What are the technology trends for 2017 and beyond?

Networking, connectivity, security, artificial intelligence and workforce engagement – these are what is changing the way we live and work, and driving new business models and use cases.

Mike Weston, Vice President of Cisco Middle East, looks at these different points of technology inflexion that will shape the trends for 2017 and beyond.

Growth of Internet traffic

By 2020, global Internet traffic will be 95-times the volume of the global Internet in 2005. This growth is driven by more Internet users, more connected devices, faster broadband speeds, and more video. By 2020, 71 percent of network traffic will originate from non-PC devices including smartphones, tablets and televisions. Digitization and the Internet of Things (IoT) will also contribute to driving increased network traffic.

Applications such as video surveillance, smart meters, digital health monitors and mobile to mobile services will create incremental traffic and new network requirements.

Digitization requires digital ready networks

At the World Economic Forum in Davos held last year, the Fourth Industrial Revolution was a central theme. This industrial revolution will be different in that it is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.

The world has the potential to connect billions more people to digital networks, dramatically improve the efficiency of organizations and even manage assets. As the world becomes digital and everything becomes connected, data becomes the most strategic asset of any company or country. The ability to secure data, act on the data and deliver services based on the data will determine the success of organizations. However, there is an important pre-requisite for successful digitization: digital ready networks.

Going forward, network connectivity will become increasingly easy as corporate networking shifts to an open model. A digital ready network provides automation, real-time analytics, virtualization and the limitless scalability of the cloud. An open, software-driven network helps digital transformation by providing insights, automation and threat protection. For example, in the digital age, network devices can detect and shut down a pipeline spill automatically, or enable preventive maintenance in manufacturing plants.

The IoT gets into higher gear

The race to connect the unconnected will continue, enabling the Internet of Things (IoT) where billions of sensors will soon change the way we live our lives. IoT in consumer and business life will accelerate, connecting data, things, processes and people.

More things will become intelligent and connected to address the range of business needs. Medical devices, appliances, performance monitors, connected vehicles and smart grids are some of the early areas of adoption. For consumers, wearable devices will continue to grow and mesh with healthcare and big data. Intelligent systems will grow at a quick pace in 2017, as more applications and products become available. New products will by default have connected networks and Wi-Fi built into them, opening the door for new use cases and innovative business models.

Security becomes even more paramount

The growth of IoT will place even greater emphasis on security. The growth of connected devices and networks will largely depend on the success of being able to secure them successfully. The current generation of security technologies and architectures will not be sufficient to protect billions of devices in exponentially more complex connections.

Simply extending existing IT security architectures to the IoT will not be sufficient. Solving the security challenges being raised through the adoption of IoT requires disruptive and innovative solutions.

Couple this with the life cycle of devices without the possibility of physical upgrades. A starting point is likely to be cloud-based security services, with resource-efficient, thing-to-cloud interactions.

We also see a shift toward a cyber-physical paradigm, where we closely integrate computing and communication with the connected things, including the ability to control their operations. In such systems, many security vulnerabilities and threats come from the interactions between the cyber and physical domains. An approach to holistically integrate security vulnerability analysis and protections in both domains will become increasingly necessary.

Plug and play will be the new norm

Other than the challenges of security and privacy being raised by the adoption of IoT, lack of interoperability between different products and different solutions is also currently limiting its growth. Going forward solution vendors of IoT will focus less on setting their own standards and instead build their products on the basis of being able to complement and align with others.

This will allow us to enjoy fantastic applications that fully unleash the power of IoT. An immediate use-case will be the successful integration of the smart home including solutions like automated lighting and window blinds, energy management, movement sensors, face recognition and smart home appliances.

Changing the way we work

According to 2016 research by Harvard Business Review, while individual workforce members are becoming more connected on their own, effective team communication has become more important over the past two years. Work collaboration with partners, suppliers, customers, consultants, as well as colleagues in dispersed locations has increased in importance. However, not all collaboration tools are equally effective. Tools that are not aligned with business processes and mismatched with workstyles tend to be used less.

Cloud, file sharing, video conferencing and content management have become highly effective. The next generation of collaboration tools will be cloud-based, mobile-first and capable of integrating various workflows.

Fog Computing – Intelligence at the edge of the network

The increasing investment in smart city applications will drive intelligence to the edge of the network. Compute, storage and networking capabilities will move to the most remote devices, allowing data from sensors to be converted into intelligent commands. This will improve urban services such as traffic management, smart lighting, security, and parking.

As an example, surveillance video may pick up first responder traffic on the roads and adapt traffic signals to give them priority. Drivers of mass transportation may get alerted to maintenance faults and receive alerts to stop at the next station. Sensors inbuilt into utility networks may switch from multiple renewable energy source options to drive the best yield at the lowest cost.

Data deluge drives deep learning and artificial intelligence

The vast volumes of data being generated by sensors lead to statistical patterns that can be mapped to normal business or consumer behaviour. This opens up the frontiers for deep learning and predictive analytics driving insights into business or consumer response. Other use cases are when a network is intelligent enough to defend itself, which is especially useful for securing the IoT.

Artificial Intelligence helps analyse and automatically investigate suspicious web traffic. With artificial intelligence, we can discover attacks before they can begin to steal sensitive data. Then next twelve months promise to open up new possibilities of technology applications driving never seen before use cases and significant improvement to human life as we know it today.

The advent of alternate realities

The blending of dimensions is something that we’ll continue to see more of in 2017 as purely online retailers are now launching physical presences (Amazon book stores and Amazon Go), and Pokémon Go bought augmented reality to the attention of the masses. Virtual reality technology has reached the point that it is now accessible to the average consumer, as with devices like smartphones and tablets. New open software driven platforms are enabling businesses to innovate in how they might use the technology – whether in the online, physical or virtual spaces.

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