As an IT industry analyst, it is always interesting to reflect on the IT predictions made over the past few years.
There is a tendency, in the industry, to overhype new developments. Often, predictions that are made, take much longer to emerge than anticipated, if at all.
In the Asia Pacific region, for example, cloud computing has only been adopted, to any significant degree, in developed economies. Outside of Japan, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand, few technology executives report cloud computing having any significant impact on their businesses. As predicted, it is creeping into enterprise IT, and hybrid IT environments are emerging. But, this is happening at a much slower pace that many in the industry, anticipated.
Over the last few years, we have also been heralding the advent of the Internet of Things and its transformative potential. M2M technology and the use of Internet of Things technology in the transportation and logistics sector are nothing new, and, to many, they form the basis of an Internet of Things market. Radical transformation to the way we live and work, caused by the Internet of Things, is still several years away. In 2015, despite the hype, it remains difficult to find examples of end to end smart grids or smart cities which draw upon the promise of the Internet of Things. There has been some interesting activity in the manufacturing sector, driven by non IT companies. Bosch and Siemens in Germany and GE in the United States are currently making advances in creating intelligent and autonomous factories. But, most practical applications, in manufacturing, have, so far, related to predictive maintenance. In Asia Pacific, the world’s largest manufacturing region, most manufacturers are yet to see the benefit of Internet of Things technology.
So what will happen in 2016?
Rather than offer 10 or 20 specific predictions, I will play it safe and predict 4 key trends on which there will be much greater focus in 2016 as follows:
- In 2016, cybersecurity will be of paramount concern to all involved in IT. We are all becoming much more vulnerable to increasingly determined cyber attacks. For every well publicised successful cyber attack, there are hundreds of thousands of others that go unrecorded. The increasing use of mobile devices and the gradual spread of the Internet of Things offers many more attack vectors, and increases the risk of successful attacks enormously. Perhaps more importantly, the convergence of operational technology with information technology enables the successful attacker to have a much greater impact than before. Industrial control systems are more vulnerable than ever before and security must be the number one consideration as these systems are modified or developed. In the past, security was treated as a kind of insurance policy. It was purchased after a system had been developed. In 2016, we will see security prioritized and built into the architecture of any new system before it is implemented. Failure to do this could have catastrophic consequences.
- The Internet of Things will lead a move towards computing decentralization. The IT industry goes through cycles. In the early days, mainframe systems were centralised. Then we moved towards more decentralized PC systems. We are currently moving towards more centralized cloud-based systems. However, we will start to see more evidence of the Internet of Things taking us back/forwards to a more decentralized computing world. More processing will take place locally ‘at the edge’. P2P networks will be more widely used so as connected things can communicate directly, rather than sending data to a centralized datacentre and then to other connected devices. The ability of connected things to interact directly with each other will be critical to the development of the Internet of Things. Centralized architectures will make Internet of Things deployments inflexible and ultimately unsustainable.
- The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will become a major area of focus for the IT industry. It encompasses some of the more immediate Internet of Things opportunities. It relates to industries that depend on physical, durable assets such as manufacturing, healthcare, the automotive sector, the resources sector, and the transportation and logistics sector. Work is already being undertaken to make assets more intelligent using Internet technology. For example, GE is using Internet enabled sensor technology for the predictive maintenance of jet engines. ThyssenKrupp is using this kind of technology for the predictive maintenance of elevators. Oil and gas firms are using sensor technology on wellheads for the predictive maintenance of oil production assets. There is also a move towards providing industrial clouds which offer industry specific apps and data analytics to customers. Despite early moves towards a decentralised model of computing, the cloud model will continue to mature and offer ever more industry specific applications.
- The concept of the omnichannel will continue to receive a lot of focus in 2016. However, it will become increasingly obvious that the omnichannel represents one step towards a more comprehensive way of offering mass personalisation. The omnichannel is an evolution from multichannel integration where data analytics provide context to each individual interaction. For example, data relating to an earlier web based interaction can be used to personalise a later interaction using an app. Despite this focus, few companies are successful in integrating their existing channels, let alone creating an omnichannel experience. Nevertheless, with the increasing number of things with which we can interact, a true focus on customer experience will drive organisations to use not just traditional touch points but also new ones such as the automotive, digital signage, product data in retail outlets and so on.
In summary, while we will see more signs of a move towards distributed IT architectures in 2016, the momentum towards the use of cloud computing will not slow down. IT implementations will become increasingly complex and hybrid IT will be the norm for the foreseeable future. This complexity increases the risk from cyber attacks exponentially creating an unprecedented focus on cybersecurity.