While there are a multitude of technology trends in 2021, three with the greatest potential to transform your organization are Artificial Intelligence (AI), event-driven architecture (EDA), and the 5th generation mobile network (5G).
Technology is always evolving, and organizations that evolve with it tend to thrive. Take Kodak, for example. Did you know the company invented the digital camera in 1975? Kodak never released the innovation because its executives feared it would interfere with their lucrative film business. Ultimately, the disruptive technology undermined Kodak’s business model; the company filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
Perhaps William Wordsworth put it best: “Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, to live better in the future.” We believe harnessing these three tech trends can help advance your organization’s mission, so you can provide a brighter future for the people you serve.
Technology Trend 1: Artificial Intelligence (AI)
By 2025, the global AI market is expected to be almost $60 billion.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the theory and development of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages . Essentially, we “teach” computers to perform tasks without explicit programming. Instead, they “learn on their own” using defined rules.
AI is not a totally new technology, but it is transforming how individuals, companies, and governments operate in what Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
For example, identifying potential examples of fraud was a time-consuming, data-intense task for auditors and investigators at the U.S. Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG). We collaborated with the OIG to deliver an AI solution: the Grants Analytics Portal (GAP). The GAP centralizes grants data and identifies key data patterns using advanced machine learning (ML) models. Modernizing the OIG’s system with AI is not only saving auditors time but also helping the agency combat fraud, waste, and abuse—all of which reduced cost and improved efficiency.
Applications and Advantages of AI
Other applications of AI technology that can help organizations make measurable gains in business value include contract management, digital commerce, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and human resources (HR). Automating repetitive, toilsome tasks so employees can focus on high-value work that moves an agency toward its goals is a key benefit of AI.
Automating repetitive, toilsome tasks so employees can focus on high-value work that moves an agency toward its goals is a key benefit of AI.
Transparency, however, has been an issue with AI. How do you ensure an algorithm isn’t discriminating based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, for example? Inspecting, documenting, and making clear the steps a machine takes to make its recommendations is an emerging approach known as Explainable AI (XAI).
Scalability has been another issue with AI. Organizations have struggled with repeatably and reliably training, validating, and deploying ML algorithms at scale to reap consistent benefit. Machine Learning Operations (MLOps) addresses this need. Think of MLOps as similar to DevOps—but for AI. It can help you set goals, develop the necessary models, and then establish automated routines to operate, monitor, and regularly retrain them, ensuring consistency and repeatability with AI across the organization.
Technology Trend 2: Event-Driven Architecture (EDA)
“Incorporating event-driven architecture into your enterprise data strategy makes data more fluidly available in real time, accelerating your delivery agility and improving your business insights.” – Forrester
Another tech trend shaping the future is event-driven architecture (EDA). EDA is a software architecture paradigm that uses events to trigger interaction and communicate between loosely coupled services and components. An event is a change in state, or update, within the system. For example, if an ecommerce website had an EDA, placing an item in your shopping cart would be an event.
Event producers, event routers, and event consumers are three main components of EDA. An event producer puts out an event to the router, which filters and pushes the events to consumers. The consumers listen for events that will cause them to act, since not all events will trigger action by every consumer. Producer services and consumer services are decoupled, which allows them to be scaled, updated, and deployed independently. Using our ecommerce example again, purchasing the item in your shopping cart would trigger, or produce, another event. An event router would ingest, filter, and push this event out. Two consumers of the event would be the warehouse and the shipping departments. They will listen for the purchase event and ingest it. When they do, they take the necessary action to process and ship the order independently.
Applications and Advantages of EDA
Apache Kafka is an example of an open-source EDA that uses event streaming. Event streaming can enable real-time analysis and decision making within an enterprise. It’s particularly useful for detecting fraud, automating supply chains, stopping security threats, and making data-driven predictions.
Unlike a RESTful API, the producer and consumer services of an EDA can be decoupled and perform their tasks independently. They don’t have to request data from one another and wait for a response; in fact, they don’t even have to know each other exists. Decoupling services like this can reduce the need to share information, eliminate organizational dependencies, and keep the complexity, risk, and cost of software solutions down. EDA can enable scalability, resilience, and flexibility within an organization—all the things you want when building, delivering, and operating systems and services. That’s why LinkedIn switched to an EDA ten years ago when it was growing into the world’s largest professional network.
Enterprises are taking advantage of this tech trend for another reason too: auditability. Since events can’t be changed, they can serve as a record—or “business narrative”—of what has occurred over time. Should the organization have to explain a decision, like why they rejected a customer’s insurance application, for example, events can provide a valuable record.
EDA is ideal for situations in which speed and agility are paramount, making it an excellent choice for microservices implementations and accelerating the training and deployment of machine learning models.
Technology Trend 3: 5th Generation Mobile Network (5G)
“5G is destined to be a key technology in public-sector digital transformation initiatives.” – Gartner
How is 5G an improvement on 4G? 5G can operate on a wider range of the radio spectrum: the mid- and low-frequency bands under 6 gigahertz (GHz), known as “Sub-6GHz,” that can travel long distances and penetrate concrete walls; and the extremely high frequency (30GHz-300GHz) millimeter waves, referred to as “mmWave,” that can deliver rapid download speeds and handle large quantities of data—as long as they aren’t blocked by any obstacles.
Applications and Advantages of 5G
Compared to 4G, 5G is significantly faster, delivering up to 20 gigabits-per-second (Gbps) peak data rates and 100+ megabits-per-second (Mbps) average data rates9. To put these numbers in perspective, you can download your favorite movie in three seconds with 5G—unless it’s The Godfather or Avengers: Endgame, in which case it might take another second or two.
However, speed isn’t the only improvement with 5G. The shift to 5G can enable entirely new business applications, ways to engage with customers and stakeholders, and approaches to performing current tasks. This is because 5G can offer a 100x increase in traffic capacity and network efficiency over 4G and a 10x decrease in end-to-end latency down to 1 millisecond (ms).
Such capabilities can support the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and mission-critical communications. For example, teams can remotely operate smart equipment with 5G, saving on travel costs. Connected medical devices can monitor and send data on patients’ vitals from a hospital to a doctor’s office in real time. When combined with ML-driven algorithms, 5G can allow vehicles to share information with each other and report on traffic patterns and accidents. This data can be processed faster because 5G networks can move data processing closer to the edge; their dense, distributed access architecture allows each node to share more information.10 Ultimately that creates new opportunities. Could vehicles work together to re-route around traffic accidents or adjust their speed to prevent traffic jams?
Beyond Trend to Technological Transformation
While we believe each of these three technological trends is significant individually, it’s the confluence of all these trends working together that has huge potential to shape the future for your organization.
Of course, we understand there can be hurdles to such technological transformation for enterprises and agencies. See our full presentation of these three tech trends for some ideas on how to overcome common challenges to adopting new technologies in Taking Advantage of Trends to Transform the Future.