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Top Emerging Tech Every CIO Should Watch for in 2017

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By CTO Forum December 16, 2016

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The CTO Forum is a nonprofit dedicated to fostering a trusted, open and creative environment where the brightest minds of our times convene to address the industry’s most important issues.

There is no doubt the technology landscape is changing at a frenetic pace, and staying ahead of the major trends reshaping today’s world will ultimately separate the winners from the losers. We have all heard the mantra of these days, “you either disrupt yourself or you will get disrupted.”

The risk of becoming irrelevant has never been greater. It’s the role of chief information officers to look beyond today's solutions and be ready for what lies ahead.

However, the list of innovations can be endless and keeping up with the latest emerging technologies and new tools is no easy task. It requires a deep understanding of which technologies have the potential to add value to the existing business or create a brand new market. CTO Forum surveyed a group of senior technologists from America’s leading companies to get insights on technologies at the forefront of their minds and should be on every CIOs radar in 2017.

Artificial Intelligence

In recent years, artificial intelligence has evolved from science fiction movie plots to everyday reality.

“We’ve seen profound improvements in the implementations of artificial intelligence over the last few years," Nicko van Someren, chief technology officer of Linux Foundation, pointed out. "It was primarily driven by finally reaching the point where we can build significantly deep neural networks and have them run at a reasonable speed.”

Machine learning is dramatically changing the way we do business today. From workflow management tools, trend predictions to customer support, it helps drive productivity and reduce costs.

“In consumer space scale is important," said Ralph Loura, CTO for Rodan + Fields. "I think in the next 18 months or so, intelligent agents and bots will be interface points and AI will help drive the personalized interface and enrich interaction with people." 

Machine learning and AI also play a significant role in the rapid development of autonomous vehicles. According to Gartner, there will be 250 million cars connected to each other and to the infrastructure around them by 2020. Automotive Electronics Roadmap Report forecasts the install rate of AI-based systems in new vehicles will rise to 109 percent in 2025 from just 8 percent in 2015.

“We are on the verge of changing from being a car manufacturer into becoming a mobility ecosystem provider,”  said Chuhee Lee, vice president of technology and strategy for Volkswagen. ”The emerging technology that is very crucial for us is obviously autonomous driving that is powered by machine-learning techniques.”

Many experts call AI the new electricity and the same way electricity transformed industry after industry 100 years ago, AI is dramatically expanding the limits of what is possible today.

Internet of Things

The adoption of internet of things devices in multiple industries has risen dramatically in the past several years. In fact, analysts expect there will be 25 billion connected devices installed by 2020, and companies will invest nearly $6 trillion on IoT solutions over the next five years.

“It’s going to hit almost every industry,” said Steve Gray, senior vice president of engineering for Qualcomm. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re in financial services, networking or consumer products, internet of things is going to impact you in some way.”

The accelerating adoption rate presents many implications for senior leaders. On one hand, it creates game-changing opportunities. The wealth of data will allow businesses to achieve new levels of operational excellence, innovate business models, improve product development, launch new revenue streams and roll out new services.

“The internet of things gives us the ability to gather data from areas that previously have not been able to be gathered,” said Kirk Ball, CTO for The Kroger Company. “We are able to animate, give voice to inanimate objects and then process the vast amount of data from these sensors to make better decisions and drive analytics.”

On the other hand, it creates brand-new sets of risks. One of the most significant revolves around security.

“We have seen today more and more security threats,” Gray said. “We work in the automotive industry and that is a key consideration for us. The car has really become a networking device on wheels, so we’re very focused on being able to shut down security threats.”

However, 90 percent of organizations still don’t have a cybersecurity strategy for the internet of things in place, according to the new Cybersecurity Preparedness Benchmarking Study by the Berkeley Research Group. The silver lining is that the security flaws are being discovered so they can be identified and fixed.

“It is crucial to be very aware of your security strategy and look at the technologies that are required to be able to secure the services or products that you develop,” Gray added. “There are a lot of new technologies which are developed in the security realm, and if you are working in a business and you are connected to the internet, you invariably are dealing with security threats.”

There is no doubt internet of things is no longer just a tech buzzword. It has tremendous potential to change the way we interact with the physical world. It is also clear there is still a lot of work to be done, especially around security and infrastructure.

Blockchain

Blockchain, the technology underpinning the bitcoin digital currency, has been gaining momentum and becoming one of the hottest topics across various industries.

“I think we are beyond the hype and auditing phase for blockchain,” Loura commented. “More and more people are now thinking very specifically about how to use blockchain as an enabler of peer-to-peer trust, and it is changing the game for a lot of things.”

Blockchain technology is showing a great promise. Marc Andreessen, the renowned Silicon Valley’s venture capitalist, called blockchain the distributed trust network the internet always needed and never had. It undeniably has the potential to revolutionize the digital economy and is finding applications in wide range of areas, not only the financial sector.

The potential use cases are endless—from cybersecurity, supply chain management, IoT to health care records and loyalty payments in the music industry. It isn’t yet clear how quickly blockchain will become mainstream, but it sure will create major disruption and should be on the radar of every technology leader.  

These technologies have been around for some time, but they have now reached a certain level of maturity and are beginning to have a huge impact on how businesses operate and engage with their customers. No organization will take the lead just by waiting on the sidelines. Every strategic CIO needs to proactively look at opportunities posed by emerging technologies that can help reshape their business and strengthen the bottom line.

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