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This year’s Accenture Technology Vision report highlights how rapid advances in technologies — including artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and the cloud — are enabling companies to not just create innovative products and services, but change the way people work and live. The annual report, which identifies technological trends most likely to disrupt business, surveyed more than 6 000 businesses across 19 industries in 25 countries, including South Africa.

“There’s a new obligation—and a new opportunity—for companies to engage with people differently,” the report says, citing numerous examples of how companies are already doing this. GE, for instance, is equipping field technicians with cutting-edge augmented reality glasses, changing the way workers engage with the physical world by giving them hands-free access to information, or allowing remote experts to see exactly what the technicians see as they conduct repairs.

Technology changing peoples lives and work84% of the executives surveyed agree that through technology, companies are weaving themselves seamlessly into the fabric of how people live today. In enterprise ecosystems, Siemens, for example, is embedding itself into its business partners’ architectures. “By offering the use of its MindSphere operating system for Internet of Things (IoT) manufacturing devices to anyone, Siemens is cementing itself as an integral part of the new IoT universe—and its tremendous societal reach,” the report states.

“This level of integration is the next great societal evolution. The same way cities were built around railroads, or people rebuilt their lives around electricity, the world is reimagining itself not just around digital innovation but, by extension, around the companies that provide those services.”

The Accenture Technology Vision 2018 report identifies five emerging technology trends that companies must address if they are to build the partnerships needed to succeed in today’s digital economy. These include Citizen AI: Raising AI to benefit business and society; Extended Reality: The end of distance; Data Veracity: The importance of trust; Frictionless Business: Built to partner at scale; and Internet of Thinking: Creating intelligent distributed systems.

Businesses depend on technology-based partnerships for growth, but their own legacy systems aren’t designed to support partnerships at scale. Only 18% of South African businesses report working with double or more partners than they were two years ago. This is half the global average of 36%. According to Accenture, companies that invest in microservices architectures and use blockchain and smart contracts to build strong technology-based partnerships will be the ones that redefine how businesses transact in the future.

Robotics, immersive reality, artificial intelligence and connected devices are bringing a new level of technological sophistication to the physical world. Current predictions suggest that by 2020, smart sensors and other IoT devices will generate at least 507.5 zettabytes of data. This will necessitate the development of special-purpose and customisable hardware to support real-time systems requirements.

Accenture points out that businesses are making big bets on intelligent environments via robotics, AI and immersive experiences. But to bring these intelligent environments to life, they must extend their infrastructures into the dynamic, real-world environments they want to reach. Only 33% of South African executives believe it will be critical over the next two years to leverage customer hardware and hardware accelerators to meet the computing demands of intelligent environments versus a global average of 63%.

“Businesses are not just creating new products and services; they are shaping new digital industries. To fulfil their digital ambitions, companies must take on a leadership role to help shape the new rules of the game. Those who take the lead will find a place at or near the centre of their new ecosystem, while those that don’t risk being left behind. From technology standards to ethical norms to government mandates, in an ecosystem-driven digital economy, one thing is clear: a wide scope of rules still needs to be defined,” the analysts state.

Copyright: Andreus / 123RF Stock Photo

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