2016 was a spectacular year in terms of technological advancement, where technologies that have been nascent for many years have just started to make their mark on the world; these include autonomous vehicles, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, robotics, virtual reality and augmented reality, and many more.
2017, then, looks to be the year in which these various technologies that have been in development for so long finally mature, with organisations finding new ways of adapting these new technologies to their business, galvanising and even overhauling business processes and structures. Here are a few of the most important trends for enterprises this year:
Visibility on assets, employees and transactions becomes a business priority
Thanks to the rapid adoption of advanced barcoding technologies and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, the number of "things" that can be digitally interacted with and tracked has expanded at a dizzying rate. It has been estimated by Gartner that there were 6.4 billion connected "things" in use globally this year, an increase of 30% from 2015, with the number set to hit 20.8 billion by 2020. This in turn enables data collection and visibility into almost every aspect of a business and its processes. This will lead to a corresponding increase in demand for devices that can translate the information encoded in barcodes and tags into text and data for humans to read and act upon, such as barcode imagers, RFID readers and beacons.
While such visibility into assets and processes has been tremendously useful to organisations, it is also important for enterprises to have visibility on their fleet of devices and sensors. Zebra research has shown that the failure of even a single device can cause up to 80 minutes of productivity to be lost. As such, comprehensive management platforms will be a feature decision makers will be increasingly looking out for when making their enterprise technology investment choices.
Businesses realise the dangers of data "perishability"
At the same time, while the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics are promising to provide enterprises invaluable data and insights, one point that is not being brought up enough in the conversation is the concept of data "perishability". Data's value is time sensitive and has a limited shelf life. However, the proliferating multitude of devices, each with their own digital "voice" competing for attention, are creating a cacophony; many organisations are unable to fully make sense of the mass of data before it loses its relevance.
Enterprises need to focus not only upon creating different sources of data, but also on ensuring that the different data points contribute to a broader view of the business, rather than disparate bits and pieces of the big picture. One of the challenges this year will be for businesses to translate captured data into actionable insights while they still retain their timeliness.
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