The world’s in a perpetual race to evolve, and digital transformation is at the forefront for businesses. Gartner, the American technological research and consulting firm, recently conducted a webinar about the technologies that will most likely evolve the modern landscape.
But what are the digital technologies Gartner discussed? Below, we discuss each in more detail and why companies may consider their implementation. We also discuss the potential challenges of each business transformation and the risks associated with them.
The Future Digital Transformation of Companies
According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, over 11,000 satellites were in orbit at the end of June 2023. They claim this is a 37.94% increase since January 2022.
Gartner said that around 50 companies have or will launch satellite constellations, which are groups of satellites that work collectively in a system. They added that Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are becoming increasingly popular, with projects like Amazon’s Kuiper expected for 2025. This is because this form of digital technology:
- Offers widespread coverage, improving broadband and smartphone connectivity in remote areas
- Provides a low latency and high bandwidth
- Can be more resilient, affordable and innovative than current terrestrial systems
Therefore, LEO satellites could help companies expand to more remote areas. They could also support companies communicate large volumes of information in a more robust, cost-effective system.
Additionally, Gartner stated that bigger and smarter satellites are incoming, which would decrease the size of satellite dishes on Earth. Therefore, smaller dishes could be installed on robots and drones to make satellite communication with them plausible.
However, Gartner suggested drawbacks concerning this technology. Firstly, although comparatively affordable, the implementation of LEO satellites is costly. Thus, they’ll be out of reach for many companies and take time for the mainstream to utilise. Furthermore, since satellites communicate information globally, companies may not know where their information is being shared, causing potential data breaches.
Tiny Ambient IoT
Tiny Ambient IoT devices were the second digital transformation Gartner discussed. Such devices operate with extreme constraints on:
- Size, being minuscule and light
- Power, harnessing energy from WIFI without having a battery
- Cost, decreased because of the removal of a battery, with some currently costing 40 cents per device
Gartner explained their purpose, stating they can sense and track. For example, they could be installed in clothing to monitor inventory levels and customer behaviour in real time. As such, stores could understand which items get picked up and put back, bought or ignored altogether.
They could also be used as authenticators, detecting fake copies like clothes or wines. Alternatively, they could interact with a washing machine to inform it that the clothing has been put in the wrong wash, preventing the machine from running and the item being damaged. Therefore, companies will have improved analysis at their disposal while providing a better user experience.
However, this business transformation doesn’t come without downsides. Firstly, new infrastructure to create and communicate with the devices would need to be made, making its implementation costly. Furthermore, there could be privacy concerns with things like trackers on clothes. Finally, mass production of the devices could lead to environmental concerns, although this could be resolved with biodegradable electronics.
Digital Transformation via Secure Computation
The third digital transformation discussed by Gartner was secure computation. This is the act of multiple third parties completing a function without breaching one another’s data. For example, a smart home may have numerous vendors with smart devices in a house functioning together. Although helpful, customer data protection must occur during the process.
Therefore, Gartner outlined potential solutions to remove the data breach risk. One solution involves decentralising and distributing processing to different computers to ensure no single participant sees all a customer’s information.
Another involves using special algorithms. It’s long been suggested that drones will deliver people’s online orders. However, these drones need programming to ensure they don’t roam into one another whilst keeping destinations anonymous to prevent data breaches.
Companies should consider secure computation to protect individuals’ data regardless of the method. Yet, no single strategy will suit every company, so one must determine what works best in their circumstances.
Digital humans were the next digital transformation addressed by Gartner. They explained these are interactive artificial intelligence (AI)-driven representations that imitate humans physically and behaviourally. Some imitate human behaviour but are entirely virtual, like digital customer service reps. Others take physical forms, like drones.
Gartner then outlined benefits of this digital technology, including:
- Chatbots (like ChatGPT) reducing task completion time, allowing employees to do more
- Digital customer service reps removing the need for real people, reducing costs
However, risks associated with this technology were highlighted. Firstly, criminals could create fake voices or videos to pass security systems. Also, racial or gender bias could be reflected in digital humans by their creator, and ethical issues could exist. As such, regulation would be required, taking years to evolve.
Adaptive Autonomic Drones and Robots
The final digital transformation was adaptive autonomic drones and robots. They stated that robot usage has grown dramatically, with their growth in number but, more importantly, in intelligence.
Gartner defined “adaptive autonomy”, explaining that these robots can:
- Operate independently, without assistance
- Learn and modify behaviour based on experience
- Have some knowledge of state and person (i.e., potentially be conscious of their being)
Adaptive autonomy is important because humans won’t be able to scale robot usage if they have to be reprogrammed whenever there’s change. As such, many methods are underway to create such technology.
One uses adaptive AI, which incrementally learns without needing to be re-trained. Another utilises collaborative learning, where robots learn to work together to complete a task they couldn’t do alone.
In the real world, adaptive autonomous robots could remove the need for humans to speed up efficiency. However, robots that learn for themselves could cause ethical and legal issues, as could replacing human employees with them. Moreover robots that require trial and error may not be viable, like in surgery, where robots would need to get the task right the first time.
A Conclusion on the Future Digital Transformation
With so much digital transformation coming, companies must consider their viability to improve their practices. From innovative ways to monitor stock and customer behaviour to digital customer service reps, new technology could improve how businesses do things for the better.
However, customers being monitored and spoken to by AI without their knowledge could lead to moral and privacy concerns. Furthermore, issues could come about by replacing human employees with robots. Therefore, to avoid legal issues, companies must ensure their business transformation maintains customer happiness and is legally compliant.
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