COVID–19 has highlighted the importance of technology-led transformation across industries. The coming decade is expected to witness a transformation catalysed by the emergence and confluence of variety of technologies.
How has COVID–19 changed the status quo?
Biologists Stephen Gould’s and Niles Eldredge’s punctuated equilibrium theory states that evolutionary change happens in short, stressful bursts of time. We can consider these ‘brief moments’ akin to a revolution that drives a much-needed transformation. The entities that can undertake such a transformation succeed in the new normal.
The ongoing COVID–19 pandemic is one such ‘brief moment’. Although technologies such as AI, IoT and big data analytics (BDA) made their presence felt in the last decade, their adoption had not reached their full potential. COVID–19 transformed the scenario; some enterprises underwent a transformation in a matter of weeks; something that might have taken a few years.
In the post-COVID–19 business landscape, technologies will play a critical role in enabling enterprises to create scalable business impact and design highly personalised offerings; thereby creating a strong foundation for success. This in turn will enable them to navigate through challenges, from geo-political tensions to trade wars and natural disasters.
Which technologies and use cases will shape the next decade?
Relatively well-established technologies will be sought after, given their proven capabilities in paving the way for transformation. However, the real difference will lie in the ability of organisations to leverage the advancements in these technologies. For instance, in AI and machine learning, the ‘open sourcing’ movement will accelerate their innovation, facilitating the development of highly customised solutions. Enhancements in analytical, predictive, and prescriptive capabilities will enable them to assist humans in complex use cases such as improving product design and reducing customer churn. Decentralisation of AI will transform IoT into IoT 2.0, enabling remote assets to leverage edge computing for generating and acting on actionable insights, almost independent of cloud connectivity. This will be immensely useful in scenarios such as remote health monitoring and autonomous vehicles where compromised network connectivity could have life-threatening implications.
Advancements in AI techniques such as NLP and machine vision will drive advancements in BDA, enabling enterprises to leverage troves of structured and unstructured data to generate actionable insights. Sectors such as healthcare, BFSI and retail will be able to leverage historic and real-time customer insights to tailor experiences and offerings based on their preferences. Digital twins, leveraging AI, IoT and BDA, will benefit from enhanced functionality, thus driving their adoption. Advancements in mechatronics will lead to more capable and safer Cobots. Blockchain will continue to be adopted in diverse areas. Blockchain-based smart contracts will gain traction as enterprises increasingly adopt code-based and automated legal solutions to optimise their operations. Blockchain’s decentralised architecture and its use of encryption algorithms will also find applications in protecting remote assets using IoT solutions.
Some of last decade’s technologies that were ahead of their time will witness a resurgence as their use cases become more established. For instance, 3D printing will gain traction as enterprises from automobile OEMs to medical device manufacturers develop contingency plans for supply chain disruptions. Amid advancements in raw materials and product design, 3D printed parts will be used in medical prosthetics and modular construction. Adoption of AR and VR solutions will increase as they become portable, affordable, and powerful. Besides use cases such as training and equipment maintenance, they will also be sought for creating virtual experiences in sectors such as entertainment, sports, and retail. Quantum computers will also progress beyond the R&D stage. Given their high speed, they are ideal for complex use cases, ranging from asset degradation modelling to drug development.
The coming decade will also witness transformation in technologies that enable and accelerate the adoption of technologies covered above. For instance, in cloud computing, a mature technology, hybrid cloud model will gain traction. It enables enterprises to strike the perfect balance between private and third-party clouds, and is flexible, cost-effective, and secure. In telecom, 5G will pave the way for dynamic and self-regulating networks capable of supporting use cases from autonomous vehicles to remote surgery. 6G, featuring 100Gbps speeds and sub 1ms end-to-end latency, could also appear on the horizon, rendering applications such as high-fidelity holograms and pervasive AI possible. In cybersecurity, the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture model will gain traction. It will allow enterprises to replace multiple security solutions with a unified SaaS-based network and security platform, thereby offering more flexibility and cost benefits.
What must be done to derive the maximum benefit from technologies?
The decade 2020–30 will see enterprises leverage past learnings, including the COVID–19 pandemic. Optimising technology usage for maximising benefits will depend on multiple factors – having a flexible organisational culture, pursuing customer-centric approach, drawing and applying insights from the most relevant and feasible technology use cases, effectively implementing the roadmap, and monitoring the right key performance indicators. This knowledge and experience will enable enterprises to be cognisant of the evolving business landscape, take appropriate tactical and strategic decisions, improve resilience, and succeed in the coming decade.The author is Sector Lead – (Technology, Media and Telecom) Business Research & Advisory, Aranca - a global research, analytics, and advisory firm.