December 24, 2013

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Disruptive Technology: A force for change

Introduction

Technology is everywhere you look! There is no mistake about it; technology has changed every aspect of life from how we work to the way we interact with customers, colleagues, friends and family and even with brands. However, as technology continues to advance, the challenge for businesses is to ensure that they can adapt fast enough by investing in the right technical solutions.

Technology such as cloud computing and big data has helped businesses align technology with their internal resources. For example, due to advancements in Machine to Machine (M2M) technology, businesses have been able to increase efficiency and connectivity through the sharing of big data. This has enabled businesses to gain a competitive edge over the years by empowering their employees to become more efficient in their roles. Disruptive technology continues to change the playing field among different industries and as a result, the changing roles of humans in the workplace have followed.

The evolution of technology and how it has changed the workforce

Over the last century, machines have replaced jobs that involved certain manual labour tasks such as in car manufacturing lines. This century software is beginning to simplify more menial tasks (e.g. self-service checkouts and online shopping). More and more time consuming tasks are being replaced by software, robots, automated systems and seamless processes.

In the not so distant future, self-driving cars, flying drones and even natural language systems that are able to have a conversation with humans may be able to improve an organisation’s ability to innovate and compete. Currently, the use of big data analytics and computer robotics has revolutionised how life science industries learn about and treat the human body. For instance, personal genomics and biotechnology company, 23andme, uses big data analytics to help customers learn about their health or find out about any historic genetic diseases through analysing millions of genes from a single saliva sample.

With the introduction of these new technologies, new jobs have evolved over time. For example, agriculture was the main source of income at the beginning of the last century; however, it only accounts for less than 7% of jobs today.

The fact is technology is changing the game faster than some businesses can adapt. This is creating a division of organisations that are winning and losing from the advances in technology, leading to disruption within industries.

Technology impacting the world

Over the years, technology has won the race in brain power with the creation of super computers. For example, IBM’s Watson beating the world’s greatest mind on Jeopardy and Deep Blue beating the world’s chess champion have proven their supremacy over humans in many areas.

By using technology, employees have fast access to information, making them more productive and empowering them to make faster, better decisions that lead to improved business performance. Juniper research predicts that machine intelligence will become one of the key trends for 2014, with the increase of M2M and predictive analytics. Machine learning has rapidly exceled due to increased connectivity through the transferring of shared data, creating smarter devices.

Freescale, a global leader of embedded processing solutions, uses the Internet of Things (IoT) as an enabler that makes embedded processing solutions for automotive, consumer and industrial markets. Freescale has a variety of technologies, such as microprocessors, microcontrollers, sensors and integrated circuits, which can be considered the foundational components of IoT. This will soon lead to machines carrying out a majority of the work, while humans will only need to step in if a machine reports a problem.

As information grows, we humans are finding it more and more difficult to manually analyse and store information fast enough. On average, it takes around 10,000 hours for humans to master any subject, compared to an IT system that can sift through complex data in seconds. This has led to humans trying to simplify some of the challenges in business with technology.

Yet the human brain is dominant in its ability to constantly monitor multiple input streams simultaneously, synthesize them into meaningful and unified models of the world, and take immediate action based on sophisticated analysis that computers simply do not have. As a result data scientists, analysts, architects and firms that provide Big Data as a service (BdaaS) are growing in demand as these roles have specialised expertise that compliment technology.

Computing power has become a major resource for businesses across industries. The accelerated advancements in technology have allowed more and more people to access shared information, compared to 50 years ago when only the privileged few had access to these resources.

The speed of innovation

According to Moore’s Law of observation, computing chips’ processing power will double every two years. Moore’s Law has pushed and guided the technology industry since 1965, meaning that the latest technology today has an even shorter life-span with the newest technology waiting around the corner.

Just look around and you can see how technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. The latest tablet and smart phones are being updated every six months or so, with mobile updates available almost every week on average. This presents challenges for organisations that want to implement a Bring Your Own Device policy (BYOD) or improve how they manage mobility within their organisation. Moore’s law has been a critical factor in the revolution of computers, making them smaller and more powerful to create smartphones and other tiny gadgets.  World renowned American theoretical physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, believes that we will reach our limits of silicon-based chips in about 10 to 20 years. As Dr. Kaku states “Computer power cannot maintain its rapid rise as a result of limitations in materials such as silicon.”

The challenges facing technology includes theability to intelligently filter large volumes of data to identify specific problems, queries or answers. Take for example Google search: you type in a key word and it comes up with millions of possible answers to your search that may not be accurate. It is then up to the user to refine the search to locate the right information manually until they find what they are looking for. This concept is also true with Apple’s Siri or Google’s Now voice recommendation software; they do not always give the user want they want, as computers have not mastered words that have different profound meanings across the world.

What’s next

To continue innovating in the future, we must learn to work with technology. Technology has become a tool for everyone to better themselves and their business. The answer is not to compete with technology but work with it and find a balance between technology and humans.