Saturday 18 November 2017

9 new digital technologies set to impact Irish businesses

Eleanor Collier

In today’s age of hyper-digital transformation, how does your business ‘work ahead’ to remain competitive?

Digital change is not without its challenges and is boosting the need for strategic investment and the development of innovation skills and lateral thinking in Irish companies.

The ability to analyse data, see patterns, leverage big and small data, use technology and navigate through complexity to ‘the next best action’ are the most fundamental and profound skills any organisation can have in a world increasingly driven by software.

While digital can empower, it is crucial that employees are also empowered to analyze new types of data and make new types of decisions. Here are 9 digital technologies set to impact, disrupt and transform Irish businesses:

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already having a major impact on the way that many Irish businesses are enaging with customers and is taking a much more central role right now, moving far beyond being simply a back-end tool.

AI has come to be seen as an important technology for leveraging big data and has become a very real tool for those who recognize its power to solve the next set of business challenges presented by huge volumes of data. It is set to totally accelerate the pace of middle and back office modernisation.

“Between 2017 and 2020, a new generation of leaders will separate from the pack by injecting AI and its sub-components (e.g. machine learning, neural networks, decision theory etc) in to the algorithms that produce actuarial models and premium quotes”; states a report from The Work Ahead Series.

The research series, commissioned by Cognizant, with Roubini Global Economics, is part of a global study in to understanding the changing nature of work and what constitutes success in the digital age across the sectors, from healthcare to business and financial services and from insurance to manufacturing, logistics and retail.

2. Collaboration technologies

Technology-enabled collaborative work systems, whether formal or informal are coming to the fore more and more in Irish companies. Companies that need their workforces to perform faster, more intelligently and more productively are now recognising the need to embed collaborative technologies deeply within their core processes.

Incentivizing behaviours that are collaborative is another key to success. This focus on teamwork with the use of the many collaboration technologies available now such as Yammer, Chatter, AnswerHub and Jive can really help employees to communicate better and share knowledge leading to better results and faster workflow.

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3. Telepresence devices

After a slow start, digital and connective technologies are beginning to revolutionise healthcare in Ireland, despite funding issues. From opportunities ranging from electronic health records, to wearable devices, mobile healthcare, big data, genomics and robotics technologies, the landscape is radically changing.

The ‘doctor and the bot’ is at our doorstep. Tallaght Hospital in Dublin was the first healthcare institution in Ireland to trial a ‘remote doctor’ system in 2016. A telepresence robot named ‘Lucy’ enables doctors to visit patients at their bedsides remotely and the system involves a tablet computer secured to an extendable pole sitting on top of a self-balancing electric wheel.

According to the Mayo Clinic, innovative robotic surgery techniques “allow doctors to perform many types of complex procedures with more precision, flexibility and control than is possible with conventional techniques”

4. Digital currency

As one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union, Ireland has the opportunity to embrace digital currency. Ireland’s first bitcoin ATM opened for business in Dublin city centre in 2014 and there are many new offerings such as Zcash now available. Dublin start-up Circle was backed by $76m in venture capital investment for the development of digital currency technology.

“In retail there is a major difference in the mindset of digital leaders and digital laggards in the efficacy of digital. But it is the leaders who will come out on top. It waits for no retailer’s budget cycles”, according to ‘The Work Ahead’.

5. Internet of Things/Sensors

The value globally of the IoT sector is predicted to be greater than $34.2bn by 2020 and it’s expected that 4.9bn devices will be connected in 2015 and this will again increase massively to 25bn by 2025.

This intersection between the virtual world and physical world is already well embedded in Ireland with consumers. Innovations are already coming through in the many digital incubators and accelerators located across the country, in addition to the key formal and informal partnerships between the technology sector and educational institutions.

By 2025, sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) stand as the pre-eminent digital technologies affecting the manufacturing sector. “By then, in manufacturing, we’ll likely see the instrumentation of every product and more smart products means more data.”

“Add to that a variety of autonomous and semi-autonomous systems, from 3-D printing to sensors and robots, converging to become an integral part of enterprise business architecture,” according to The Work Ahead.

6. Software bots

A software bot, internet bot or web robot is a software application that can run automated tasks across the internet, performing actions that are structurally repetitive and simple, at a much faster rate than any human alone has the capacity for.

From having conversations with customers to automating tasks such as order delivery or hotel bookings, software bots can greatly simplify dealings with Irish and global businesses. They have the capacity to ease interactions between customers and businesses and help with economies of scale and revenue.

“So-called robotic process automation – in which software tools have emerged as the ‘robots’ for knowledge work – has been gaining traction.

What about physical tasks? In our study, 94% of providers believe that physical work robots will have a moderate to strong impact on work”, it is revealed in The Work Ahead.

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7. Sharing economy platforms

‘Collaborative consumption’ or the sharing economy, has already been pioneered by companies such as AirBnB, which has its international headquarters in Dublin.

Shared economies, from peer-to-peer lending/crowdfunding to car sharing, networking, marketplaces, online staffing and music and video streaming services are all having an impact and growing daily across the country.

The shared economy platforms offer big opportunities for Irish businesses to increase their customer bases and potentially reduce costs by either setting up their own platforms to connect and enable people to share or to benefit from existing platforms or communities.

Shared economies are already impacting within Irish companies who have recognised the opportunities – from choosing peer-to-peer lending instead of traditional financial institutions or sharing skills on an online platform for products and services in exchange for something that a business needs.

8. Hardware robots

Robotics is becoming ever more apparent in Ireland. This branch of engineering that involves the creation, design, manufacture and operation of robots, overlaps many areas of Irish business from electronics, mechatronics, computer science and nanotechnology to artificial intelligence and bioengineering.

“We think the aforementioned impending skill gaps in manufacturing will drive higher degrees of automation and adoption of the next wave of robotics. At the same time, we expect that further automation adoption by manufacturers will propel limited experiments with AI and robotics that are in line with projections on the most critical skills shortages,” predicts The Work Ahead.

9. Telematics

Telematics - the sharing of information via a wireless network – is another digital technology transforming Irish business. Everything in our lives is becoming more and more connected.

An interdisciplinary field that encompasses telecommunications, road transportation, vehicular technologies, road safety and electrical engineering and computer science, telematics is already having a particular impact on car insurance. The system allows the end user to collect data about vehicles being monitored, giving insurers a better picture of the driver they are covering.

“Insurers are highly aware of the need to rethink their processes, technology foundations and business models to succeed in the digital future. Indeed, the industry itself will be nearly unrecognizable in the next decade due to digital change”.

Digital disruption is real. From healthcare to banking and financial services, insurance, manufacturing, logistics and retail, find out more about how digital will affect your industry at:www.cognizant.com/the-work-ahead.

Sponsored by: Cognizant

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