5 Trends That Will Shape Business and IT in 2016

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
2016 Business and IT Trends

The pace of change in technology and business continues to escalate, and enterprises that want to keep up should consider exploring these five key trends.

A mobile-first approach requires organizations to embrace far better designs and interfaces, better apps, improved usability, and more robust infrastructure to support data exchange between devices and people. It also incorporates the IoT and the growing array of sensors and chips—including beacons, RFID and WiFi geofencing—used in clothing, cars, machinery, stores and homes.

Mobile-first also means ratcheting up engagement levels with customers. "Mobile solutions can help businesses gather contextual information, such as an individual user's location, stated preferences, purchase patterns and other behavior, and social interactions," says Sheryl Kingstone, director of enterprise research at 451 Research. "Businesses gain analytical insight while delivering a customized experience."

Machine learning goes primetime.

Machine learning isn't a new concept, but the growing power of computing—including increasingly sophisticated algorithms—is radically transforming the way many tasks take place. As Bruce Daley, principal analyst at technology research firm Tractica, puts it: "Artificial intelligence is already being used for a wide variety of tasks, including credit scoring, fraud detection, grading eggs, analyzing satellite imagery to determine where to plant crops, and even in self-driving cars."

However, as machines gets better and smarter about incorporating data—often in real-time—a quiet transformation is taking place: Algorithms are adapting dynamically and artificial intelligence is becoming far more powerful.

At the center of all of this is cognitive computing, such as IBM's Watson, and deep learning technology, which builds artificial neurons that mimic the human brain. Tractica forecasts that deep learning applications will emerge as a $10 billion market by 2024.

Machine learning is already reshaping financial services, retailing, oil and gas exploration, and cyber-security. Google, Facebook and others are now taking aggressive steps to use machine learning, and the IoT will drive further advances in the field.

Daley says that business and IT leaders should focus on this space and look for opportunities to put the technology to use now. "Business and IT executives must understand the technology, including the opportunities and limitations," he advises. "If they don't get in front of this trend, they may find themselves obsolete."

Cyber-security gets smarter.

Cyber-security has devolved from a problem to a nightmare over the last few years. In fact, Ponemon Institute's 2015 Cyber-Crime Study found that the cost of cyber-crime has risen by 19 percent in the last year, and the average annual loss to company's worldwide is $7.7 million.

However, new technologies and approaches offer a glimmer of hope for business and IT leaders. These include a number of methods tapping artificial intelligence and machine learning. For instance, deep learning methods move beyond basic whitelists, blacklists and heuristics, and put machine learning into play to identify threats based on unusual and suspicious patterns.

Other emerging technologies examine peer files using locality-sensitive hashing and graph mining, more sophisticated machine ID and fingerprinting methods, and vector analysis and predictive analytics. Finally, there's a growing focus on peer-to-peer and open source information sharing among companies.

A key to building a better cyber-security framework is to recognize that there's no way to thwart all attacks and hacks, notes Irfan Saif, principle and U.S. technology sector leader at Deloitte & Touche LLP. Instead, he suggests adopting a risk-based model that moves beyond basic compliance.

"It's critical to make strategic decisions and understand which risks are acceptable and which are not acceptable," he says. Moreover, this risk-based approach must extend to partners and third-party providers.

"A holistic and comprehensive risk-assessment framework must be in place," advises Shahryar Shaghaghi, leader of the Technology Advisory Practice at BDO Consulting. "There are effective ways to minimize the risk and impact of attacks."

This article was last updated on 2015-12-18
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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