The perpetual journey of innovation

By Byron Rader, General Manager, Applications & Services Group, Microsoft Asia Pacific. This article was originally posted on Enterprise Innovation.

Four years ago, mega technology trends revolved around big data, the cloud, mobility, and the start of the Internet of Things (IoT). Fast forward to 2017, technology have been built on the foundation of these mega trends, and has seen a massive breakthrough with innovations that have and will continue to disrupt businesses, modernize economies and accelerate growth across industries.

As we journey through this year, we will see technology and our everyday lives be intertwined more than ever before, with organizations undergoing digital transformations at different scales across the world. The technology framework for the future is taking shape to revolutionize how we conduct businesses and take on new challenges in an increasing digitalized economy.

The question is, what is the endpoint to which we see technology being part of our lives? Let’s take a simple example of fitness tracker devices embedded with IoT sensors. It can track your steps and exercise routines, sync it with your smartphone and translate all that data into insights on your progress. Pretty amazing, when it became mainstream in the late 2000s at least. But like many other technologies, we are starting to get used to moving on quite rapidly, wanting something better, more powerful, more useful. We crave for innovative technology simply because we can. Because of such rapid changes and our hunger for more, companies have been forced to accelerate innovation and pay more attention to preparing ourselves for the future. Which is why technology today has become increasingly scalable and easily adaptable to future environments. With software primarily at its core, it’s become nimble. So, to the earlier question, the simple answer is that there is no endpoint to what technology can offer in this day and age, and we must prepare ourselves for the perpetual journey of innovation.

With today’s youths being the driving force for tomorrow’s economy, it is more pertinent now than ever before for youths to embrace new technology innovations, to be able to leverage technology effectively in the future. In fact, we recently conducted a survey of 1,400 youth across Asia Pacific to understand how they view their digital future, and what they found as the three most exciting technologies are Artificial Intelligence, Mixed Reality and Internet of Things.

The study also found that the top benefits they wanted out of these technologies were to help them increase their productivity, facilitate the way they connect with people and improve their physical and mental health. This indicates an understanding on the deeper impact they will have on our lives.

Let us take a closer look at these technologies that will continue to evolve and why they stand out as some of the most important in our future.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) may still seem like stuff of science fiction for some of us, but it is already present in our everyday lives and work. And we are not talking about robots with limbs, but rather technology that can already understand what humans can do, like language, facial recognition, virtual personal assistants or predictive services like identifying what we like to read and making appropriate recommendations.

That said, AI is indeed evolving quickly and is now being used in much more advanced ways, and is being developed and run with even more precision to address deeper issues like healthcare, poverty, terrorism and autonomous vehicles. Today, self-driving cars are already being tested on roads in some cities, smart homes are being marketed, capabilities in biology and genetic engineering are starting to change not only human health and the healthcare industry, but also the way we think about and manage livestock.

Industries will need to continue to leverage machine learning as an ally rather than a threat (to potential job losses, for example). With AI capabilities driving their digital transformation initiatives in an expanding digital economy, AI will to gain more prominence, giving new meaning to automation and breaking grounds for real time solutions and powered by cloud technology.

Mixed Reality

For as long as one could remember, interactions with PCs, tablets and phones have always been a simple point and click, or touch and flick. The introduction of Mixed Reality devices has transformed the way we live, engage and connect. As physical and virtual worlds intersect in new ways, mixed reality allows for a more immersive experience for working remotely or supporting future workplaces to improve collaboration, and tackle organizational challenges anytime, from anywhere.

Beyond the immersive experience however, mixed reality has gone much further in redefining how we can break down geographical barriers. Think about NASA’s Mars exploration project and how they have virtually brought Mars to Earth through mixed reality, for an entirely new way of exploration and learning experience.

Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) continues to solicit indelible support from industries worldwide as businesses undergo digital transformation. The global IoT market is expected to reach USD724.2 billion by 2023, according to a report by Research Nester. With the proliferation of technology and rapid growth of urbanization, organizations will continue to adopt and adapt to new technological solutions that will drive business to new frontiers.

New IoT solutions will leverage AI and machine learning to interact with humans and the surroundings, such as drones, self-driving cars, smart kitchens/homes which will be increasingly integrated into daily living.

IoT will also push businesses a step further – by offering them immeasurable insights into customers’ minds, and organizations will be able to create, change and ensure customers value from these insights.

Looking Ahead

We can only look forward to an exciting and smarter future, with many technologies inevitably shaping our global economies and our future. The notion that change is the only constant holds true especially in the wake of our fast paced, innovative and increasingly digitalized economy.

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