Nearing reality: The connected future

Talk of an increasingly connected world has been ongoing for what feels like years, with no distinguishable progress made.

However, this is all set to change in 2018, thanks to a bevy of advancements in AI, connectivity models and companies making the infrastructural investments needed to support and secure the large volumes of data that a ‘smart’ world needs.

As the pace picks up and the Internet of Things (IoT) breaks into the mainstream, there will be more partnerships and integrations all aimed at creating a frictionless experience, from buying a coffee to a meeting agreed on WhatsApp automatically appearing in our Google calendar. In particular, there will be rapid development in four main areas:

1. The pervasiveness of connected platforms and flexible working

Technology doesn’t appear on a whim; it appears to satisfy a particular problem. In 2018, the need will be focused on increasing productivity through improved, flexible collaboration. Productivity – and in particular the lack of it currently seen in the UK – is a key focus for businesses and the wider economy.

>See also: Mobility in a connected world

This provides the perfect launchpad for new technology aiming to enable flexible working. There’ll be more adoption of these technologies that support this and, of course, the more people that use the technology, the more sophisticated it will become.

After all, how many lost man hours are seen through transport delays, strikes, emergencies at home and even the daily school run? If these connected platforms are brought into play, the workforce will be both more productive and happier due to having the tools at hand to work from wherever they are based. When you consider that 18% of women need to leave a job earlier than they’d like after becoming mothers and not having the necessary flexibility, you can see that this is an important problem to address. Only one in ten job offerings in the UK have been found to list flexible working too, so the awareness around a the idea will also need to improve.

In 2018, there will also be an increase in dominant business tools and services sharing and connecting data peer-to-peer. Simply, people and businesses won’t have to stay in the app to continue to use its functions. Will Slack integrate with Skype for Business? Will WhatsApp open up its data and work with calendar applications? New partnerships and deals between platforms will be a major focus in communications during 2018 to continue aiding flexible working.

2. Companies continuing to fragment

The traditional talent pool is drawn from people within commuting distance. However, as previously mentioned, that is no longer the case. Nowadays, an organisation can be made up of anyone with the correct skill set that can connect to the internet, and will increasingly be agreed on a contract basis.

Companies are in the position that moving forward, it may well be more economical to pay the wages of a Dutch employee and pay for their regular flights over, than hire from London. This brings with it exciting new ways to work, but also the challenges to make this a reality.

>See also: 7 industries that will be radically changed by the IoT 

From the perspective of a business, this also allows them to widen their talent pool to those that may not be able to work fulltime from a fixed location either – plus, saving on real estate when using those that can work remotely.

However, this working model relies on the right tools being in place and therefore we’ll see a continued demand for collaboration tools and unified communications networks powerful enough to underpin this.

There is also a clamour for employees that have the skills in these respective areas of IP engineering and UC engineering, so that organisations can get these technologies up and running. 2018 looks set to continue this.

3. A renewed security focus

The advent of legislation such as MiFID II and GDPR lands in the next few months, and with it a renewed sense of urgency around security and compliance. These will affect providers just as much as those that store and own the data, as people become savvy to the importance of protecting data in transit too. After all, a traveller needs just as much protection whilst on the move as they do once they’ve got to their destination. This is going to increase the scrutiny on those in charge of data as it moves, with criminal gangs looking to exploit any weakness in the data processes they can find.

>See also: Navigating the smart cities of the future

However, an important point to remember is it’s a fallacy that security can be ‘finished’, so both attacks and ways of defending data will continue to escalate – helped in no short part by the rise of state-sanctioned hacking.

But technology is already widely used for security – although this will continue to improve in terms of both availability and sophistication. What 2018 will bring will be a revised focus on education and ensuring employees understand the risks they face, rather than just relying on the tech safety net.

4. The increasingly vital role of networks

Throughout the trends that will affect the wider technology sector in 2018, there is one constant: the importance of the underpinning network. Offering a better environment for productivity, sharing data across different platforms to create a seamless whole, connecting to employees across different continents and collaborating on projects; all of these are merely a pipedream without a reliable, powerful and flexible network.

These networks will also continue to grow in sophistication – further use of the cloud, intelligent, software-defined networking and wide-area networks are all going to become the norm. Some companies are already putting these networks in place, but in 2018, those that have not will simply be left behind.

 

Sourced by Scott Goodwin, director of Cloud Voice Services, Exponential-e

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.