In part 1 of the top 1o strategic technologies you should know about, we’ve discussed how artificial intelligence is appearing in just about every piece of technology we have, including in the apps and the things we use. Business should start their AI journey with a clear vision of what it can do for them, or how their enterprise could use a more flexible and dynamic systems, systems that could possibly work on their own.
For this installment, we would be discussing how virtual and real worlds are blending to create a digitally enhanced environment for all stakeholders.
This might be the first time that you are hearing about “digital twins”, but it is not a new concept, having been around since 2002. A digital twin is a virtual replica of a product, service, or process. The digital twin allows you to analyze data and monitor systems so that you could avoid problems happening to the physical twin. This helps you avoid downtime and proactively settle issues before they become problems. Digital twins are also used to do simulations.
With the Internet of Things (IoT), a digital twin is linked to a real life sensor and other objects, allowing them to give you information on the condition and state of these physical objects. According to Gartner, there will be 20.4 billion connected things by the year 2020, up from the 8.4 billion reported in 2017.
Granted that not all of these sensors and devices will have a digital twin, we are still looking at billions of digital twins in existence by then. All of these devices have the potential to save billions of dollars in both operations and maintenance repair costs. Not only that, digital twins will be able to ensure the optimal performance of IoT devices.
Even as you start off with your digital twins initiatives, you can still benefit from it. Having a digital twin will make asset management easier. The improved efficiency and operational insights you get will come later on.
Digital twins could also be used outside of the Internet of Things and strategic technologies space. In time, we could have these virtual models for just about anything we have in the physical world. Digital twins and physical twins will be connected, and digital models would have artificial intelligence, making way for simulation, analysis, and operation. In the future, digital twins of cities can be used to carry out advanced simulations, while healthcare professionals can get medical and biometric information from digital twins of patients. Digital marketers and industrial planners can benefit from this type of strategic technologies as well.
The rise of edge computing to complement the cloud
Cloud computing will have a place in the future. The cloud delivers agility, flexibility, scalability, and cost savings that companies have used to their advantage. However, there is another kind of strategic technologies that is making a dent and that is edge computing.
Edge computing involves collecting and processing information closer to the source. Rather than sending data to the cloud, your systems will be doing the processing locally. This helps businesses that are grappling with limited bandwidth, connectivity issues, and latency. It is also for those who want more functionality and features embedded at the edge.
Businesses should start with edge computing, incorporating it into their infrastructure designs. This is true if you have Internet of Things devices. You could start with edge-focused networking functionalities, or using collocation.
There is one major misconception about edge computing that you should not believe in. A common assumption is that edge computing is anti-cloud, or it competes with cloud computing. But these are two very different technologies. Edge computing is a computing topology that puts computing, processing, and content at the user or things side. Meanwhile, cloud computing is a system that delivers services over the Internet. You can use these two together and implement both a cloud and edge computing strategy. In this approach, the cloud offers a service-oriented model while edge computing delivers services when the cloud is unavailable.
Conversational platforms refer to applications and strategic technologies that mimics humans. Chatbots and speech-based personal assistants like Amazon Alexa and Siri are typical examples of conversational platform. It gives you written or spoken messages as if you are conversing with another human being. These technologies are already being used to automate and personalize messages to customers.
Right now, conversational platforms are able to answer simple questions, such as queries about the weather. It can also handle slightly more complex interactions like booking a restaurant table. As with any strategic technologies, expect conversational platforms to evolve in such a way that it can mimic even the most complex human interactions. Soon, you would be able to use conversational platforms to collect witness testimony. It could perhaps ask people what the suspect looked like and then draw a sketch of the suspect basing on the description given by eyewitnesses.
Right now, this is not yet possible because conversational platforms are rather limited and requires that users communicate in a structured manner. Soon, however, we will be seeing applications that can guess your intent, allowing the user to relax a little when it comes interacting with these platforms.
Services that offer conversational platforms will need to make their conversation models more robust in order to deliver the more complex services required.
Immersive experiences will also take center stage
As you can guess, this installment is focused on technologies that allow people to interact with the digital world. There are several technologies that do exactly that: virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. These technologies are changing how people perceive and interact with the digital world. What’s more, these technologies can be used with conversational platforms, giving rise to an important shift to user experience. User experience will now be immersive and invisible.
System software vendors, development platform vendors, and application vendors would be very interested in giving you this model for your customer service.
Mixed reality would be big in the next few years or so. With mixed reality, users are able to interact with both real-world and virtual objects; this means that they are firmly rooted in the physical. Mixed reality could take the form of head-mounted displays, allowing you to experience virtual reality or augmented reality using your smartphone.
Photo courtesy of CommScope (Flickr).