. In many ways, this will become the essential building block of the digital organisation this year. Those who have already migrated to the cloud are realising that fundamental aspects around the transition were not put in place. From security to backup and recovery, it was more a case of being first to market than looking at the practical realities of the cloud.
These companies will take their learnings and evolve their systems into a hybrid environment. And with more multinational data centres expected to arrive in South Africa this year, a hybrid installation will make the most business sense. Certain workloads will always remain on-site while the high-performance computing capabilities of the cloud will deliver the potential of AI, machine learning, automation to organisations of all sizes.
2020 presents us with so many exciting new opportunities. Now is the time to grab on to them and harness all the potential technology can unlock.