It is an amazing time for technology and to be a citizen of the world. Every company is transforming into a software company and finding ways to disrupt themselves. Software is powering digital transformations and will enable the intelligent enterprise and a new way to work.

Over the next 10 years, there will be five billion connected users on one high-speed, highly reliable network—the Internet. Surpassing humans, one trillion machines will come online and the von Neumann computer architecture will be replaced with quantum computing (enter Q2K and the Qubit).

Over the next five years, the world will add 10 million more programmers as rules-driven white-collar work is replaced by software or machines. We will all need to automate ruthlessly to free up our best talent.

Informing all this automation is artificial intelligence (AI). With extreme automation, extreme connectivity, and extreme computing, we will apply algorithms to mine all the data, processes, and behavior that we store digitally. This will give us greater business insight, real-time decision making, and better planning to repurpose skills.

The mother of AI is autonomy. It is time to embrace AI, place your no-regret bets, mainstream machines and data, and build out key algorithms for your business.

Beyond these “silicon-based” changes, there will be massive “carbon-based” changes—humans. Medical advancements are extending life spans. Big data will uncover a cure for cancer, nanotechnology will change drug delivery and targeted therapy, and three-dimensional (3D) printing will make prosthetics affordable and liberating. It is not hard to conceive that life expectancy may almost double to 150 years of age.

When we consider the changing nature of the workforce, those who manage the workforce, and the changing nature of work itself, it becomes clear that the greatest impact of all in the next decade will be Generation Z entering the workforce.

The 2018 headlines will focus on AI, self-driving cars and drones, cybercurrencies, the Internet of Things, security, and the cloud and edge devices. Perhaps there will be a huge medical breakthrough that solves hereditary diseases. For me, it is all about the technologies and trends that will shape the future of the intelligent enterprise.

AI and the Intelligent Enterprise

AI skills, such as pattern recognition and decision making, played an important role in the much-talked about AlphaGo win against expert (human) player, Lee Sedol. The most ground-breaking technique AlphaGo demonstrated, however, was reinforcement learning, which is the tendency to produce an action that is followed by an increase in reward.

Algorithms based on reinforcement learning are already available. In 2018, they will be applied to autonomous vehicles on the road and robots on factory floors. Over the next year, interest in AI will grow across every industry. By 2020, the AI market will grow to $47 billion.

But how will these investments pay off for the enterprise? Equipped with AI and cognitive systems, big data analytics, and machine learning, the insights-driven intelligent enterprise will outpace its competition. Better data will mean better algorithms, and better algorithms will mean better data, and so on. We will become much more productive as we offload collecting and processing data to AI systems.

The intelligent enterprise will leverage agile development to build apps in the cloud, automate processes and menial tasks to optimize efficiency, and explore data lakes for sophisticated insights and better decision making.

Cybercurrencies and the Blockchain Revolution

In 2017, cryptocurrencies burst onto the scene—led by Bitcoin—and today, there are over 1,100 cryptocurrencies available. Because they disintermediate traditional financial institutions (and remove any fees or friction costs associated with financial transactions), these peer-to-peer companies are gaining traction with consumers, retailers, and investors.

On March 3, 2017, Bitcoin overtook gold, trading at $1,290 U.S—showing investors that all that glitters is not gold. A growing number of businesses are accepting cryptocurrencies as legitimate, including 260,000 new retailers in Japan who plan to accept bitcoins as payment.

One of the most significant innovations in cryptocurrency is its use of blockchain technology. Bitcoin’s application of it is revolutionizing the industry, but its potential lies far beyond changing the way we exchange and manage wealth. By linking a chain of records, or “blocks,” that can’t be altered, blockchain has the capacity to create more transparent and secure systems.

Its applications will be multifaceted—from the way we transact to the way we renew passports, vote, rent a car, pay taxes and even in terms of how we identify ourselves. 2018 will be the year of the blockchain startup, especially in areas of security and encryption.

Edge Computing and Devices

IoT-connected devices are pushing the limits of the cloud, creating a new computing paradigm where the cloud and edge computing meet.

As the “brain” behind the IoT, edge computing moves processing power closer to the source of data. In this new paradigm, not all data is equal. Only device data that is worth keeping is sent to the cloud. This reduces the costs associated with handling and storing growing volumes of IoT-related data.

Time-sensitive data can be processed by the device itself, allowing for quicker response times while reducing network latency. This is far more efficient than using the cloud alone where, with its split-second latency, turn-around time can be too slow.

As the number of devices requiring immediate or high-volume data processing continues to increase, edge computing will push the cloud to the sidelines, where it will act as a supporting technology. Together, the cloud and edge computing will offer the benefits of agility and savings, while providing the infrastructure we need to support the ever-expanding IoT universe.

Internet of Everything

The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating a giant, global network of devices and machines that are connected, communicating, and exchanging data. This market will see billions of devices connected by 2020 at a value of $14.4 trillion.

While we might not feel the immediate effects of the IoT, its potential impact is huge. Advances in IoT-connected biotechnology will take healthcare to the next level, with around-the-clock monitoring, targeted treatment, and even automated doses of medication. In smart cities, when everything is connected to the IoT grid, autonomous vehicles will eliminate 94 percent of car crashes (caused by human error) to save more than one million lives annually.

In the intelligent enterprise, the IoT will connect the global supply chain from end-to-end, enabling pervasive visibility, proactive replenishment, and predictive maintenance. With the IoT, data-driven decision making will become standard in all industries and in our daily lives.

The Next Generation of Cybersecurity

Cyberspace has emerged as a new battlefield where bits, bytes and botnets are the weapons of choice. This is creating the Internet of Botnets, which are global networks of compromised devices that hackers can deploy or rent out to criminal organizations. This is particularly unsettling given the fact that there is currently a botnet out there (dubbed the IoT Reaper) that is powerful enough to take down the entire Internet.

Firewalls and other traditional security measures do not cut it anymore. As the battlefield moves into cyberspace, new tools will be needed to address the changing nature of conflict. AI, quantum computing, and quantum cryptography are particularly promising countermeasures against cyberattacks.

AI (in the form of machine learning) is being used to monitor networks and any associated devices for anomalies and report deviations in real time. Quantum computing can sift through 150,000+ daily threats in an organization’s network to identify which events are the riskiest. And quantum cryptography can ensure secure communications. These emerging technologies are redefining cybersecurity as we know it. Moving forward, they will be our best line of defense against sophisticated cyberattacks.

Sometimes, future technology and magic are indistinguishable, and worry is a waste of imagination. Industry by industry, enterprises are becoming more intelligent and more Gen Z.

Digital is connecting workers and consumers through software. In 2018, everything from the cloud, edge points, machines, automation, supply chains, security and customers will become more intelligent. But the greatest impact will be on the workforce. As Baby Boomers retire, Gen X turns its attention to knowledge transfer, and millennials are the dominant demographic, Gen Z is preparing to enter the workplace.

Gen Z represents the greatest generational shift the workplace has ever seen. They take hyper-connectivity to new levels; their use of technology sets them apart from other generations. As they enter the workforce, they will bring their habits, technology, and culture with them. In the gig economy, it is about experiences over education, market viable over marketing, and making a difference over making a dollar.

The intelligent enterprise will be based on their beliefs and expectations.

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