Technology Trends that Bring Us Closer to a Hyper-Connected Reality
Technology has revolutionized our lives in countless ways, and it continues to do so at an exponential rate. The explosion of data and the evolution of how we interface with technology has made it easier and more accessible than ever before. We are now at a pivotal point, where the gap between the physical and digital worlds is being bridged.
There are currently three major technology trends that are leading us toward a hyper-connected reality: Generative AI, Extended Reality (AR/VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT). Each provide incredible potential to create new forms of interaction and value for customers, employees, and other stakeholders. But they also bring their fair share of questions and challenges to consider as you begin to develop a strategy around how you’ll leverage these technologies to drive business value.
The most widely discussed subject of the last six months continues to captivate the world’s attention, showing no signs of losing its allure in the foreseeable future. New Generative AI tools are emerging every week. Heavy investment is being made in big tech, and martech is buying in.
We must still be cautious of this captivating technology. In essence, Generative AI functions much like oil. Let’s say you stumble upon an oil reservoir in your own backyard. The raw output from that reservoir wouldn’t be immediately suitable to fuel your car without refinement and processing. The same applies to Generative AI—the progress is real and fast, but the technology must continue to be refined before we can leverage its full potential.
Case in point, the two images below were AI-generated only a year apart, both stemming from the same prompt.
Gen AI is extremely versatile and can be used across multiple teams and departments very differently:
- Creation—unlocks creativity by generating text, images, and videos that can then be optimized
- Advisement—helps with research and learning
- Coding—generates code that can then be optimized by developers
- Automation—automates tedious and time-consuming tasks, increasing productivity and efficiency
- Personalization—personalizes content based on user roles and personas to improve customer engagement
- Data Augmentation—generates data to train other machine learning models without having to find quality real-world data
Based on findings from Accenture, Gen AI has the potential to impact 40 percent of our work hours, significantly enhancing the efficiency of workstreams. However, it’s important to note that this can also lead to job losses. IBM, for instance, has paused hiring on a potential 7,800 jobs that could be replaced by AI.
While the benefits of AI are extremely promising, some major questions and concerns still exist:
- Content access: Social media platforms are already preventing access to their content—how restricted will it get? And how does that impact efficiency and cost?
- Liability: Legal advice from ChatGPT, for example, has been significantly scaled back. How are we accounting for built-in biases?
- IP infringement: How are content creators compensated?
- Privacy: What safeguards or guidelines need to be in place?
- Regulations: Lawmakers, including the U.S. Senate, are holding hearings—what parameters will be set? How does that differ globally?
- Cost: What is the cost of operating models at the enterprise level? Would Open Source models help?
Extended Reality—AR and VR
AR and VR are the natural next step of the internet. Extended Reality is already widely used in gaming and social media, while real estate and healthcare sectors need to play catch up. Brands like Nike and Walmart are using it to successfully market their products and train employees. Nike’s Roblox universe, called Nikeland, is driving revenue to the tune of $185 million by selling “Cryptokicks” NFTs for avatars. Walmart is using VR technology to train employees on their emergency preparation responses.
These use cases are not isolated; Extended Reality technologies are being leveraged across countless opportunities in an array of organizations. Revenue for AR and VR is projected to be at $52B worldwide by 2027. If you add in the Metaverse, Extended Reality is projected to be at $4-5 trillion by 2030. The number of users is expected to be at 2.5 billion by 2027.
With all of this opportunity, some big challenges remain:
- Cost: Hardware costs (e.g. $3,500 for Apple’s VisionPro headset) are not commensurate with the quality or usage.
- Lack of standards: Creating an ecosystem around the hardware is hard due to a lack of standards. No one wants a Metaverse cable company.
- Security and privacy: Too much data is being captured with no clear vision of how it will be used.
- Social media on steroids: Misinformation and echo chambers are still a problem with the Metaverse.
- Lack of sticky use cases: Applications now haven’t necessarily had sticking power e.g., Pokemon Go, IKEA AR Application, etc.
- Poor UX: Most applications in Extended Reality are buggy. e.g., limited field of vision in Goggles.
IoT—Internet of Things
IoT is embedding intelligence into our everyday things. If AR/VR is imposing the virtual world into the real world, IoT operates conversely by integrating the real world into our digital sphere. Revenue for IoT is projected to reach $621.6 billion by 2030, with 30 billion IoT devices expected to be in use by that same year. IoT may not be a new technology, but to leverage it successfully, organizations need to push beyond superficial use cases and begin to mature their offerings.
Smart assistants and wearables like Apple Watches are the most mature IoT offerings in the market today. Consumer electronics, energy, and retail sectors are the most advanced when it comes to IoT development and use cases. For instance, brands like Amazon and John Deer are using IoT for various resource optimization efforts.
Amazon streamlines inventory management and delivery efficiency by leveraging IoT in fulfillment centers, resulting in reduced delivery times and enhanced inventory optimization for fast-moving and perishable products.
John Deer utilizes IoT-driven insights to refine fertilizer and water use via precise monitoring of moisture levels. This approach also enhances precision in planning, harvesting, and machinery performance assessments, revolutionizing modern farming practices.
Like all our other technology trends, some big challenges remain:
- Hardware maintenance: Operationalizing maintenance or installation of the devices can be cumbersome.
- Lack of standards: Interoperability, even within an organization, can be challenging.
- Technology maturing: Low power connectivity, Edge computing, Sensors, Chips, etc. are at different levels of maturity in different industries.
- Security and privacy: Too much data can be captured with no clear vision of how it will be used.
Where do you start?
To integrate Generative AI effectively, start by assembling a cross-functional team that is trained on the proper use cases and limitations of the technology. Make sure to leverage the versatility of Gen AI by entertaining bottom-up ideas, starting slow, and finding pilot projects to work on first before going all in.
Extended Reality presents a similar starting point; by evaluating whether your organization is ready to utilize AR/VR—and identifying use cases—your goals, strategy, and capabilities within ER will be better outlined for further use.
When using IoT, apps—with some gamification—serve as a great way to start some proof of concepts around your goals once you have identified the specific use cases for your vision.
To reap the benefits of these technologies, we need to build a path forward—taking privacy, security, and sustainability into account. We need to add value for customers and not just use the tech as a gimmick. The world is yearning for connection. Technology has the potential to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds—we must use it wisely to achieve this goal.
For a deeper dive into this topic, check out Vinu’s session, The Matrix Reimagined: Technology Trends that Bring Us Closer to a Hyper-Connected Reality, from our recent Assembly event.
Photo Credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel | Unsplash
Vinu is the Director of Solutions Architecture at One North, defining technical architecture for complex marketing/IT systems and products, acting as a technology consultant for clients and working with One North’s Strategy and Design teams to define and implement solutions that will serve the client’s objectives now and in the future.