Nationwide’s Partnership With RiskBlock Signals New Era For Blockchain

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The Butterfly Effect is a concept that states that “small causes can have larger effects.” It was originally used in theories about weather predication, and it examined that small changes in the atmosphere caused by something as seemingly minute as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one corner of the world, could go on to cause a tornado in another part. And it’s this theory that truly reflects, for me, what we will see in the technology landscape this year.

2017 was driven largely by three technologies—artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain—and all three have gained traction. AI got smarter and more practical, blockchain emerged as a strong player in cryptocurrency and at the same time, IoT continued to push automation and data exchange.

In 2018, I believe we will witness a heightened emphasis on these technologies which will now come together and connect seemingly disparate elements in real-time, and deliver enhanced, connected, and optimized futures for all of us.

And like the Butterfly Effect, these technologies are well positioned to come together in many minuscule ways that will consequently drive broader value and perspective shifts—leading to true transformative changes.

A real promise of human value will drive engagement

Blockchain, which has undoubtedly demonstrated potential far beyond its bitcoin beginning, is even more powerful when integrated with AI. A great example is when it’s applied to supply chain, specifically for improving workflow and visibility of shipments.

Consider the vast number of people and organizations involved in a shipping process, with a single vessel carrying hundreds of shipments involving lots of paperwork. Blockchain not only helps manage and track the paper trail, it can reduce fraud, time, waste, and cost, and ensures complete end-to-end transparency. Couple to this AI, which can be used not only for logistics but the ordering of materials and parts.

Similarly, with AI, we are beginning to see the emergence of assistive technology that works to augment human capabilities. A good case in point is the creation of glasses that help the visually impaired to “see” using automated voice-based descriptions of the environment.

By integrating AI, the solution helps eliminate the role of a human assistant, and provides the user autonomy and privacy. The visually impaired person wearing the glasses will no longer require physical assistance to manage every-day tasks like reading signs or menus—AI will help him or her achieve that.

Technology will evolve to present itself in interesting forms

If 2017 was all about making the technology mark, 2018 will be about making the societal mark. Companies will begin to strongly think about how they can leverage and localize emerging technologies to build use cases that can help solve real-world challenges.

Also, no valuable technology will remain an independent entity or purely as technology for technology’s sake. Organizations will see these pieces become more integrated into most solutions or technology that they buy—and to benefit from them, they need to consciously build a big-picture view of things that matter.

A great example here are solutions that layer cognitive capabilities to customer inputs/queries. A customer email or query sent in at a sports store or retailer asking for a product or model can instantly and automatically activate a search into the stock systems and suggest a suitable response to the customer support agent, even as he reads the email or query received.

Unlike what we are used to currently, there is no lag or manual process coming in between the query and system equipping the customer agent with the information he needs. The whole point of this example is that it demonstrates how AI can be used innovatively to augment the human workforce and enhance our abilities to assist customers quickly, effectively, and intelligently.

Going a step beyond this, I also expect that we will see the creation of similar, more sustainable use cases of technology that will help humans evolve in their jobs and roles. Organizations must leverage these technologies to repurpose their workforce onto high value tasks.

Cognitive technologies will become efficient aids to rethink possibilities

Every one of us, at some point, may well have questioned what these emerging technologies really are. And one of the noticeable aspects of the transformative age will be the fact that we will be forced to rewrite many of our perspectives on what we think is achievable.

I’ve seen many customers view these emerging technologies from a safe distance, often believing that their market is not yet mature enough for these new technologies. But just as pilots cannot fly planes without a dashboard, CEOs today cannot grow their companies without these cognitive technologies forming a foundational layer.

Big Data drives organizational success to a large extent and advanced analytics function are like the eyes and ears of the business. Now poised to be part of the organizational DNA, predictive analytics is making a play through advanced AI as well. What we are seeing is a linking of these technology elements to human capital, machine capital, and the business processes itself, making emerging tech an inextricable part of our industrial futures.

Opportunities for enhancing human potential will drive smart cities

Over the past months, the concept of enabling “smart cities” has grown to become manifestations of several innovations that drive purposeful human transformation. Technologies supporting the rollout of these smart cities will no longer be limited to resource utilization or space optimization.

In the coming year, we will see a concerted evolution of smart technologies that will grow and address human aspiration and sustainability concerns. And governments across the region will need to take in a complex array of interconnected and interactive technologies.

With the emergence of the suite of IoT technologies, including smart transportation, smart grids, vertical forests, and cloud connectivity, the inherent efficiencies of urban living are set to be enhanced exponentially. However, these technologies are only the enablers of smart cities. Ultimately, it is the intelligent and resourceful harnessing of their possibilities that truly creates the transformation.

Looking ahead, I believe that the butterfly wings’ knock-on effect and convergence of these technologies will manifest in a world of unprecedented possibilities and opportunities. Leveraging these capabilities should remain the defining paradigm of our emerging future.

For more on this topic, see Risk Management And The Butterfly Effect.

This article originally appeared on Forbes SAPVoice.

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