By Marcus Adae, VP Strategic Suppliers at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA.
2016 has been an exciting year for technology, and 2017 will be equally as fast paced. This is how we see the next year shaping up in terms of technology trends:
1) Advance machine learning: The next stage in IoT and connected technologies
This year, much has been written about the power of the Internet of Things (IoT). However, advanced machine learning is the next stage in generating real value from intelligent, connected devices. Leveraging machine learning and cognitive computing with connected smart devices allows humans to interact with technology and their surroundings in ways which will drive innovation forward at an unprecedented pace. Prominent examples include self-driving cars and delivery drones, as well as products that will increasingly make up the smart home such as smart meters and other home automation products. As the gap narrows between the physical and digital world, the door opens wider for companies to explore new and innovative products and services both in the commercial and consumer sectors, which will ultimately enrich the way we interact with our world day to day.
Advancements in machine learning and cognitive computing will greatly benefit the technology sector. As this kind of technology becomes more reliable and trusted, companies will start to use it to explore entirely new business models, gaining hidden insights to their markets and operations which previously may never have been discovered. In October 2016, Uber used a self-driving truck to make its first autonomous delivery of 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer. There are still many regulations to work through, like insurance and accident liability, but in 2017 we will see many more disruptive businesses start to deploy these technologies into real-world scenarios. Only those who can demonstrate innovation by developing solutions that complement IoT and machine learning will benefit, and 2017 will see a significant rise in the number of initiatives being invested in.
Connected technologies can help nearly any industry, but are becoming more popular within logistics. IoT will support shipments and cargo, allowing them to be constantly monitored and all the information gathered can be sent back to HQ, enabling the industry to become more reliable and dynamic. We've already seen Amazon piloting the usage of drones for rapid and premium delivery services, but we can expect to see many of the traditional logistics companies such as UPS and FedEx starting to get into the connected technology game throughout 2017.
2) Mobile technologies in the ever changing tech world
With mobile technology now ubiquitous as it is, it has become more or less an extension of our very selves, often acting as the voice and eyes into the digital part of our existence, be it our online social interactions, our work emails or our EBay addiction. Interacting with a mobile device, especially for the younger generation feels natural and intuitive. As this technology advances, the opportunities for mobile technologies to improve workflow become limitless. Mobility has become a life and work style, and is an accelerator of cloud adoption enabling increasingly more flexible approaches to collaboration, sharing of data and time management. At the same time, the rapid move to the cloud for core applications such as ERP, CRM and other productivity tools is accelerating the adoption of mobile solutions, empowering the mobile worker.
Who will benefit the most from the other and grow faster? It is certainly not an easy call but one thing is sure, in 2017 mobility will be an even bigger opportunity for the channel, especially for managed services and mobile security.
3) Analytics are becoming fundamental to the distribution sector
Analytics is an increasingly critical part of any business and is one that will certainly become more important and prominent in 2017. Analytics offers more insight than ever before to help organisations make better business decisions in real-time. Partners that service the supply chain will be aware it has never been more important to know more than simply what your customers are buying. These organisations are embracing advanced and cognitive analytics to understand what their customers are thinking and what motivates them, as well as insight into what supply is needed and where it is in the warehouse. Data is very much the new oil, the value of putting your data to work to empower multiple lines of business, from operations, to marketing, to sales, will unlock untold potential for many organisations. One example of this is the Industry 4.0 and the smart factory. This involves the coming together of a number of technologies, but analytics will play a big role in modelling the wealth of sensor data in a factory to determine output, machine health and production quality in conjunction with using analytics to determine demand and predict issues. The smart factory is expected to contribute to an economic boom, which many refer to as the 4th Industrial Revolution.
This is obviously a very grand example, but in 2017 the channel will see more customers becoming heavily reliant on detailed business insight from their data to gain competitive market advantage. Cognitive computing will give them competitive edge and deep customer understanding and become the basis for how and where they grow. The substantial growth in cloud as a platform for innovation will provide new routes to market to support this.
4) The cloud will become a starting point for business transformation
This year we have seen cloud adoption and trust in cloud technology move forward at orders of magnitude far greater than previous years. The ways in which it has been adopted ranges from the born in the cloud start-up companies benefiting from the mobility and low investment risk that cloud brings, to the enterprise leveraging new and interesting approaches to B2B connectivity, streamlining cross company operations and collaboration. Another big driving force of cloud is the sheer volume of consumers that services can address today and the unpredictability of demand around those services. Organisations need cloud to be agile and flexible in handling that demand while also ensuring continued availability of service and facilitating ease of access to those services through any manner of devices. Cloud, when used correctly, addresses all of these challenges.
The cloud will also become an enabler for new security solutions, especially data security, as its perceived disadvantages transform into advantages. The European General Data Protection Regulation that will be adopted in May 2018 will put pressure on companies to ensure the security of data collected. Companies wishing to move to the cloud quicker in order to outsource these responsibilities will benefit from a better quality of IT infrastructure, provided by companies with a clear focus and mandate around data security in the cloud. This will dramatically reduce capex spending, allowing organisations to invest in local security products and services for their current on-premise IT networks.
Cloud technologies and businesses' attitudes toward the cloud are maturing daily, with less companies seeing it as a rogue element (or shadow IT, as it's often referred to). As more companies are stitching it into the fabric of their core IT strategy, it has become more trusted than ever and in many senses has become a data and services fabric bringing new levels of agility to those organisations that embrace it.
With the cloud likely to take over in 2017, other sectors may feel a bit of a hit. The cloud is beginning to be seen as the most reliable storage, security and business transformation solution on the market, and IT departments will need to undergo a digital transformation in all of these areas to stay ahead.
The key for the upcoming year will be to ensure partners tap into both data centres and cloud expertise, combining all their strengths to become the 'one-stop-shop' for technology solutions, and creating a fool-proof way to succeed within the cloud in 2017.