The Essential Tech Watch List for Enterprises in 2017

Singapore, January 16, 2017

The Essential Tech Watch List 2017
1) Business adoption of AI and machine learning takes off 
Fed a diet of big data and powerful compute capabilities, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will experience a major growth spurt in 2017. 
“AI and ML are being propelled forward by the emergence of deep learning neural networks that are able to make use of new types of data such as video, audio and unstructured data in a wide range of applications,” said Dr Clifton Phua, Director, Advanced Analytics, Smart & Safe City Centre of Excellence, NCS."
The key drivers for AI/ML are coming from the business, Dr Clifton Phua, Director, Advanced Analytics, Smart & Safe City Centre of Excellence, NCS observed. AI/ML has the potential to make businesses more competitive. At the same time, adoption is made feasible with the maturity (and falling cost) of technology and the availability of data. 
Dr Phua cited the example of call centres which are currently labour-intensive and therefore costly to operate. With the ability to capture large volumes of customer interaction data, there will be an emergence of AI/ML applications such as chatbots to complement existing call centre capabilities and reduce the load on human agents.
2) Chatbots get businesses talking
Powered by AI, advanced analytics and advancements in speech recognition, the usefulness of chatbots will go beyond information search. One key application that has been widely discussed is that of a chatbot as a virtual personal assistant at work or at home. The chatbot will become an essential part of a person’s daily life, taking over mundane tasks such as scheduling appointments, booking transportation to a meeting, checking inventory levels, tracking the delivery status of goods and the list of possibilities go on. 
Separately, as platforms and devices evolve, a space where chatbots will present exciting new possibilities is in the world of wearables. The small form factor of many wearables makes it virtually impossible to make use of traditional forms of input such as the keyboard. However, with advancements in speech recognition and chat capabilities, users will be able to communicate with their devices using voice.
At the enterprise level, another interesting concept is that of a federated chatbot, where a central chatbot directs users to the relevant chatbot that will provide the right answer to their questions or help them to access the service that they need. For example, a central chatbot in a bank could help direct different types of banking and transactional enquiries to the relevant chatbots within the bank. This is especially helpful where there is a diverse ecosystem of service offerings. 
“Imagine a future where there is a whole ecosystem of connected chatbots talking to each other, enabling tasks to be done without the need for much human intervention, allowing us to focus on what is important and on areas where humans cannot be replaced by technology and robots,” said Mr Ng Chong Hin, Director of the Chief Architect Office, Business Application Services, NCS.
3) Security systems learn to adapt
AI and ML also pave the way for a more adaptive approach to tackling cyber threats. Self-learning security systems will be able to analyse the behaviour of users and entities, establish a baseline and correlate this with other users and entities using statistical models. When the system detects any behaviour that is out of the norm, for example, a user visiting sites that he does not normally visit or downloading things that he does not usually download, it will send out alerts and take proactive action to deal with the potential threat.  
There are many potential applications of AI and ML in cybersecurity, for example, to detect exploits such as advanced persistent threats, insider threats and data breach malware, noted Dr Phua. However, this also assumes that the necessary data sources are available. Providing a reality check, he said, “In a real-life scenario, to have effective adaptive security, you could need 10 data sets, but you have only three, so the capabilities are limited because not all the data is available. The techniques are there, but you may not have a complete data landscape.”
4) Mixed reality enters enterprise mainstream 
Mixed Reality (MR), which encompasses the benefits of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies, is another technology that is expected to make further inroads into the enterprise in 2017.  
MR enables users to experience a blended environment where virtual objects are anchored spatially in the real world and behave like real objects, explained Mr Ng. It also adopts Simultaneous Location And Mapping (SLAM) technology which allows it to sense the real environment and use it as a canvas to provide users with a unique immersive experience.
In the business and industrial world, MR can be applied in areas such as training, design, collaboration and communications. For example, with MR, realistic holographic images of sophisticated or heavy equipment can be used to save training costs and allow for a more productive learning experience.
MR also sets the stage for new ways to collaborate. People in different locations will be able to view, discuss and collaborate on the same holographic image such as the 3D model of a building. “We are no longer limited to binary data, text or images,” said Mr Ng.
The business value of MR will become clearer as more and more enterprises start to evaluate the technology. “With the rise of MR, companies will need to start thinking about how they can incorporate MR into their daily business as part of their digital transformation,” said Mr Ng. “They need to keep up with the times and find ways to make use of MR to improve productivity and deliver greater business value.”

“With the rise of Mixed Reality (MR), companies will need to start thinking about how they can incorporate MR into their daily business as part of their digital transformation. They need to keep up with the times and find ways to make use of MR to improve productivity and deliver greater business value,” adds Mr Ng.
5) Blockchain experimentation begins in earnest
2017 will also be the year that organisations start to experiment with blockchain to have a better grasp of its nuances so as to maximise the value of the technology.
Mr Liang Seng Quee, Director, Future Technology Office, NCS, described blockchain as an “empowering mechanism” that enables users to securely send and receive digital assets over networks (including the untrusted public network). The technology enables the community to validate that the asset transfer is legitimate without the need for a “trusted intermediary”. 
The immutable, tamper-proof and irrevocable nature of the mechanism allows users to peg a value to a piece of blockchain content which could be monetary (as in the case of bitcoin), or non-monetary (for example, an identity registry). 
“Blockchain will be a game changer,” said Mr Liang. “Today, we go to a trusted party because the person or organisation ‘owns’ certain information that we believe to be accurate and correct. However, if the information were to be put onto a secured distributed database such as blockchain, the trusted party will no longer be needed.”
With many of today’s work processes and governance frameworks designed around trust parties, it is inevitable that blockchain will have an impact on governance and on different roles and responsibilities. “Where we now delegate our trust to a certain party, trust will come to be governed by the ecosystem,” said Mr Liang. 

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Source:Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction