2020 and beyond: Emerging possibilities, emerging threats

In 2020 (and beyond), the IT leaders who will have the biggest impact on their organisations are the ones who focus on how their technology decisions intersect with their people decisions

Credit: Dreamstime

Welcome to the data decade, a new era that will see technology evolve further and require businesses to look at data more thoughtfully.

To stay competitive and relevant, businesses need to embrace the latest evolution in data driven technologies as well as adapting to future changes, some of which are already making an impact.

Emerging technologies are being used, often experimentally, in a variety of ways. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are being applied to everything from IT to industrial operations, while virtual reality and augmented reality are no longer considered as niche and are being applied to both enterprise and consumer spaces, such as healthcare.

As we learn from the past and look to the future, there are five key predictions around emerging technologies that will prove to be vital for businesses to harness confidently and maximise their potential.

Machines will have a bigger voice in our lives

Natural Language Processing (NLP) makes communication between human and machine easier than ever. Not only does it let us communicate with our devices day-to-day to make life more palatable, it can also be of great use to help people with disabilities communicate, translate languages on the fly and filter through tons of unstructured data for previously unnoticed insights, among other things.

At the business level, AI will increasingly make decisions that may be inscrutable to human observers. It’s important to note that NLP should never be seen as the final decision maker, but it can and should help humans make better decisions.

Attackers will attack AI while it’s still learning

As AI and ML drive more of our decisions, bad actors will focus on it as a new attack vector — sabotaging training data to disrupt decision-making. In 2020, we’ll see more attempts at adversarial attacks that could lead to disastrous results. It could lead to industrial sabotage — think power stations or water treatment plants that depend on automated processes.

It could affect the financial stability of organisations and individuals. In this changing landscape humans will have to verify outputs and not take for granted what AI/ML provides us.

Blockchain leaves Bitcoin behind

In the next five years, blockchain will finally evolve beyond cryptocurrency to change security, industrial environments, even governance. When data is committed onto a blockchain, it’s permanent and nearly impossible to manipulate or hack because it depends not on people, but on the network of machines it’s built upon.

Blockchain will revolutionise how we leverage technology, on a par with the effects of mobile technology and the Internet itself. Once blockchain becomes well organised in financial settings, the industrial and public sector applications are set to skyrocket.

Read more: How artificial intelligence is becoming a key weapon in the cyber security war

5G’s IoT push previews the post-smartphone era

Already available in some cities and being rolled out to more soon, 5G is setting new standards for speed and bandwidth. Downloading a movie in mere seconds on your phone is closer than ever to becoming the norm. But 5G will bring more than just super-fast phones.

In 2020, 5G will take hold in the industrial space, providing more efficient services, better safety and new use cases. Low latency will improve remote control of heavy machinery, reducing risks and expanding the types of environments in which machinery can operate.

All the benefits won’t come without some risk. IoT devices often lack solid security design, and there’s an inherent risk in creating new, connected 5G networks that could expose sensitive information. Organisations will need to take a layered approach to security that covers these gaps.

2020 will be the year of dark data

With these advanced technologies comes the priority to better manage and use business data, and many companies aren’t doing a good job of that – yet. 

Last year, Splunk’s State of Dark Data report showed that 55 per cent of an organisations data is dark, meaning the organisation either doesn’t know the data exists or doesn’t know how to find, analyse and use it to their advantage.

While not every business has embraced their dark data yet, they need to make the decision to soon, or they’ll be playing catch-up to their competitors in future years who have made tangible and helpful insights into their operations.

When trying to predict the future, the easiest path is to single out particular technologies and trends that are on the rise, and to predict that their rise will continue.

In 2020 (and beyond), the IT leaders who will have the biggest impact on their organisations are the ones who focus on how their technology decisions intersect with their people decisions. For many, the best practice would be to seek a balance between the two, capitalising on the skills of both.

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Simon Eid

Simon Eid

PC World
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