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Perspectives

The Forces Underlying Technological Evolution

2019-10-10


A bird’s-eye view of the digital landscape shows that disruptions are driven by these interrelated five forces that have produced immense computer intelligence, connectivity and business gains.

Today’s digital age is delivering unparalleled technological innovations in which artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are combining to make devices and enterprises intelligent, responsive and ever more connected. This is paving the way for organizations to turn insights into foresights, and for senior leaders to make more informed and accurate decisions in real time.

At the same time, new connected ecosystems are emerging that will change the way people, devices and organizations exist, work and interact. Transformative technologies such as 5G networks, interconnected IoT devices, ad hoc and decentralized networks, and collaborative autonomous systems are opening up newer means of communication with large data exchanges. In such scenarios, it is crucial for enterprises to make their systems more secure than ever — not only to guard against threats but also to be compliant with changing regulations that demand secure systems.

  • Force #1: The drive to create AI-powered intelligent systems pervading almost every existing technology is creating transformational impact. From robotics to vehicles to application development, the world as we know it is becoming largely autonomous, which will enable enterprises to streamline business processes, transform customer experiences, reduce costs, and drive remarkable growth and profitability. AI will also augment humans, both in the workplace and for personal development. Collaborative robots (cobots) will supersede robots when it comes to human-AI collaboration.

  • Force #2: The genesis of interconnected systems with computing power located at the network’s edge is increasing the power of systems of intelligence, as the data collected by sensors can be analyzed instantly for real-time insights, enabling people, devices and organizations to work smarter and respond faster. This is helping enterprise systems to become collaborative, cooperative and connected, leading to the evolution of swarm intelligence and swarm robotics. This is the next stage of the evolution of autonomous devices that will operate collaboratively, sharing workloads and handling complex computations.

  • Force #3: The need for more effective human-machine interfaces that can deliver immersive AI-driven, hyper-personalized experiences for users will grow much stronger as such interfaces become key differentiators for companies and individuals alike. Rapid advances have already been made with augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR), such as AR apps, VR headsets that provide immersive experiences, and Microsoft Hololens-based applications that blend real and virtual worlds. These technologies are being applied to real-world use cases like product design, healthcare, learning and entertainment, enabling a high degree of immersion in human-machine interactions. This is also fueling a need for more effective human-machine interfaces, which will be taken to the next level as haptics and tactile internet make it possible to extend touch-based interactions over the net.

  • Force #4: The demand for advanced communication technologies to be the foundation of critical infrastructure needed for a digital smart future is driving the growth of technologies such as 5G and light fidelity (Li-Fi). The new technologies can transfer vast volumes of data at extremely high speeds, revolutionizing the future of intelligent, interconnected systems. Soon IoT-enabled devices will touch every aspect of our physical lives, calling for the transfer of huge amounts of data at very high speeds to build truly connected ecosystems. Although Wi-Fi makes up for 60% of today’s global data transfer, it must overcome the lack of persistency among network connections and various security shortcomings.

  • Force #5: The compulsion to go beyond current technical limitations will push quantum technologies to the foreground. In the fields of computing, sensing, imaging and metrology, quantum technologies are helping us transcend conventional bounds by ushering in new and novel technological possibilities across industries. Quantum’s impact on communication security is already visible. Emerging technologies such as quantum key distribution and post-quantum cryptography are set to revolutionize the IT security landscape, forcing business and technology leaders to evolve and reimagine their security strategies. Quantum sensing and imaging technologies are helping us visualize and measure physical dimensions with unprecedented granularity, promising to revolutionize industries like oil and gas, astronomy, optics and others.

Guiding Principles for Gaining Advantage

Businesses need to be aware of and in sync with rapidly progressing digital technologies – and not deploy technologies too early or too late to pay off appreciably.

The following three key principles are excellent guidance for organizations to help ensure success at digital technology evaluation and deployment.

Figure 1

Acknowledge and map uneven distribution.

It is a given that all technologies do not mature at the same rate. Also, each business is different, as are their long-term strategies and roadmap; what is considered mature for one type of business may be still an evolving technology for another. Acknowledging and mapping out how unevenly the future of technology will be distributed is therefore paramount for companies that want to maintain strategic focus while not missing the forest for the trees. A useful technique here is to create a “technology radar” capacity to evaluate technologies across two key maturity dimensions: maturity of the technology itself and maturity of its business applicability. Such radar can define three categorical levels — nascent, adolescent and early mainstream technologies (see figure 1).

Assess the impact of the technologies.

Once the technologies are mapped, businesses should look at the impact that can be spawned in their own domains. For instance, automation and AI are changing the very fundamentals of how business models are evolving. Under this circumstance, it is key to evaluate and assess the following three impact parameters which will help businesses prioritize their adoption strategies into tactical, strategic and transformative technologies (see figure again).

Activate programs to explore and apply new technologies.

This principle lays the foundation and platform for taking action. When it comes to action itself, there are three key programs that businesses need to undertake: research, pilot and adoption programs (see figure).

For a deeper dive into the forces and principles described here, read “Five Converging Forces that Are Driving Technological Evolution,” or contact us.

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The Forces Underlying Technological Evolution