This article was originally published on The Guardian and is reproduced with permission from The Guardian.
From opinionated robots to the frictionless flow of data between departments, here are the key tech trends and movements that are likely to transform the way we work.
1. Automation and artificial intelligence (Al)
A new level of self-training is allowing robots to draw their own conclusions and make deductions that haven’t been hard-coded into them, so that when looking at large volumes of data, they can point things out that humans would probably have missed, leading to brand-new thinking.
“Take CCTV and real-time video, which produces a volume of footage that can be impenetrable to humans,” says Ron Brown, DXC Technology’s chief technologist for the public sector in the UK. “AI can begin to make sense of it by looking for specific things that we know we want to watch for, but also by discovering things that we hadn’t even thought of.”
2. Human interfacing
Powered by the rise of smartphones, more than 80% of computer use is now through mobile devices, yet, frustratingly, a high percentage of business apps can’t be used without a keyboard, says Brown.
The key to changing this is the human interface, with people using mobile devices to access systems through technology such as speech and face recognition. In essence, your identity is contained within your mobile device.
3. Internet of things (IoT)
We are now moving into the second generation of IoT, with sensors that can enable devices to make their own autonomous decisions and carry out processes that go beyond simple data gathering.
It’s a technology that is already maturing in the domestic market, with applications such as webcams and remote lighting controls. With reliable networks and improved security, there will also be huge potential civic uses, too.
4. Smart cities
Smart cities deploy communication and information technologies to improve services and the way the city is run, such as supporting public transport that can respond to varying demands and lighting systems that can be optimised to reduce energy bills.
Mesh networks are set to take smart cities to the next level. They involve a collection of access points that talk to each other, making them more reliable, cheaper and able to take advantage of 5G, with download speeds and bandwidths hundreds of times greater than current ones.
“These good connections, which are stable and can take massive data volumes, change the game completely,” says Brown. “All of a sudden, autonomous vehicles and drones become a reality.”
5. The digital enterprise
The idea of a digital enterprise is one where information has been digitised and technical barriers removed, allowing what Brown calls “the frictionless flow of data between departments”.
This “machine-to-machine” interface not only speeds things up, but also encourages the sharing of ideas, greater cooperation and the destruction of workplace silos.
Blockchain technology provides a shared digital record of a transaction, securely logging where something has come from and where it’s going. Within a digital enterprise, it can be applied to back-end systems, reducing the threat of cyber risk as departments interact with each other.
It can also provide a secure and verifiable audit trail of transactions between a department and citizens, without the need for paper or digging into databases.
7. Cyber risk
“The cyber risk landscape has changed,” says Brown. “In the old days, we used firewalls to put a fortress around a business or a department, but that no longer works if you’re going to have good collaboration, with departments and teams freely sharing information.”
What’s required now, he explains, is the migration to a new way of thinking and the acceptance that not everything needs the same level of defence. So, instead of the fortress approach, “what you effectively have to do is put a defence around individual data stores and devices”.
8. Flexible workforce
Brown advocates a “mobile first” policy that recognises that people do so much with their devices at home, yet, “when they get to work, the technology is 10 years out of date and they’re forced to use a paving slab of a laptop”.
Instead, he believes, they should be able to choose to use their own device, something they’re familiar with and can help them be more productive. Some organisations are doing this, but many are yet to take this step.
When he uses his own device for work, an app kicks in and splits his personal stuff from his work, he explains. “It ensures I conform to security policies and allows the company to wipe the business side of my device if they feel I’ve been compromised, but without touching my personal stuff.”
This, he says, is not complex or expensive. The technology has been around for quite some time. “What’s slowed down its adoption is culture change.”
9. Digital talent
Replatforming and digitising more processes and data can dramatically change the skill set a department requires, with a significant shift in demand for people skilled in information integration, analytics and information governance.
These digital skills are scarce and demand is high, so the public sector will need to start to think outside the box, looking to new ideas such as “bring your own team” and even posts on crowdsourcing sites, to find the talent they need.
10. The rise of intelligent decision-making
“It’s time to stop guessing and start measuring,” says Brown. “By harnessing dispersed data from across business processes, you can start to power data-driven decision-making.”
By joining up these disparate pockets of data, organisations can get a much better overall view of performance, helping them to improve productivity and meet their own KPIs.