“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” - Arthur C. Clarke (Author). By: Nadeem Ahmad, Managing Director of Templeton & Partners
If you’re at all like me, you are probably able to recount a number of technological evolutions you have already ridden the wave of in both your professional and personal life-time to date. I certainly have over my twenty years’ experience in niche IT focused recruitment. From floppy discs to the Internet, some have been seismic, whilst others have been more insidious; yet just as impactful.
From the First Ever Computers to ML and IoT
Perhaps visually, one of the easiest way to describe how fast things shift in tech evolution is in the mobile enterprise. From the first Motorola DynaTAC 8000X costing $400034 years ago, to the smartphones and apps of today we would all now undoubtedly struggle to manage without. The significance is not just in how our phones look and their functionality; 2016 was huge for companies building mobile enterprise apps, with some acquired for $1 billion whilst venture investments in mobile enterprise companies rose to $973M from the prior year, at a time when venture investments declined overall by 11%.
It is apparent overall that technology can be filtered into two camps when it comes to their overall narrative. First account could be sustaining technology; essentially relying on incremental improvements to an already established tech and second could be described as disruptive technology; the unruly member of the tech family, potentially lacking refinement and may suffer from performance issues. However, if a disruptive tech gains market share (which some have achieved at an extraordinarily fast pace), it has the ability to thoroughly rock the status quo.
You only have to consider PCs replacing type-writers, Windows operating system influencing home computing and Cloud computing replacing many traditional resources, to get the gist.
These depictions are strong accounts of evolution – but what about a tech revolution?
“We might define a technological revolution as a dramatic change brought about relatively quickly by the introduction of some new technology.” Nick Bostrom, philosopher and author
When SAP, one of the global tech heavyweights recently published an e-book summarising its 23 innovations including blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning – you can’t help but take note.
But are the likes of IoT and machine learning actual innovation, disruptive tech, or the output of a tech revolution or simply hipper names for concepts dreamt up many years ago!?
First coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, some argue that IoT goes way back, with its first predictions noted in Colliers Magazine in 1926:
"When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain.........and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket."
So from 1999 it seemed to snowball after IoT had been christened by Ashton, because it’s the year we saw the first Machine-to-Machine protocol developed by IBM, called MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT). Fast forward then to 2010 when google first announced its first driverless car concept.
Some, including Gartner, have gone so far as to suggest IoT may be one of the most hyped expressions in tech – rightly so? With 25 billion connected devices estimated by 2020, producing $2 trillion of economic benefit globally anticipated, and transforming many enterprises into digital business, facilitating new business models and creating new forms of revenue: it may be fully vindicated hype.
It appears to be wholly accepted that the IoT is an evolution, simply put by many; it is the next step in internet evolution.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is widely recognised as a revolution, likened to the ‘fourth industrial revolution.’ Some are calling it disruptive, and it’s understandable as to why. Deloitte goes so far as to urge CIOs now is the time to add AI as a force to drive top line revenue growth.
“The last 10 years have been about building a world that is mobile-first. In the next 10 years, we will shift to a world that is AI-first.” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, October 2016
But why is AI so important, and why now? Fundamentally, AI is valuable because in many contexts, progress in these capabilities offers revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, capabilities.
Three recent breakthroughs moved AI from the trivial and contextual days of Siri to where we are today:
• Cheap parallel computing
• Big Data
• Better algorithms
In a nutshell: The effectiveness of AI has been transformed in recent years due to the development of new algorithms, greater availability of data to inform them, better hardware to train them and cloud-based services to catalyse their adoption among developers.
Recent results from the new IDC spending guide suggest worldwide cognitive systems and Artificial Intelligence revenues forecast to surge past $47 Billion in 2020, the enormity of the opportunity outlined by IDC’s research director of Cognitive systems and Content Analytics:
"Software developers and end user organisations have already begun the process of embedding and deploying cognitive/artificial intelligence into almost every kind of enterprise application or process. Recent announcements by several large technology vendors and the booming venture capital market for AI start-ups illustrate the need for organisations to be planning and undertaking strategies that incorporate these wide-ranging technologies. Identifying, understanding, and acting on the use cases, technologies, and growth opportunities for cognitive/AI systems will be a differentiating factor for most enterprises and the digital disruption caused by these technologies will be significant."
How Technology Will Evolve Next
And now, I believe there are exciting times ahead, for enterprises, industries and tech talent round the world; from young children and graduates starting out in their tech journey, to IT talent diversifying and growing.
Ultimately, as we each undergo a world-wide digital transformation and embrace tech revolution; we forge the way for a brave new world of adopting disruptive tech innovations to, in the end; reap the rewards.
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