There is no question that tech moves fast.  From new innovations, to new strategies around existing technologies, the pace is quick, and complicated.  And it doesn’t help that there are often no instruction manuals for how business should evaluate or implement this new tech. This presents challenges when trying to capitalize on the trend, but also to even understand the implications to your business.   

Last week we gave you a brief overview of Forresters Research’s tech trends for 2018 (sorry it’s a pay to play report). This week we dive into the newest additions to the list, those categorized as still in the dawning stage.  Meaning the new trends that leading-edge companies are just starting to investigate for commercial application, or business exploitation.  Which is a good thing for all of us, by the way as It is virtually impossible to run down every “new” trend individually. For most of us we try to stay leading edge, without bearing the brunt of the costs associated with being bleeding-edge. The trick to this of course, is to know when technologies move past being proven, to being adopted.  Hopefully this overview will help you to understand that line as it related to our new crop of tech trends.  

TREND 1 – IoT shifts computing toward the edge. 

This is an interesting trend, because from a technical standpoint it is not new, nor would I consider it “Dawning”.  The Internet of Things (IoT), or basically anything and everything connected to the internet, has been shifting towards the “edge” (more on that in a second) from the coining of the term IoT. But this trend is really more of an implication to the business side of the equation.   

First a little clarification. What does “IoT shifts compute towards the edge” even mean. Fortunately, it is pretty straightforward. In the current state of the IoT world, a device will collect information, and send that information to the cloud for processing, which can then return to the device to act upon. How much data is sent away, and how much is managed on the device is a pretty wide range based on the device, but for the most part the bulk of the processing of the data happens away from the device itself.  The concept of IoT computing shifting towards the edge basically means the heavy lifting of collecting, filtering, sorting and analyzing data is moving physically closer to the actual device itself. The device is the edge, and the compute is just the processing power to handle analyzing the data. That is pretty much the trend, pretty straight forward concept, but the potential impact on business, not nearly as straight forward.  

So, what’s the potential business impact?  That is a tough question to answer because at this point it is all speculative (hence being a dawning trend).  The theory is that it will impact a few areas primarily.   

1.) Security: With the processing of information happening closer to the device there are less opportunities for the bad guys to compromise.  The problem is, this completely ignores the fact that the weakest link in the chain, is the device itself.  Unless more time and money are spent on securing the devices, this will have little to no impact on security from my point of view. If it gets to a point where the transmitting of data is the weak link, then of course, this will help.  But we are nowhere close to that yet.  

2.) Quicker Decisions for IoT devices: The theory is, if the filtering and processing of information happens closer to the device, the more real-time the responses to the device will be.  Meaning the field using the devices can make decisions more quickly based on instant access to information, and less wait time incurred by processing that information further away. Additionally, processing info at the edge makes Internet outages less likely to interrupt field operations.  As of 2018, this sounds great. Both could have impact on the business, and should be evaluated.  But looking if you inject some other major trends, specifically the increasing rate of Internet connectivity speeds and access, this starts to lose a little of its shine. The process of moving IoT computing to the edge is not a quick one. It’ll take years for methodologies to surface, hardware to be rebuilt and deployed, and current infrastructure to be replaced. If the advancement in Internet access and speed continues to accelerate (and it will), this will become less of a benefit over time. 

3.) Costs savings:  Again, with the current state of things, moving processing to the edge would save companies money as the transporting of information back and forth to a device costs more than adding compute power on the device itself (or close to it).  This seems to be a pretty legitimate argument. The declining costs in computing hardware has outpaced the reduction of costs in access and speed for Internet connectivity.  This will probably be the case well into the proliferation of IoT.  For companies that have 100’s of thousands of devices in the field, this hold some weight.  For smaller companies with a handful of devices, not so much.   

Overall, this trend is in the dawning stage for a good reason.  There is not an overwhelming case to do anything just yet.  Give this one sometime before a big infrastructure change, unless you plan on deploying a million devices in the near future.  

TREND 2 – Distributed trust systems challenge the central authority 

By distributed trust systems everyone pretty much means BlockChain. And although the technology is very cool, it is not on our radar yet. It is way too early, and way too unproven to shake up the central authority, although banks are spending a lot of time and money researching it. Our view at this point is take the time to get a general understanding of what BlockChain is, and then wait it out. There will not be a ton of movement this year, though we expect a lot more media coverage.   

TREND 3 – Automated security intelligence and breach response unshackle S&R 

This can pretty much be interchangeable with any industry for any number of professions.  Basically, automated security systems are dislodging the hold security and risk (S&R) professionals have on corporate security. Yep, that is a pretty accurate statement, and frankly, it’s about time. But this is true for any number of professions.  As software systems advance, and AI systems get smarter, certain jobs will evolve. The S&R professional of today may monitor and manage the security systems, where the S&R professional of tomorrow will manage the software that manages the security systems. The major takeaway for business is this: this is a good thing! As it stands most employees that are managing security are under-skilled, under-supported, and under-experienced. This is especially true in small and medium sized companies there the S&R professional is the same “IT Guy” that does EVERYTHING. This is a losing equation for business and one or two people cannot possibly handle the requirements of corporate technology today, and the cost to hire all of the necessary people is almost impossible to manage for business. These new managed security services are a great alternative. The tech is still a little new, but advancing rapidly. But regardless, it is a good time to start investigating.   

TREND 4 – Employee experience redefines apps 

Joseph Pine coined the term “Experience Economy” way back in 1998.  But the concept hold true today.  Consumers are purchasing based on experiences more than product or service.  And the brands that have been able to build better, more shareable, experiences are reaping the rewards. Considering this, and the fact that the business / employee relationship is changing dramatically, it is no wonder employee experiences are now a major part of business strategy.  

We have dug into this more extensively in another article as it has probably the biggest implications to businesses over any other trend (regardless of category, dawning, awareness or acceptance).  The fact that this trend is still considered dawning presents some great opportunities for the companies willing to invest the time and energy to explore it. We strongly recommend putting this on your 2018/2019 strategic plan. Creating amazing employee experiences helps to attract and retain actively engaged employees.  And businesses with actively engaged employees have on average, higher earnings per share, 22 percent higher profitability, 21 percent higher productivity, 10 percent higher customer engagement, 25 percent to 65 percent lower turnover, 37 percent lower absenteeism, 28 percent lower theft, and 48 percent fewer staff safety incidents.  And these are measurable statistics today, not speculative. 

We hope this exploration of some emerging trends for 2018 helps.  We will continue this deep dive into the trends classified as awareness, as well as the ones classified as acceptance.  Hopefully you can leverage these in your business and make 2018 a great year!