2016 has been a bumper year for IT innovation, and we anticipate the pace of change to continue at full throttle. Here are our predictions for 2017:
• The continued shift to cloud computing
• The Internet of Things becoming far more mainstream
• Hot Desking and new ways of working
• Office Automation
• IT security issues moving to the top table
We predict that those who have been putting off the move to cloud computing will make the jump in 2017, as more and more internal IT systems reach the end of the line. According to Priority One IT’s Tom Merriott, “this will be driven by a few key factors. Firstly, hosted platforms are now incredibly stable, and with the continued improvements to connectivity and bandwidth, concerns about availability are diminished. If you combine this with the growing number of providers, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is significantly reduced, making the move to the cloud a sound business argument.”
The TCO of a company’s IT infrastructure used to be significant, but it is now tiny in comparison to the cost of cloud systems, and we are seeing businesses switching from CAPEX to OPEX en masse. As the benefits of hosting become increasingly attractive, our view is that on-premise IT is now only for specialist systems that need to have local interaction.
The Internet of Things
In 1995 a corporate film made by Orange, then a new trailblazer in mobile phone technology, showed a fantasy future where a homeowner could order shopping, book a hotel and even run a bath via an integrated, intelligent household management service run from a mobile phone.
We might not yet be able to run a bath from our devices but as we have seen with both the developments in voice recognition, smartphones and the new home hubs – Amazon Echo and Google Home – we can certainly shop, switch the lights on and perform a whole host of other ‘futuristic’ functions. On a wider scale the Internet of Things is about to get much more useful. Machine to machine communication will make workplaces both more functionally and energy efficient, and smart sensors will have a positive effect on energy consumption and safety. And AI powered digital assistants and chatbots will take over a lot of the mundane business tasks – from coordinating diaries and arranging meetings, to prioritising emails and managing expense claims.
Looking slightly further forward, imagine a world where your smart, self-driving, car will talk to road and traffic sensors to give everyone a safer drive. Think whole smart cities. Think big. Not necessarily this year but it’s just around the corner, and certainly no longer just a vision.
‘Hot desking’ might seem like a noughties buzzword, but in some sectors, with many people working from home at least some of the time, it no longer makes sense to have an empty desk in the office for part of the week. Increasingly companies are moving to an environment where no one has a dedicated desk, and people are free to sit in different places whenever they are in the office. There are even systems available to optimise your hot desking requirements, such as the Condeco Workspace Occupancy Sensor System. All of this can create a far more dynamic work environment, with considerable cost savings in terms of office space requirements, office furniture, heating and lighting – as well as reduced carbon footprint.
We might be some years away from a robot receptionist but office automation, the long feared job-stealer, can also make the workplace a nicer place to be. Even in IT we are often still curiously desk-bound constrained by wires, desktop computers, printers and chargers.
Technological advancement will mean that wire-free, touchscreen devices that are integrated with office systems such as lights, fans, appliances, computer and, security systems make dull concerns, from controlling the heat and light, to maintaining stock inventories and data security, a lot more palatable.
The benefits of increased automation can include enhanced productivity, with tasks being accomplished faster, as well as savings on staffing and other operational costs. In addition, moving to simpler, more integrated systems makes it far easier to keep a handle on security – one of the key IT issues for 2017.
Concern about security is only going to grow as attacks, automated or otherwise, become more sophisticated. With the recent hacking of personal details of over one billion Yahoo customers, this is becoming headline news. The move to cloud computing, if not executed well, can leave companies really vulnerable, and IT Security needs to be key to any company’s plans for 2017.
There are now more opportunities for data loss than ever before, so employers need to be taking encryption seriously. Encryption for all, on all platforms, is required, and this will include the mass use of an organisation’s own devices to ensure the security of company data.
Johann van Duyn, EU IT Security and Compliance at Acxiom, cautions that ‘corporations will need to step up their game in order to maintain their customer base. I don’t believe that they will do that until a massive security breach comes close to sinking a major corporation. There will be more data breaches, not fewer, and they will eventually have far-reaching consequences, possibly forcing governments to legislate even more on the topic’.
With increased public concern about personal data van Duyn says ‘I am already seeing a growing backlash against increased government surveillance powers as well as the public’s response to security breaches. Many people I know will cancel services with organisations that fail to keep their data safe, and will not engage in new business with organisations that have recently suffered major breaches. I see the value of data – almost any data at all, but mostly personal data and history of activities – gaining in value almost daily. Those who know how to leverage that data accurately, quickly, ethically and safely will manage to speak to their audiences as the people they are, and stand to win big, while those who fail to do so will fail to differentiate themselves from the multitudes of voices clamouring incoherently for the attention – and cash – of audiences whose faces they cannot see and whom they cannot recognise when they visit’.
Van Duyn also predicts that ‘storage will become even faster and cheaper, which will help to power the new data economy even more, but will also empower those whose ethics are questionable. I fear that the technical expertise and capabilities of major criminal concerns will begin to rival those of some governments, and this will make online safety and security even harder to maintain’.
In conclusion, we see 2017 as a pivotal year for IT innovation, and the associated security issues. Cloud computing will become the de facto norm for most companies, as the business case and the enhanced productivity hosted environments provide, have never been more compelling.
The Internet of Things, combined with step changes in office automation and new ways of working, will make for a far more productive, efficient and streamlined work environment.
All of this will place a far greater emphasis on IT security, and it will become imperative that all businesses, from small start-ups to global corporations understand this and take the necessary steps to ensure the integrity of their data – and in fact the future of their businesses.