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Digital Makeover: Enterprises enter a new era of technology

February 13, 2017

Digital Makeover: Enterprises enter a ne...

During 2016, a number of exciting trends were witnessed in the enterprise technology space. Cloud computing gained momentum, network technologies became more advanced and data analytics emerged as a key focus area for both big and small organisations. However, one technology that took centre stage was internet of things (IoT), with its promise to deliver a plethora of use-cases across industries.

tele.net takes a look at some of the key IT trends that ruled the enterprise space in 2016 and trends to watch out for in 2017...

Key trends of 2016

IoT

IoT is known as the second industrial revolution as it is fast transforming the way companies conduct their business operations. It is helping enterprises in asset monitoring and inventory control, shipping and location-based tracking, security, and energy conservation. It is also enabling enterprises to track individual consumers and target them based on the information supplied by the connected devices.

Smart machines are better than humans in accurately and consistently capturing and communicating data. Therefore, in the manufacturing industry, industrial IoT (IIoT) has emerged as a key tool for enterprises to achieve higher operational efficiencies. The data collected through IIoT devices can enable companies to quickly detect inefficiencies and faults in the manufacturing process, thereby saving time and costs. In November 2016, Reliance Industries Limited signed a global partnership agreement with US-based General Electric to jointly work in the IIoT space. Under the partnership, the companies will provide IIoT solutions to industries such as oil and gas, fertilisers, power, healthcare and telecom.

During 2016, large organisations in the IoT market attempted to enhance their existing offerings by acquiring smaller players in the industry. For instance, in February 2016, Cisco acquired Jasper Technologies, a cloud-based IoT platform provider. In May 2016, Microsoft acquired Solair, an Italy-based company that offers IoT services to industries such as manufacturing, food and beverage, transportation, and retail. In May 2016, Nokia acquired Withings Technologies to establish new businesses in the connected health space. Meanwhile, Sony acquired Altair, a company that manufactures chips to connect devices to trackers and sensors, in a bid to build a robust and responsive IoT ecosystem.

As IoT involves diverse networks, analytics, sensors, storage, security, etc., it is almost impossible for any organisation to independently provide an end-to-end IoT solution. Hence, going forward, we are likely to see large businesses partnering with smaller companies to deliver a range of IoT solutions. In this context, major technology companies including IBM, Dell and Intel have already started to expand their supplier network by partnering with other players in the IoT value chain. This trend is likely to help IoT become a more mainstream technology in the next few years.

Given the huge benefits offered by IoT, it is imperative that the obstacles facing this segment are eliminated. A key challenge for IT managers is to effectively manage downtime. The traditional networks that have been serving enterprises might not be able to support the enormous volumes of traffic generated by IoT.

Security and privacy are other major challenges associated with IoT. Since IoT largely entails machine-to-machine communication, even a small breach in the data flow process can severely damage the reputation and finances of businesses as well as individuals. For instance, in October 2016, a series of IoT-based attacks disrupted legitimate internet activity across the US for several hours. According to Gartner, by 2020, more than 25 per cent of enterprise attacks will be carried out through IoT devices. Therefore, organisations that are gradually embracing IoT-driven technologies need to be extremely proactive in deploying security threads across the IoT ecosystem. End-point security, encryption, domain locking and enterprise grade firewalls are some of the solutions that can keep IoT frameworks secure.

Cloud

Cloud is fast becoming the new normal in enterprises, owing to the range of benefits it offers. It has the ability to leverage software and infrastructure-as-a-service, thus avoiding repeated software and hardware purchases. Further, cloud-based platforms have auto- and self-provisioning capabilities, which allow applications to quickly expand capacity, and the cost is aligned directly with that of expansion or contraction. According to industry estimates, companies can save at least 50 per cent of their operational costs by deploying cloud solutions.

Indian enterprises, too, are increasingly adopting cloud services. As per a survey by Microsoft in October 2016, Indian enterprises are the largest adopters of public cloud solutions in the world, ahead of the US, the UK and Japan. As per the survey, 57 per cent of the respondents have adopted public cloud solutions while 33 per cent use hybrid cloud, a combination of public and private cloud solutions. Further, the survey observed that five major sectors – healthcare; banking; financial services and insurance; e-commerce; start-ups; and the government – are leading cloud adoption in the country.

The uptake of cloud services in India will further accelerate with the government’s Digital India initiative. Government departments are already using the cloud platform Meghraj to host their database.

Analytics

The market for big data and business analytics continued to expand at a rapid pace in 2016, driven by the proliferation of IoT devices across all industry verticals. Companies invested heavily in strengthening their analytics operations in order to analyse the huge amounts of data generated by these devices. Analytics has an even greater growth potential as the information generated by IoT devices will reach 600 ZB per year by 2020, according to Cisco estimates. Meanwhile, in India, the uptake of big data analytics has been limited so far  due to high costs, lack of standardisation, interoperability issues and limited awareness about its potential advantages. However, this is likely to change soon as enterprises move towards personalised customer management.

Enterprise technologies to watch in 2017

• Fog computing: Fog computing refers to the collaborative use of cloud with nearby edge devices that can contribute bandwidth, storage and other resources on demand for higher performance and fault tolerance for demand applications, without the limitations of accessing far-away cloud data centres. A typical cloud solution allows users to store and retrieve data from off-site locations but requires a good internet connection to operate satisfactorily. Fog computing solves this problem by keeping data “closer to the ground” that is, in local computers and devices rather than routing everything through a central data centre. The fog thus brings the cloud closer to the devices that produce and act on IoT data. These devices, called fog nodes, can be deployed at any place with a network connection. Examples include industrial controllers, switches, routers, embedded servers, and video surveillance cameras. International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that the amount of data analysed on devices that are physically close to the IoT framework will soon constitute 40 per cent of the overall data generated.

• Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR): AR and VR are helping enterprises bridge the divide between the digital and physical worlds. Using AR, devices or wearable displays can provide information as per the context and space in which a user works. The information appears as visual or audio supplements and helps users perform more efficiently. Currently, computers, mobile phones and tablets are active platforms for AR, while smartglasses will drive the next wave for AR. Meanwhile, VR enables users to enter and interact with an immersive digital world.

• 3D printing: 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing, produces solid objects from digital designs by building up multiple layers of plastic, resin, or other materials in a precisely determined shape. At present, 3D printing is still in its infancy and most of the manufacturing companies are using 3D printing to produce product prototypes, reduce design-to-manufacturing cycle times and dramatically alter the economics of production. Going forward, companies must use 3D printing to make highly specialised, low-volume components or subassemblies of finished products, or tools for the moulding, casting and forming of products.

• Blockchain: A blockchain is an electronic decentralised ledger with information listed sequentially in blocks. It gives all the participating entities the access to a single source of information in real time. It also helps prevent data tampering by offering transparent access to the ledger. In October 2016, ICICI Bank executed India’s first transaction on blockchain. Going forward, this technology is likely to be adopted by several industries including banking and financial services, and music distribution.

Blockchain technology is also considered by industry experts as the missing link that can address scalability, privacy and reliability concerns in IoT. It can be used to track billions of connected devices and enable the processing of transactions and coordination between devices. This decentralised approach will eliminate single points of failure, creating a more resilient ecosystem for devices. In 2017, it is expected that IoT will converge with blockchain for better security and privacy.

 
 

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