Opinion: Major strides will be made towards our digital future in 2018

This year holds huge promise for the telecommunications industry as a range of disruptive technologies and efficiency-realising trends gain traction, laying the foundations for a more agile, better connected digital future.

Many of them will be the external drivers that spark fundamental change across the networking environment in the immediate future and beyond, transforming consumer and business communication for good.

Undoubtedly from a B2B perspective, we at Exchange Communications believe that the telecommunications ecosystem will provide the vital catalysts of enterprise transformation and the means of adoption for a range of new digital platforms.

So, what will be the key technologies that drive transformation at the heart of this busy, increasingly connected ecosystem, in 2018?

Big data

Big data remains a key phrase that’s too often banded about in the industry, but there’s no doubting the ability of big data initiatives to be leveraged for improved business efficiency, productivity, and growth – and their benefits will become entirely more manifest in 2018.

A number of technologies will serve to enhance those big data insights, none more so than artificial intelligence-integrated mobile and web applications.

Artificial intelligence

The next few years are going to be all about automating the user experience on applications and digital platforms, and AI will play a central role in facilitating and harnessing that change for businesses, in turn taking the hassle out of what might have once been time-consuming manual processes.

Furthermore, AI-driven technologies such as machine learning and deep learning will help developers design intelligent apps that can process large volumes of data and generate real-time predictions through analytics. In other words, smart technology that reacts and refines itself for a better user experience.

While the entire breadth of changes that AI will realise is expected to be vast, its impact on human employment remains a concern for many. However, the popular belief that AI will render several human functions redundant is not entirely true.

AI will undoubtedly transform the global workforce, but it will do so in many positive ways, complementing roles rather than replacing them. The application of AI-powered tools will in fact create more roles like data scientists, cloud engineers, and more, totalling as many as 2.3million jobs by 2020, according to one estimate[1]. The rise of AI will also present upskilling opportunities for many, enabling them to explore new roles in the rapidly growing and diversifying digital sectors.

The cloud

Many already see the cloud as old hat, but that’s way off the mark – it will undoubtedly be at the very centre of innovation in 2018 by underpinning the Internet of Things (IoT). Indeed, we believe that businesses will increasingly adopt and embrace a public cloud-first policy next year for big data, analytics, and AI in order to manage and oversee organisational processes, while driving down costs and ensuring greater flexibility than any on-premises software can deliver.

We see the cloud only increasing in popularity through sheer practicality as it cuts down the entry cost for what were once prohibitively expensive technologies, while allowing the advantage of hosting all data within a single, user-friendly framework. It should be further expected that the majority of enterprise-based implementations will become a mix of on-premise and cloud next year as the latter only hastens its march into the heart of business operations.

Smart cities

The global Smart City market is expected to grow to $1.565 trillion by 2020 [2], and we’re in no doubt that IoT is the key to building them. Every device that is part of a smart city must work with others to manage the resources of major populations. Such devices must communicate with each other and convey meaningful data if the city is to be truly ‘smart’.

Internet of Things

That’s where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes in, providing the perfect interconnection of communicating devices for smart solutions to everyday problems. Smart cities leverage IoT devices such as connected sensors, lights, and meters to collect and analyse data. The cities then use that data for smart decision-making that helps to improve infrastructure, public utilities, and services, and more. Experts believe that there will be more than 24 billion IoT devices in operation by 2020 [3], and the drive towards that coalescence will begin in earnest next year with investment increasingly targeted towards application development, device hardware, system integration, data storage, security, and connectivity.

Internet of Everything

You’re likely already familiar with the Internet of Things, but the Internet of Everything (IoE) is fast playing catch up, providing a wider network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items. IoE essentially brings together people, process, and data, making networked connections more relevant and valuable.

For instance, in the future, people will be able to swallow a pill that senses and reports the health of their digestive tract to a doctor over a secure internet connection. Essentially, people themselves will become nodes on the internet, capable of relaying both static and constantly changing information that allows for faster, more intelligent decisions, as well as making control of our environment more effective and precise.

Correctly implemented, connections can add significant value because the right information is delivered to the right person at the right time in the most appropriate, efficient way.

Excitingly, telecommunications providers will continue to be the gatekeepers, offering the means by which others connect and enjoy heightened agility and efficiency, while advising on best practice for that all-important competitive edge.

It’s an explosion of interconnected opportunity and now might well be the time to capitalise.

What do you think 2018 holds for the telecommunications industry? Let us know in the comments.

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