In 2019, IT will be shaped by simplification, automation, security and the continued rise of the IoT

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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

[1] https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/news/2019/01/bcc-quarterly-economic-survey-big-squeeze-on-firms-from-recruitment-prices-and-cash-flow

[2] https://www.tuc.org.uk/blogs/we-want-million-more-manufacturing-and-hi-tech-jobs-2030-heres-how

Learning lessons about the cloud

Deploying a cloud strategy for schools can feel like jumping off a high diving board for the first time. Questions like ‘What’s the risk?’ and ‘Is this going to hurt?’ run through your mind.

Fear not, a new report, Cloud Computing in Educationfrom research company GlobalData reveals:

  • why the cloud is such a draw for education providers –  particularly schools
  • how it is driving digital transformation across the sector
  • ways in which schools can overcome lingering barriers to adoption

Many schools, academies, and similar institutions have already leapt from that diving board. According to GlobalData, 96% if universities and 35% of school have implemented cloud technology. And spending on cloud-based technologies among education institutions will continue to grow through 2020/21.

It’s easy to see why. The research finds that improving cost-effectiveness and reducing capital expenditure (capex) are key motivations for moving to the cloud (see Figure 1).

Drivers for cloud adoption in UK education

Figure 1: Drivers for cloud adoption in UK education

The report cites the example of the Academies Enterprise Trust. This is one of the largest institutions to adopt Google’s G-Suite and Chromebooks, and the move is anticipated to save £7.7 million over the next five years. Mainly through savings in licensing, power saving, server hardware and maintenance.

The cloud can also help improve your service delivery without significant extra investment. Take disaster recover for example. Your school needs to maintain consistent service delivery, but small-scale cyber attacks remain common. And cash-strapped institutions that opt to sweat older IT systems remain vulnerable. According to the GlobalData report, “tens of schools” in the South-West of England suffered from attacks over the past year. With some paying hackers for the release of data. A cloud-based disaster recovery strategy cost-effectively combats this issue, storing data securely and remotely in UK-based data centres.

Cloud solutions also give schools the flexibility to throttle capacity up or down depending on demand. All done quickly, cheaply, with little or no supplier input and no need for redundant capacity.

And the cloud offers unprecedented opportunity to share services between schools. One example of this involved the joint procurement of a single back office system among eight Sussex and Surrey colleges operated as a private cloud by SISSC Ltd (Shared Services in Sussex and Surrey Colleges). According to the report, “The cloud application of this FE Sussex collaborative project provides the opportunity to make significant cost savings through the reduction in individual college servers, over and above common software savings.”

Make no mistake, cloud computing is a key technology trend across UK education, driven by:

  • the potential cost savings
  • the desire to improve service delivery
  • the drive for a more flexible and scalable IT estate
  • greater collaboration
  • a ‘cloud-first’ attitude

Now is the time for your school to take the plunge. Time to take the leap and benefit from a cost-effective, flexible and secure future.

The full report is available here:
Cloud Computing in Education – the growth of cloud based technologies

Jonathan Smith 
Public Sector Business Unit Leader

Would you like Cloud with that?

Cloud hosting

Exciting news from Konica Minolta – we’ve been awarded a place on the G-Cloud 10 framework and are delighted to support the Public Sector on its Cloud First and digital transformation journey with Managed Cloud Hosting services.

Why the excitement?

Our relationship with Public Sector organisations goes way back in time – to before the existence of the internet and cloud solutions – so we know a thing or two about the challenges they face. That’s why we made it a priority to offer our services on G-Cloud 10 to ensure that we’re in a strong position to help.

When it comes to Cloud adoption in Public Sector, it’s clear from evidence that good intent and desire exists to make this transition however, there’s still a long way to go especially when the all-important governance and security standards, in areas such as justice, education and healthcare, make quick deployment of new technology difficult.

So, while the outlook remains cautious, we anticipate that the uptake of cloud services will continue to increase at pace, based on solid facts and some very reassuring first hand evidence:

It’s a fact. The number of organisations looking at the opportunities cloud brings is growing. A recent study by the Cloud Industry Forum* shows that 82% of public sector organisations have already adopted cloud services, up by 20% on the previous year, demonstrating how rapidly the sector has come to see cloud as an acceptable and essential IT delivery model.

Word of mouth. Every year, Konica Minolta supports around 60 events and exhibitions in Public Sector alone. Increasingly we are asked “can we put that service in the cloud?” and the answer is yes. Yes we can.

In fact, we can answer yes in multiple ways. From a straightforward hosted print solution to being able to provide the highest levels of security with a bespoke engineered model from our technical architects, our focus is firmly on the future and to help Public Sector organisations understand the benefits and take advantage of the many rapid advances in digital technology, including managed cloud hosting services, AI, automation for smarter workplaces, and more.

Learn more about the growth of cloud-based technologies in UK education