The year 2018 saw the enterprise space make significant headway in leveraging information and communication technology (ICT). Organisations are now adopting cloud technologies in a big way and are at the same time warming up to new technologies like internet of things (IoT), big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). The banking, manufacturing and IT/ITeS verticals continue to be at the forefront of ICT adoption, even as government enterprises steadily increase their technology uptake, driven by initiatives such as Digital India.
tele.net takes a look at some of the key technology trends that dominated the enterprise technology space in 2018 and the trends to watch in 2019…
The proliferation of digital services during 2018 provided a significant thrust to the adoption of cloud services. All major industry verticals leveraged the cloud for storing data and making their systems more accessible and cost-effective.
The banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) industry, which generates a large amount of data on a daily basis, leverages cloud-hosted solutions. Cloud-based solutions have also made inroads into the payments space. There has been an increasing shift towards cloud-based point-of-sale (PoS) systems, which offer advantages such as secure transmission and storage of sensitive credit card data, guaranteed system uptime and service availability, and an offline option in the event of a network failure in the traditional PoS system.
Hospitals such as Max Healthcare are also using cloud technologies to securely connect archives of medical information such as radiology images, lab reports and patient charts with the devices of clinicians. According to Abhimanyu Bhosle, co-founder and chief executive officer, LiveHealth, “Cloud is and will continue to be one of the biggest game-changers in healthcare.”
In the logistics industry, cloud computing is helping service providers use assets more efficiently. Sharing information on cloud-based platforms in real time is helping companies in coordinating the pick-up and delivery of freight. Further, companies in the logistics industry have integrated cloud networks into the apps of last-mile delivery executives, who make calls through the cloud platform before going for a delivery. Using this process, companies are creating a standard operating procedure and their first-time delivery rates are improving significantly.
The government and utilities space too is actively leveraging cloud solutions. In order to utilise and harness the benefits of cloud computing, the government has launched the GI Cloud initiative, MeghRaj. Under this, utilities are offered cloud-based services such as server vulnerability assessments, server backup, and anti-virus and network/application firewalls.
In the retail industry too, cloud technology has found many takers. For instance, Avenue11, a Bengaluru-based online-to-offline grocery platform, runs its operations through a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based cloud telephony system. The company’s customer delivery executives (CDEs) connect to customers through its delivery app that is integrated with a cloud telephony application so that the CDEs do not have direct access to customers’ telephone numbers.
In the manufacturing industry, the behaviour of machines is being recorded on the cloud and used for maintenance, analysis of breakdowns, etc. Further, the information collected from different platforms is being stored on the cloud and used for better business decision-making and analysis of market trends. Meanwhile, in the education sector, cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft’s Edu-Cloud have helped classrooms in going paperless.
The enterprise space witnessed an increase in the adoption of IoT during 2018. Enterprises in the healthcare, logistics, retail, travel and hospitality, manufacturing and education fields are leveraging IoT to enhance operational efficiency. The manufacturing sector, which has its own version of IoT, called industrial IoT (IIoT), was the frontrunner in IoT adoption. According to Rajesh Kumar, head, group information technology services, Jindal Steel and Power Limited, “Machine-to-machine communication through IoT can play a significant role in manufacturing automation.”
The healthcare industry too has started leveraging IoT for its day-to-day operations. According to Prasad Nagaraja, delivery head, IT, Columbia Asia Hospitals, India, “IoT has the potential to disrupt the outpatient department business. The efficient deployment of proven IoT solutions can boost proactive diagnosis and care, especially in remote areas where access to quality healthcare services is limited.”
In the logistics sector, IoT is being used for real-time monitoring of assets throughout the value chain. The retail industry too has witnessed increased IoT deployment in warehouse and logistics operations.
In addition, the education industry is leveraging IoT in a big way. According to Ashok Mittal, chancellor, Lovely Professional University, “With the support of IoT, institutions can enhance learning outcomes by providing rich learning experiences, improved operational efficiency and an insight into student performances.”
Big data analytics
Big data analytics is another key technology trend that witnessed significant traction during 2018. In the healthcare domain, hospitals are collecting, preserving and analysing patient data to draw better and more accurate inferences. For instance, Credihealth, a medical assistance company, has accumulated data from over 800,000 patients across 700-800 hospitals that it has worked with till now. The company uses this data to guide hospitals on various aspects such as the demographic breakup of their patient base and the most common ailments. Further, it collates feedback from its patients, which helps new patients make more informed and reasoned decisions while choosing their healthcare specialist. The IT/ITeS and the business process management (BPM) industries too are leveraging big data. According to a report by Accenture, 42 per cent of high-performing BPM companies have analytics as an essential component of their service delivery package.
Enterprises in the media and entertainment space like ALTBalaji, the subscription-based service of Balaji Telefilms, are using big data analytics to track audience behaviour and consumption. According to Ali Hussein, chief operating officer, Eros Now, “The more content a user consumes, the more information we capture in terms of viewership habits. When decoded through data science, this information helps us in understanding the users better and delivering quality content to them.”
In the travel and hospitality industry, big data is being used to encapsulate a wide range of traveller preferences and offer an ideal vacation. The data points of different users are mapped to understand their preferences. For instance, Yatra.com leverages a combination of in-house and third-party technologies to offer a more personalised experience to customers. Through the data gathered, the company is able to provide users easy access to recommendations on hotels/flights, etc. that are within their budget.
In the education sector, big data is being used to make assignments, evaluations, tests and projects more result-driven. According to Dr Sanjay Gupta, vice-chancellor, World University of Design, “Teachers can use data analytics to efficiently monitor and guide students, customise programmes, reduce dropouts, target international recruiting and make career predictions.”
AI made significant inroads in the enterprise space during 2018. AI-based chatbots, in fact, are now emerging as a prominent application across industry verticals. In the healthcare industry, enterprises are adopting medical assistant chatbots, which provide prompt medical information including a variety of consultative and diagnostic services to patients. For instance, Netmeds.com, an online medical store, has introduced a robotic assistant that takes the patient through a series of questions and answers, and transfers the patient to a live doctor if certain triggers are initiated. The physician then suggests tests, which can be conducted at the patient’s home or office by remotely dispatched medical technicians.
Enterprises in the IT/ITeS and BPM industries are also adopting chatbots. For instance, Mindtree has implemented a chatbot called Maci, which enables employees to check their leave status, apply for leave and have it approved by managers through the chatbot. The BFSI sector is also beginning to adopt AI quite aggressively for both back-end and front-end operations. The State Bank of India (SBI) launched the SBI Intelligent Assistant, or SIA, an AI-powered chat assistant that addresses customer queries instantly and helps them with everyday banking tasks just like a bank representative. HDFC Bank also developed an AI-based chatbot called Eva. Further, Axis Bank launched an AI and natural language processing-enabled conversational banking application to help consumers with financial and non-financial transactions, answer frequently asked questions, and get in touch with the bank for loans and other products. Kotak Mahindra Bank adopted an AI-powered voicebot, Keya, which has been built using natural language processing technology. According to Aruna Rao, senior executive vice-president and group chief technology officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank, “Keya services customers in English and Hindi, and facilitates query resolution in a single interaction.”
In the retail space, Avenue11 is testing and deploying an AI-based chatbot with the aim of providing a superior customer experience and improving business efficiencies. According to Manish Saini, vice-president (e-commerce), Ferns N Petals, “In future, more than 80 per cent human interaction in the retail space would be handled by AI.”
In the travel and hospitality industry, players are either building customised chatbots or using interfaces powered by established messaging applications. For instance, Yatra.com launched a Facebook chatbot to enable ticket booking, address customer queries and enable travellers to chat in real time with sellers. Further, Goibibo and MakeMyTrip have adopted customer-facing AI platforms called Gia and Myra. These companies have integrated their chatbots with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to help customers search hotels and flights, and for in-trip assistance. According to Anshuman Bapna, chief product officer, Goibibo, “New digital mediums like chatbots have added an advanced dimension, thereby taking the customer experience to the next level.”
AI is helping media and entertainment companies design targeted advertising campaigns. For instance, Zee Entertainment is leveraging AI-powered tools to drive the efficiency of its operations. Going forward, Zee plans to use AI for automated programme scheduling on various channels and effective meta-tagging of content.
Trends to watch in 2019
Blockchain is expected to be one of the most disruptive technologies to gain traction during 2019. It has emerged as a popular technology tool for solving the cybersecurity challenges being faced by the BFSI industry. Apart from making the general banking process more secure, blockchain can play a significant role in facilitating cross-border payments, digital identity management, clearing and settlement, letter of credit processes, and syndication of loans. A number of Indian banks including ICICI Bank, IDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, IndusInd Bank and RBL Bank have already undertaken projects to test blockchain technology for know-your-customer data. Further, a few insurance companies including IndiaFirst have done some proof of concepts with blockchain to identify fraud.
In the logistics industry, blockchain will play a major role in facilitating information flow across the supply chain and improve credibility by enabling foolproof transactions. Blockchain has also started making inroads into the Indian retail market. Recently, Tech Mahindra partnered with Indian blockchain company Nucleus Vision to develop such solutions for the retail industry. The technology is also garnering the attention of media and entertainment enterprises for content management.
Another technology that is expected to bring in instrumental changes in the way enterprises function is automation. In fact, the IT/ITeS and BPM, travel and hospitality, logistics, and government and utilities sectors have already started automating their business processes. According to industry experts, robotic process automation (RPA) has started witnessing traction among enterprises in the BPM industry. Processes such as finance and accounting, human resource management and procurement are being automated using RPA. According to Mohua Sengupta, EVP and global head of services, 3i Infotech, “The primary trend that will shape the BPM/ ITeS industry in the next few years is robotic process automation. This is the biggest shift that will soon completely transform the ITeS industry.”
The government and utilities sectors too have started focusing on automation. For instance, Indraprastha Gas Limited has installed automated meter reading systems for its 8,250 domestic customers and at all field regulating stations in the piped natural gas segment. In the travel and hospitality space, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts has already deployed in-room automation and is continually looking for upcoming features that can enhance the guest experience.
Augmented reality/Virtual reality (AR/VR) is another key technology that is going to change the dynamics of the enterprise space. The four key sectors that would be at the forefront of AR/VR adoption are retail, media and entertainment, travel and hospitality, and education.
In the media and entertainment space, AR/VR would be used to draw users deeper into content and help them experience visuals from a first person perspective. For instance, the current season of Kaun Banega Crorepati has started using AR, the first for an Indian TV programme, to ensure a more immersive experience for viewers.
Enterprises in the travel and hospitality segment such as Airbnb have also started experimenting with VR by incorporating it in the users’ travel planning experience, wherein they can virtually explore a house or a city through 360-degree photos and 3D scans. According to Manish Amin, co-founder and chief information officer, Yatra.com, “Through VR, we are able to provide a deeper, immersive experience to travellers and this can help them with a tailor-made holiday itinerary.”
Kuhu Singh Abbhi