This feature first appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
It's the time of year when many people have been wondering what the immediate future of IT has in store for individuals and organizations. Disruptive technologies will continue to evolve and bring about changes in the way we work, communicate, socialize, travel, and live in 2019.
For businesses and working professionals looking to leverage the transformative potential of these developments, it is crucial to separate reality from hype. Discussing technology trends matters most in that it helps people in the industry focus on viable ways to enhance customer experience, improve productivity, and protect data and privacy.
Harnessing new and emerging technologies that fit those parameters is a key means of optimizing business outcomes. AI, Internet of Things, automation, and edge computing will all transform the way enterprises and other organizations operate.
Listed below are some of the key trends that are expected to emerge or expand in 2019. This article is based on insights and information from Gartner, Forrester Research, HBR, Dimension Data, CIO magazine, and CompTIA, as well as the views of such forward-thinking technologists Daniel Newman, Andrea Grassi, and others.
Automation, or the operation of business/industrial processes without human participation, is rapidly expanding, whether in organizations, on farms, on the road, in the air, or in digital environments.
We already have robots, driverless cars, drones, and autonomous applications, which are driven by varying levels of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some can operate independently whereas others, such as drones, require varying degrees of human participation and supervision.
In the near future, analysts expect to see more and more AI-embedded services, applications, and IoT devices that either perform tasks previously executed by humans or augment work done by people. Gartner predicts an increase in collaborative autonomous AI services and systems in future.
As Elon Musk discovered at Tesla, instead of speeding up production, total automation did the opposite. Popular science fiction notwithstanding, we're still at the stage of robotics where everything a robot does has to be programmed in advance by a human being. Tesla had to recruit hundreds of skilled workers to overhaul its production processes and reprogram its robots.
HBR researchers surveyed 1,000 companies worldwide and concluded that best results were achieved not when robots replaced humans, but when AI systems supported workers. That's one reason why we are likely to see more collaboration between humans and machines in 2019.
Enterprises are expected to recruit more machine learning specialists and automation engineers to support increasing automation of key processes, but human workers haven't become obsolete quite yet.
Gartner predicts AI-driven development' will continue to evolve and enable developers to embed AI capabilities in applications without depending on data scientists. Also, AI-capable tools will enable automation of certain development tasks, such as testing and code generation, thereby speeding up AI solution development and making application development accessible to users with a range of capabilities.
Businesses are expected to increase investment in AI-driven capabilities, particularly in supply chain management, production, client interface, and medical research. According to a recent Forbes magazine article by Teresa Spangler, AI has the potential to improve business outcomes for companies that depend greatly on communication with clients.
AI-enabled tools can record and store conversations between salespersons and clients, making it possible for these professionals to listen to conversations, work on their communication skills, and perform better in future.
AI will continue to create new roles, such as computer-vision and deep-learning scientists, robot engineers, and machine learning engineers. The demand for data scientists is expected to remain strong. According to CIO, data scientist will be one of the 13 IT specializations most in demand in 2019.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Exponential growth of the Internet of Things is expected to continue in 2019. From home appliances and wearable gadgets to communications tech and vehicles, the number of connected devices that people own is steadily increasing. At the same time, many of these devices are now capable of performing advanced functions.
According to Forrester Research, IoT platforms will flourish, with vendors offering advanced integration capabilities and APIs to enterprise customers. Technologist Daniel Newman predicts a considerable increase in the number of connected devices in the manufacturing and healthcare industries.
The potential of IoT to speed up and improve production, cut delay due to machinery malfunction, and streamline inventory is especially significant because smart devices can impact each stage of production.
In healthcare, it is expected that IoT will penetrate deeper in 2019. Connected devices will enable smart healthcare at home, as well as broader and more advanced personal health management, with streamlined patient data processing improving outcomes at healthcare facilities.
Forrester projects the emergence of a market for professional management of IoT devices and infrastructure in 2019. Many healthcare, retail, and manufacturing organizations are expected to outsource operation and management of devices and applications to IoT vendors that offer bundled services.
This growth will generate higher demand for IoT professionals in 2019. CIO expects businesses to recruit IoT specialists who have expertise in platforms, connectivity, devices, enterprise integration, development, and edge and cloud analytics in 2019.
The rapid proliferation of connected devices has given rise to an exponential increase in data processing. Depending on the cloud for all IoT computing is no longer viable because uninterrupted and fast connectivity is not always available, particularly with services in far-off locations and connections to smart vehicles.
Analysts and technology commentators expect data processing will move toward edge computing as the IoT expands and connected devices proliferate. Edge here refers to the source of data or the periphery of the network, near connected devices and sensors where content can be collected, stored, and processed rather than only at centralized data centers.
This would reduce latency, enable real-time processing and analytics, accelerate delivery, and lower data transfer and storage costs. We will also see intelligent computing at the edge as more industrial devices, smartphones, and other connected gadgets are embedded with machine-learning chips and AI algorithms.
As edge computing will require infrastructure changes, organizations will need to recruit professionals able to develop, implement, and manage architecture for the edge.
Blockchain is still at an emergent stage. At the operative level, the technology is currently limited to blockchain-based applications on a small scale in certain areas of finance, insurance, healthcare, and government. Gartner predicts blockchain has the potential to generate more than $3 trillion worth of business by 2030.
Ethereum, HyperLedger Fabric, and Openchain are currently the most popular blockchain platforms for enterprises. New platforms are emerging fast as blockchain adoption increases across different industries. On Nov. 29, a group comprising leading energy companies and traders as well as banks launched a blockchain-based platform for oil trades.
There is a growing demand for blockchain developers and people with the right skills are currently in short supply. How do you acquire this expertise? Many developers looking to work in this burgeoning space have begun working directly on projects, which offer the opportunity of gaining real-world experience.
According to a recent Forbes article, blockchain ventures such as Ethereum and FundRequest fund programmers who work on their projects. Ethereum pays developers who identify security issues and glitches in Ethereum, whereas FundRequest posts smart contracts for solutions.
The monetary compensation is mentioned on each contract. Coders anywhere in the world can develop and submit programs to address these requirements. The developer with the right solution is compensated according to the contract.
The other option is to enroll for a blockchain programming course at a coding institute. Learning and working with Solidity, the language in which smart contracts are written, can also help you find work in this space.
As more enterprises move transactions to the cloud, cybersecurity threats are increasing apace. Also, the recent implementation, across Europe, of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), has made it necessary for companies to shore up their data processing and management practices. Some analysts think this might increase security risks for businesses operating in the cloud.
According to Dimension Data, enterprises will accord higher priority to cloud-based security. Given the number of major cybersecurity incidents in 2018, organizations are expected to invest more in cloud-based security applications.
Security professionals, including cloud security experts, will be among the 13 most sought-after IT professionals in 2019, according to CIO.
Stay on your toes
Apart from the trends discussed above, business strategists and developers are also expected to focus on personal data privacy and Augmented Reality (AR).
AR is a technology that enables interaction with computer-generated images superimposed on the user's real physical environment. AR applications are proving useful in retail, healthcare, and in employee training. Also, cloud-based services will continue to advance, offering businesses a range of new tools that harness emerging technologies.
As AI and automation advance, rendering many traditional job roles redundant while simultaneously creating new opportunities, it is important that professionals develop skills and knowledge that will enable them to work with these disruptive technologies. In a fast-changing world, adaptability is key. Workers will have to keep reskilling to stay relevant in a constantly evolving business environment.