Thought Leaders on Emerging Technology

With the massive influx of new technology, it's easier than ever to get inundated with information and lose track of digital innovations and their implications for society. The best way to comprehend the true value of these emerging technologies is to look to prominent voices in the tech industry. They arguably have the best foresight regarding the world of technology and business and how each one will affect the other.

Here are a few examples of current emerging technologies with potential far-reaching effects, and what a few of the most influential technology thought leaders have to say about them.

Artificial Intelligence

According to research from the job search engine Indeed, demand for employees with artificial intelligence skills has steadily increased over the past 18 months. Businesses have a growing interest in AI, as indicated by O'Reilly Media which reported that, in 2016, they had begun receiving overwhelming enquiries from "existing companies trying to figure out how to transform their businesses using machine intelligence." The number of AI acquisitions, like Intel's purchase of Nervana and Uber's purchase of Otto, further prove the expanding attraction to AI from innovators and several different industries.

In the health and fitness sphere, Boltt has developed an AI-based personal trainer along with their "Connected Shoes" and fitness trackers to gather data about each customer, which is then converted into personally-tailored insights and recommendations. Meanwhile, in the finance world, Wealthfront uses AI technology to analyze their customers' monetary habits to help create custom finance strategies.

In addition to benefiting various industries, AI can also help us better understand ourselves - that is, human behavior. Innovator, computer scientist, and CEO of the Kitty Hawk Corporation Sebastian Thrun says, "Nobody phrases it this way, but I think that artificial intelligence is almost a humanities discipline. It's really an attempt to understand human intelligence and human cognition."

This could also work in favor of businesses, as understanding human behavior leads to a better understanding and prediction of consumer trends.

Blockchain

$2.1 billion has been invested in blockchain technology and solutions so far in 2018. That nice chunk of change is indicative of a massive interest in this technology that many people are still trying to comprehend.

Essentially, blockchain is what allows cryptocurrency like bitcoin to work by storing a ledger of every Bitcoin transaction across a large number of computers, which keeps Bitcoin users honest. In the words of CTO of Microsoft Azure Mark Russinovich, "Microsoft believes blockchain is a transformational technology with the ability to significantly reduce the friction of doing business, especially streamlining business processes shared across multiple organizations".

Blockchain has introduced programs like smart contracts, which help to streamline the exchange of anything with value (money, shares, property) by removing the middleman. Instead, it uses a cryptographic code to create an agreement between the two parties involved in the exchange. In the business world, this means less time waiting for approvals and other issues that convolute communication, supply chain management, and workflow.

Blockchain can also shave off time and expenses involved in paying employees, especially if the company has international employees. Rather than waiting for funds to transfer from bank to bank, payments could be made in one fee-free step.

Internet of Things

From smart kitchen devices to smart bike locks, the Internet of Things is changing how we live our lives every day.

"The future isn't coming, The Internet of Things (IoT) is already here," says entrepreneur, investor, and futurist Jason Hope. "We're no longer just accessing the Internet with our smartphones. Devices are now communicating with the manufacturer, consumer and/or other connected devices. This is opening up new and exciting possibilities in health care, retail and more."

Health care has indeed begun to be revolutionized by the doors that the IoT has opened. For example, wearable devices can alert physicians to alarming changes in their patients' health, such as a concerning change in heart rate, by updating it on the Cloud. On the other hand, patients can automatically be notified when their prescription refills are ready.

The IoT has inspired innovation in other industries, such as e-commerce. Amazon took the first step when they enabled voice-activated direct purchases through Alexa. They then began allowing direct orders to Domino's to be placed via the digital assistant. We will likely see more companies taking up similar e-commerce strategies soon. A 2017 Forbes article reported that "78% of retailers say it is important or business-critical to integrate e-commerce and in-store experiences" and that "70% of retail decision makers globally are ready to adopt the Internet of Things to improve customer experiences."

Cloud Computing

Moving forward, cloud computing seems to be an obvious choice for companies. The benefits are numerous, starting with their cost-effectiveness. Unlike traditional IT systems, it doesn't require an IT staff or costly on-site servers. Additionally, the cloud provides its own maintenance, it's accessible from anywhere, and it's much more adaptable than traditional IT.

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd says, "The days of having servers and operating systems and databases and doing all this on premises are gone. Being able to move quickly, being able to adjust to market dynamics, and being able to do it fast and do it while you deliver, is what's on CEOs' minds."

An obvious concern that companies may have is security, but switching to cloud computing provides more security for company data. The cloud uses security measures like firewalls and backup recovery to keep information safe, and it's no problem if an employee happens to lose his or her laptop since data can be wiped remotely.

For CIOs considering the transition to the cloud, the migration time varies depending on the size and age of the business, but often the process only takes a couple of months. Some of the biggest challenges of implementation include the process of moving data and helping employees get accustomed to the changes. However, Hurd predicts that by 2025, all enterprise data will be stored in the cloud.

Virtual Reality

Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, envisions a world where people can go anywhere at any time from the comfort of their own home - or wherever else someone happens to be.

"We believe that the future can be a lot better," says Zuckerberg. "Optimism is good. It's true that nothing is ever going to replace being with someone in person or doing something physical, but when we can't experience those things, when we run up against the limits of reality, VR is going to make our reality that much better."

The limits of reality currently include having to commute to and from work every day and having to be physically present for projects and meetings, but in a world where VR is prevalent, these requirements could become antiquated. Employees all over the world could come together in a virtual meeting room to have discussions, write on virtual whiteboards, and even watch videos together. Communication and workflow would be unhindered by location.

Investments in the technology have significantly increased recently as companies realize that VR makes for more captivating storytelling and advertising. For instance, investments in entertainment VR increased 79% in the second half of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.