2019 will see a real-life implementation of technologies that rely on automation to relieve and empower IT departments, helping them meet the challenges the continuing shortage of skilled labour and looming security threats pose. Increasingly, these automated technologies will in turn integrate elements of artificial intelligence to recognise patterns, make decisions, and predict outcomes. According to the industry experts of IT service provider Konica Minolta, this year will also lay the groundwork for significant technological adaptations of technologies such as 5G and blockchain.
1. (Re-)Gaining momentum: edge-computing and the multi-cloud
With the continued rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), edge-computing is becoming ever more crucial. IT infrastructure decisions in 2019 will be shaped by one question: What data should be stored and where is it processed? Where fast access without dependence on external connectivity is needed, edge solutions will be the path forward. Ensuring data recovery, maximum cost efficiency and access to “to go” applications will be the domain of cloud solutions, either private or public. However, this diversification towards the multi-cloud will need to be seamless to the user. Wherever data is stored and from wherever it is accessed, the experience must be seamless, immediate and secure.
2. Skilled labour shortage starting to reshape work in IT
As the battle over IT professionals intensifies across Europe, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular will feel the impact of the competition from big players in the IT industry and beyond.
Skills shortages are having a significant impact on the UK’s digital economy. In January, the British Chambers of Commerce reported that 81% of manufacturers and 70% of services firms reported difficulty in finding staff with the right skills.1 This is only set to get worse as we approach March 29, with declining immigration figures due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and future immigration policies. To address the skills shortage, the Trade Union Congress is urging the government to create a million new manufacturing and high tech jobs by 2030. 2 However the issue is addressed, it is clear that the shortage of relevant skills will be a challenge for UK businesses this year.
Konica Minolta’s experts predict that, in the near future, the dominant IT positions left in SMEs will be for developers and managers of IT services – positions with creative tasks or a high level of coordinative responsibility. IT personnel in those companies will be able to focus on more attractive and demanding projects with significant business impact. The arduous, repetitive tasks of the traditional IT administrator will be automated or, where this is not possible, outsourced. In addition to the continuous growth in managed services in 2019 and beyond, IT solutions such as Konica Minolta’s Workplace Hub will enable high levels of automation, rendering doing such repetitive tasks obsolete.
3. Security: centralisation of data security in the age of connected devices
With increasingly complex and powerful malware like cryptoworms targeting businesses in particular, malware and industry espionage are growing concerns for companies of all sizes. Potential vulnerabilities are increasing further as intelligent IoT devices find their way onto the shop floors of production companies as well as into offices. The increase in possible threats from the attackers on the one hand has led to a plethora of defensive measures from companies on the other. According to Konica Minolta’s IT experts, this is a source of a number of problems. Different solutions from a range of vendors working independently can lead to potential conflicts and not to an all-encompassing, holistic solution. In the best case, this procedure is simply not efficient, in the worst case, it is a threat to security. As a result, IT security in 2019 is expected to see a rise in centralised solutions, synchronising security across all layers – ideally controlled via one security dashboard. This is an approach the experts from Konica Minolta recommend and implement for their customers.
4. 5G and its promise for the future of business IT reliability
The fifth generation of mobile network technology is so convincing that several non-connectivity service provider companies such as Daimler, BASF and Siemens are evaluating whether to compete with classic carriers such as Vodafone for 5G licenses. Why? 20Gbps downlink and 10Gbps uplink speeds for each mobile base station are fast enough to truly revolutionise device connectivity, enabling huge amounts of data to be transferred very quickly. This makes it not only a door-opener for user-focused technologies such as highly automated driving, but a big leap forward for business IT solutions as well. With its unsurpassed high bandwidth and security, Konica Minolta’s IT experts see this mobile data standard as the ideal candidate for failover technology for conventional server and device connectivity, for example. Industry 4.0 applications will make this even more important. 5G will take shape and develop in the next few years, and this is indispensable because providers will have to fully implement this technology before it can become truly important for businesses.
5. Blockchain – further real-life application will only come with simplification
With its omnipresence in the industry debate, no trend outlook for IT in 2019 can afford to disregard blockchain technology. By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology is creating the basis for an overwhelming array of possible applications across industries – from authenticating every step in the food production chain to accurate public healthcare records. However, as blockchain technology deployment is complex, the path to the mass implementation of this technology must lead through simplified plug-and-play applications. According to experts from Konica Minolta, this is the biggest hurdle to turning the hype unleashed by Bitcoin into a real, self-sustaining technology movement. In 2019, this will start to pave the way for new use cases, eventually turning into successful businesses. In the years to come, additional obstacles will have to be addressed, from computing power and security – yes, this is also an issue even for blockchain – to sustainability in the light of the huge amount of energy it consumes. This will make it possible to truly scale blockchain technology. The technology will then be a bright prospect for creating the basis for an overwhelming array of possible applications across industries.
6. Natural language processing becomes a natural part of the workplace
Natural language processing has been adopted primarily in the consumer space, with the rise of Alexa, Google and other voice activated AI assistants. However, in 2019, as voice assistant vendors increase the intelligence and critical reasoning possible with such devices, Konica Minolta experts expect the widespread adoption and implementation of AI voice assistants within enterprises. These will support a range of increasingly more complex tasks, such as scheduling, information search, handling email, processing expense reports and providing augmented intelligence capabilities. In addition, natural language processing forms a key part of chatbots, which are expected to become the predominant method for first line interaction with customers. Benefits of such AI systems include positive ROI, greater employee and customer satisfaction, and quicker problem resolution times.
7. Machine learning comes of age
Machine learning is used in areas such as computer vision, natural language processing, speech, text and image recognition, and predictive analysis. In 2019, machine learning will be deployed increasingly across a range of industries, from manufacturing through retail and transport. This is a result of the increased availability of pre-trained learning models, third party data sets and models, and open source training data. These make it easier to train the machine learning algorithms to deliver the predictive and analytical results businesses require, whilst affordable storage and processing power brings machine learning to a much wider audience.
8. Move to responsible and ethical use of AI
Konica Minolta experts expect 2019 to be when we start a move towards responsible and ethical AI. This is driven partly by 2018’s Facebook privacy issues, but also increasingly from laws and regulations from governments and the formation of AI ethics governance bodies. For example, in the UK, a report from the House of Lords recommends the UK seek to develop a common framework for the ethical development and deployment of artificial intelligence systems. This is to ensure the public trusts this technology and sees the benefits of using it, as well as preparing the public to challenge the misuse of such technology – for example, invasion of privacy – should this occur.