The IT scene is constantly evolving. Businesses that fail to recognize tech changes and the challenges that come with it, will struggle to stay ahead of the curve. As we head into 2019, the tech industry is facing a number of headwinds. Overcoming these headwinds will be crucial in determining the direction the IT industry ultimately goes. Here’s a look at these challenges.
1. Making Chatbots Great
Chatbots have been one of the most successful applications of artificial intelligence in the workplace and have provided a sneak peek at where AI might be headed. But despite this success, chatbots have been quite frustrating too. So far, most chatbots have only succeeded in answering a relatively small set of questions.
Machine learning abilities have been limited thanks to difficulties in integrating sentiment analytics and natural language processing. Unfortunately for chatbots, consumers are usually impatient with lack of progress. Unless tech can make chatbots work nearly as well as a human customer service agent, there’s bound to be growing pushback by consumers.
2. Autonomous Vehicles
Chatbots may be showing what AI can do but it is in the autonomous vehicle space that there’s the greatest excitement. Not unexpected since a car is something most people aspire to and will therefore relate to. There have been numerous attempts at creating fully autonomous vehicles over the years. But it only began to draw wider interest when large corporations and the ultra-wealthy started to take an interest and get heavily involved.
Google’s autonomous cars for its Google Street View project demonstrated the feasibility of the concept. Tesla, Mercedes Benz, Audi and Uber are some of the leading names that are working alone or with partners to develop fully autonomous cars. Getting the technology right isn’t the only challenge though. Regulators are yet to come up with a framework that supports as opposed to impeding this burgeoning industry.
3. Blockchain Not Going as Expected
At the start of 2018, blockchain was riding a wave of global popularity on the back of the soaring value of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin was closing in on $20,000 in December 2017 but this had almost halved just one month later. As 2018 comes to a close, bitcoin’s price is just above $5,000. The wild swings have lent credence to the argument of cryptocurrencies and blockchain of being too volatile to be mainstream.
It doesn’t help that the overwhelming majority of the world’s population (including many in the tech industry), have struggled to grasp the logic of blockchain. Then there’s been the long association of cryptocurrency with the underworld as well as a number of high-profile thefts of cryptocurrency. In this context, blockchain will be walking into 2019 with only a fraction of the enthusiasm that welcomed it to 2017.
In May 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect. It is the most comprehensive privacy and data protection regulation in years. Whereas GDPR applies to the management of EU citizens, the size of the EU market has meant the GDPR is fast becoming a de facto global standard.
Websites that don’t have a significant footprint among EU consumers can afford to postpone compliance but that also means having to shun EU customers. Those that do choose to comply will be faced with the decision of either separating the data of their EU customers from that of everyone else or applying GDPR rules to all their clients worldwide.
5. Security in the Era of IoT
The Internet is gradually giving way to the Internet of Things (IoT). We are talking not just connecting traditionally internet-enabled devices like laptops, desktop computers, smartphones, servers and routers; televisions, cameras, cars, refrigerators, microwaves, blenders, residential lighting, smart electricity meters and countless other types of everyday electrical devices are joining the fray.
It’s already hard enough keeping tabs on security with the Internet—it’s going to be much harder with IoT. This enormity of the challenge has been demonstrated by the overwhelming computing power of botnets like Mirai that leverage unsecured consumer gadgets. More advanced security tools are needed (see User Management System – Access Rights Software | SolarWinds).
6. Not Enough Data Scientists for Big Data
By 2001, leading tech research firm Gartner had already come up with what has become the go-to definition of big data. But it was more than a decade later that big data truly became a hot tech topic. By 2014, it felt as though the tech world was on the cusp of entering a new age of big data management and analytics. Hadoop and NoSQL were opening new worlds of possibilities.
Yet, there’s still an enormous quantity of big data that would provide invaluable insights but remain untapped. It’s not because of the absence of tech this time but an enduring scarcity of data scientists with the requisite skills.
7. Cloud Computing Latency
The move from on-premises server deployments to the cloud came with numerous advantages. Cloud-based systems can be accessed from anywhere in the world, require a much lower cost to set up, allow you to only pay for the capacity you need, and are a way of outsourcing server management to seasoned experts.
But the advancement in cloud computing services and the ever-rising bandwidth demands of today’s software applications haven’t been accompanied by a similar growth in the capabilities of telecommunication infrastructure. In addition, there’s wide variation in the quality of communication infrastructure not just between countries but also within the same country.
Network latency can diminish the end user experience. Edge computing is seen as a potential solution to this but is still in its infancy.
8. Immersive Technology
The internet has created a vast array of previously unimaginable possibilities for the modern business. Immediately your ecommerce store goes live, you have billions of internet users around the world as potential customers, something no brick-and-mortar business has access to. Yet, online businesses have always had one major drawback compared to brick-and-mortar enterprises—the inability of customers to touch and feel an item before they buy it.
The drive toward virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR) has sought to change that. These immersive technologies are extending the sensory channels for consumer interaction and improve buyer decision-making. Nevertheless, they are still a long way from becoming mainstream.
9. Online Hate and State-Sanctioned Propaganda
Online hate and state-sanctioned propaganda have received plenty of news coverage especially in the wake of the US Presidential Election of 2016. Tech giants like Facebook and Twitter have come under increasing focus including appearing before Congress.
To be fair though, the Internet has only amplified long-existing human behavior. Hate groups and state-sanctioned propaganda have been around in some shape or form for thousands of years. The challenge for leading internet firms is to keep tabs on hate speech and systematic state-driven propaganda but without curtailing the fundamental pillar of liberal democracy that is freedom of speech.
10. Mobile First
Smartphones have been with us for more than a decade now. Near ubiquitous in developed countries, the percentage of smartphone owners in the developing world is soaring and is expected to achieve equal penetration as advanced economies in a decade or two. Despite that though, many organizations are still stuck in the desktop-first mindset.
Businesses still build the desktop version of their websites and create a mobile version as an afterthought. Most people now access the internet via mobile. Companies have to enforce a mobile-first policy to every internet-related idea they pursue.
The rate of technology change is accelerating with each passing year. By recognizing, anticipating and aligning with these changes, you are more likely to stay ahead of the competition.