The business technology revolution
Technology is evolving so quickly that business leaders can feel overwhelmed when it comes to deciding what to invest in and when. This isn’t going to change anytime soon, and here are some of the technology trends they need to be thinking about in 2020.
The data turnaround
This year Phil Rowley, global head of innovation at PHD, believes we will see the rise of technologies that could upend the relationship between businesses and their customers’ data.
As data and privacy issues move further centre stage he predicts the maturation of personal privacy tech, which gives users better protection of their data and a chance to occlude their online footprint, and Open APIs, through which businesses makes their data streams available to third parties in adjacent fields, to craft complementary, connected services.
Rowley says: “Virtual Personal Networks (VPNs), mobile apps that prevent undue access to your data, are now being advertised in the middle of TV soaps, and we’re seeing the emergence of data anonymisers, the digital equivalent of scribbling over selected letters of a word in marker pen, making it impossible to piece back together a profile of a user.”
There is also pressure for businesses and brands to make their data more accessible, as is evident in the fintech world with Open Banking, where banks provide partners access to selected elements of their back-end systems, to provide more varied, ‘horizontal’ services. Rowley expect Open APIs to move more extensively into other sectors.
Lu Zurawski, practice lead for retail banking product at ACI Worldwide, envisages alternative payment methods having a big impact on U.K. businesses over the next year.
He says: “Far from bitcoin, crypto and digital currencies being distributed via ledgers, these alternative payment methods are more likely to be rooted in traditional bank accounts. These account-based services allow money to be moved peer-to-peer, wrapped in the digital services found in mobile banking apps.”
Although the main focus of apps so far has been in consumer banking, new ones, such as like Tide, are emerging for business users.
“A shift away from cards towards direct-from-account payments could save U.K. businesses a small fortune,” says Zurawski. “But it does require care in dealing with new types of fraud based on identity theft, from email hacks, socially engineered scams, and from leaky authentication procedures.”
Rhys David’s money is on the somewhat controversial facial recognition technology coming to the fore this year, with a big role to play at the Tokyo Olympics in facilitating admission into the stands.
The CEO of B2B technology platform Credas says: “This is just one application for a technology with endless opportunities. There is still some resistance to using it, however, substantial investment and R&D is taking place in this space, and things will only improve. The good news story of 2019 concerning facial recognition was that the public is highly aware and generally accepting of it.”
Natural Language Generation (NLG) is a technology that we’re all more familiar with. Our very own Alexa is going beyond simply responding to requests to play your favorite Beyoncé track and is now being put to work to answer complex business data queries. NLG works to humanize data to help users to better understand what insights mean in a real-life context.
Laura Timms, strategy manager at MHR Analytics, says: “For example, a sales director could simply ask ‘What are the sales for product A this month compared to the sales for product B this month, as a bar chart’ and the data will be neatly displayed as requested.”
On the edge
In the analytics space, edge computing is the latest buzzword, defined as ‘the practice of processing data near the edge of your network, where the data is being generated, instead of in a centralized data-processing warehouse.’ Large amounts of data being processed near the source, not only reduces the cost associated with high internet bandwidth usage, but also allows applications to respond almost instantly, even in remote locations.
“Edge computing is faster and more reliable because of its close proximity to the connected applications, and also more secure since it allows sensitive information to be filtered,” says Timms. “It’s also a cheaper way for organizations to scale their operations without having to invest in expensive infrastructure upfront.”
Shining a light on dark data
It’s important to keep an eye on the potential innovations these new technologies can bring, according to James Hodge, chief technical advisor at Splunk, the real problem is that businesses haven’t even fully evolved operations to access their data.
He says: “Around 63% of U.K. organizations report that at least half of their data is ‘dark’; untapped and unusable. As a result 47% of business-critical decisions are still being made by ‘gut-feel’, with the data that can inform those decisions never being seen.”
Data is the critical tool today in inspiring innovation, solving problems and driving efficiencies. As they move into the new decade, businesses must consider how they can create a culture that brings dark data into the light. “Failure to do so could result in the death of many organizations,” says Hodge.