Three Trends to Dominate 2018

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Today's data-driven enterprise requires hard working analytics, but recently, the industry has been flooded with so many trends and predictions that companies may have difficulty discerning value from hype. Data saturation is at a point where businesses can practically drown themselves in data collected from various sources. To make data work for them, they need to know how to tap into its full potential with the right advancements.

Which trends should organizations pay the most attention to, and which will hold the most weight in the upcoming months? The following three will prove to rise above the others, helping organizations take advantage of their data and analytics in new and competitive ways.

IoT Ubiquity Leads to Hyper Connectivity
The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to be one of the most disruptive technological advances in recent history. In 2018, we’ll see the effects of a hyper-connected universe as the IoT becomes ubiquitous. As sensors become less expensive, devices like connected personal assistants (such as Amazon’s Alexa) and wearables that read your pulse have become mainstream. Now, consider how organizations are adopting the IoT: Traffic cameras can register everything from license plate images to pollution levels, and so-called “industrial internet” configurations have the capability to include thousands of sensors on a single manufactured item, such as a turbine.

Generating vast amounts of information, these sources have the potential to provide non-traditional data, such as video and audio, that must be centralized, contextualized, and analyzed to provide quality insights. Some intelligence will reside “at the edges,” where the sensors are; however, the data often must be analyzed in tandem with other data sources to offer value. When done correctly, IoT data offers companies unprecedented opportunities to drive efficiencies; optimize labor, energy, and other resources; cut costs; and operate more competitively.

We’re still at a stage where most organizations integrate and analyze data in batches – for instance, an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) might be updated with pulse information every 30 minutes. While batching is great to see overall trends, imagine if a doctor could spot a short heart rate spike that tends to occur 15 minutes after a medication is administered, and then settles down within a few minutes. That wouldn’t be captured by the EMR, but it’s critical for someone who wants to understand the effects of medications on patients. As organizations realize the benefits of IoT data and their investment in analytics, they’ll begin to consider how they can squeeze more advantages from the technology, and real-time analytics is where they’ll turn.

The Enhanced Power of Embedded Analytics
Organizations are coming to realize that decision-making no longer needs to be limited by the business applications they use. Instead many are embedding analytics directly into those applications. This helps employees make better decisions by getting information in a specific business context – risk information in financial services, outcomes predictions in healthcare, inefficiencies or risks in a supply chain, and so on. This unifies and simplifies the view of their businesses that their employees see, helping them make better decisions without having to learn new tools.

Say a company wants to show real-time fulfillment information to users of their Salesforce application. Right now, they generally need to provide real-time data feeds to Salesforce from their other applications, which drives up complexity, cost, and time. However, more and more companies are embedding a real-time dashboard into the Salesforce portal instead, reading directly from operational sources and blending that information with Salesforce data instead of moving the data into the Salesforce application. By creating a single view of their businesses that employees can use without leaving Salesforce, embedded analytics are helping organizations cost-effectively take advantage of the deep analytics that business intelligence, IoT, and artificial intelligence can provide.

Organizations to Advance Their Blockchain Prowess
This year, blockchain technology will continue development towards reaching its full power. Currently, there are technical limitations that must be broken in order for it to become a truly enterprise-class technology for shared, non-reputable public or private ledgers.

In 2018 industries such as healthcare, financial services, supply chain, and manufacturing will begin utilizing blockchain. For these organizations, the technology’s security will prove extremely beneficial, particularly when it comes to data integrity. Even if ledgers within a single blockchain get hacked by a third party – an unlikely event to start with – those hackers would have to change the data in almost half of all of the ledgers in order to make the blockchain stop functioning correctly. This dramatically limits the scope of damage that can be done by intrusion hacking.

Even with its security benefits, when businesses consider how to use blockchain in the coming year, it will become increasingly as important for companies to determine what they won’t share.  Transparency is at the very core of the technology, so all ledgers are public among members of the same blockchain, and all transactions are permanent. This presents unique challenges in that businesses will have access to the activity of all other vendors and can measure other dealings against their own. Organizations will need to develop work arounds that enable transparency where it’s desired without giving away the keys to the castle.

Data may be the new oil, but an organization must put that data to good use. It is the value companies extract from this data that will lead to greater insights - both for the business and for its customers. Taking advantage of these three IT trends will help organizations realize the full return on their data investments and gain the valuable information they’ve been looking for.

Jake Freivald is vice president of marketing at Information Builders.