What are the key digital transformation trends all CIOs should be conscious of?

A digital landscape lies ahead and, despite hesitations, many organisations are transforming their WANs to align with a cloud and mobile environment. With most organisations still learning how to mesh old processes with new ones, the months ahead likely will show a few bumps in the road as CIOs find their balance with new digital strategies.

In the 2018 report Mastering the New Business Executive Job of the CIO, Gartner highlights that CIOs may need to intermix IT, digitalisation and business processes as they take on digital transformation. The report explains that going forward, CIOs may want to consider conducting pilots for digital business opportunities.

Gartner describes digital business as “harnessing the opportunities of innovative new technologies to create new business opportunities, such as new products and services, or ways of operating the business”. New technologies could include digital security, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), conversational interfaces and smart robots.

The report also emphasises that CIOs are already groomed to focus on growth, but now they may want to match up their marketplace goals, customer expectations and competitive tactics with digital initiatives to increase revenue – which is a difficult feat altogether – while also having to keep up with the rapid change of technology.

CIO agenda predictions

IDC unveiled its 2018 CIO agenda predictions, pointing out that by 2019, 6opc of CIOs will complete the replatforming of their infrastructures and applications using cloud, mobile and DevOps to make room for and embrace enterprise digital transformation.

A few digital developments CIOs may want to keep an eye on during 2018 include the pathway to 5G, the proliferation of the IoT and AI, and the utilisation of edge computing. Cloud computing will continue to accelerate the commercialisation of 5G, and in turn 5G will accelerate new technologies and applications.

As more data from new technology is generated, edge computing may become an important factor in helping alleviate an overflow of data being generated by connected devices and enterprises.

5G standards and future expectations

5G is anticipated for faster speeds and lower latency. 3GPP (the organisation that manages the cellular standards) recently announced it has completed the specification for the non-standalone 5G New Radio (NR). This means silicon can be designed based on the new standard and 5G can be deployed using the LTE core.

These specifications are only part of the standalone version (set to be released in 2018) and cover a wide range of spectrum, ranging from below 1GHz – or around 600-700MHz – and reaching upwards to 50GHz. Also included is the 3.5GHz band.

This is a colossal step in reaching real, commercial 5G.

Gartner predicts there will be more than 20bn connected things in the year 2020, and 5G is expected to be scalable and energy-efficient enough to power these connections. In the meantime, however, look for gigabit LTE to ramp up in 2018 as part of the path to 5G.

IoT and AI 

IoT is moving forward in a natural progression driven by the way people live and work today. More and more devices are being connected, and industries are making the choice to go online, one reason being that IoT is becoming a strong tool for organisations to connect with customers and improve the customer experience.

A good example is IoT in healthcare, which is helping specialists reach out to patients in impactful ways. University of Virginia (UVA) Health System installs telemedicine toolkits in ambulances for stroke victims through a programme called iTREAT (improving treatment with rapid evaluation of acute stroke via mobile telemedicine).

These kits link field emergency professionals to the UVA emergency room via video so they can perform neurological assessments on stroke victims while they are being transported by the ambulance. This immediate precaution can save lives and prevent paralysis, speech and vision problems, and permanent disability.

Another industry being improved through IoT is retail. Businesses can customise and personalise the shopping experience for each customer, creating the smart store. One great example is the use of digital signage inside the physical retail store.

Consumers expect to be able to watch and interact with digital advertising in stores just as they can online. GridBox Media, a cloud-based, enterprise-grade platform for supporting digital screen networks, provides retailers with digital screens that allow them to create customer engagement programmes, such as product feature screens, navigations to additional products and information, product clarification, and customer service.

Digital signage also allows consumers to access in-depth product information, reviews, product comparisons and recommendations while browsing through the store.

Within IoT, AI is greatly improving the reach to each customer and compiling consumer data. Sensors and beacons can review and analyse data that is collected to find patterns or similarities that can be learned from. For example, AI technology can keep track of what items are being scanned and in which parts of a store, helping produce valuable sales data.

The more data fed to the AI, the more accurate it becomes. According to IDC, by 2019, 40pc of worldwide industries’ digital transformation plans will include AI technology. By 2021, 75pc of commercial enterprise applications will adopt AI.

Edge computing

IoT is undoubtedly becoming part of our regular lifestyle. However, the adoption of IoT devices into organisations, along with a wide range of sensors, over time will build up a large amount of data ­– an estimated 600 zettabytes by 2020.

However, this total worldwide data generation is growing faster than total worldwide network capacity. Intelligence will need to be moved down towards the source of the data and, in the next few years, data should be moved before it hits the cloud with edge computing.

Computing at the edge means pushing data processing out to the edge of the network, where data is generated instead of sending it to data centres or the cloud, allowing organisations to analyse important data in near real time. Any edge device, such as a router, sensor or smart device, can do edge computing to reduce cost and latency, and control network bandwidth.

Digital transformation and the ripples from its impact should be considered in the coming months and years. CIOs need to keep up with the rapid change of technology and make their organisations fit for purpose.

By Ken Hosac

Ken Hosac is vice-president of IoT strategy at Cradlepoint.  As part of the leadership team since 2009, he has helped drive Cradlepoint’s growth and development through roles in strategic planning, product management, solution strategy and thought leadership.

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