Top Tech Trends Changing the World

Top Tech Trends Changing the World

“The only thing constant in life is change,” said 17th century French thinker François de La Rochefoucauld.
That goes for double in the tech industry.

By 2006, the people of the world were doing 100 million Google searches every day–which, by the way, we thought was an enormous number at the time.

Now, we’re doing 4.5 billion searches a day–45 times as many–which shows just how far and wide the digital revolution is still sweeping the planet and embedding itself deeper and deeper into our everyday lives.

It took radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million users. TV did in 13. The iPhone? Just 3.5 years. Facebook took 2 years. Two summers ago, the Pokémon Go app did it just 19 days.

But when we get down to business, the real revolution isn’t happening in internet search or media. It’s in data.

There are now 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created every day, and 90% of all the data that exists in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. And all of that data that has been created in the past two years is more than all the data in human history before that point combined. That’s because we’re capturing, recording, and digitizing more of the human experience than ever thought imaginable–and it’s having sweeping implications for global business, personal freedom, and how we organize society.

Each month, ZDNet and TechRepublic editors from across the globe come together to do a deep dive on the most important topics that are transforming business and technology. These “special feature” packages combine Tech Pro Research surveys of our 10 million members with case studies, executive interviews, and original features from our cadre of 100 technology writers from around the world.

We’ve taken the intelligence from that monthly research and distilled it into the following list of four tech trends that are causing the most disruption in the world. These are the areas that are preoccupying the most brain cycles from technologists and business professionals, and they are the ones that are capturing the most investment from executives.A

1. Artificial intelligence

When we think of artificial intelligence, we still tend to think of The Terminator or Ex Machina and our fear that AI and robots could someday wipe out humanity. Even tech icons like Bill Gates and Elon Musk occasionally peddle irrational tales and dire warnings.

But the biggest problem with AI today isn’t that it’s too smart. In fact, it’s too rudimentary to be much use in many cases. One of the dirty little secrets about AI and machine learning is that they are so bad at dealing with ambiguity, gray areas, and understanding the context of data that many companies are having to hire armies of human beings to do the data sorting, data cleansing, and data preparation that’s needed to feed the algorithms pristine data so that they can do their work.

From a business standpoint, AI is all about automation, prescriptive analytics, business process automation, and driving radical efficiency. That’s why the market for AI solutions is expected to reach US $47 billion by 2020. However, keep in mind that AI’s first-cousin big data–AI need big data to do massive pattern analysis and big data needs AI to process today’s massive volume of bytes–will reach over US $200 billion by 2020.

That helps put in perspective the fact that AI is still very nascent as business solution. Nevertheless, the best way to get your startup funded is to call it an AI startup–whether you’re delivering dog food, building a selfie drone, or creating an app to organize your calendar.

2. Cybersecurity

If you read the tech headlines every day–from both ZDNet and across the web–than the topic that often sucks all the oxygen out of the room is cybersecurity. Whether it’s the latest breach of a company or government agency, a new vulnerability in a piece or popular software, or a lax security practice from a company that should have known better, there are moments every day where we can’t help but shake our heads at the sad state of cybersecurity.

The problem is that the technology industry has been so focused on innovation for the past several decades that security has too often been an afterthought. While that has improved somewhat in the last several years and many companies are now designing products that are more secure by design, the stuff that attackers target is not usually the latest and greatest but the outdated products that make easy targets. That’s why the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. We still have a lot of cybersecurity debts that need to be paid.

3. Internet of Things

For most of its history, the tech revolution has been about outwardly apparent things like computers, smartphones, and digital cameras. However, today it’s about technology disappearing into everything–from cars to home appliances to drones to stop lights to security cameras to entire cities. That’s the Internet of Things.

And while the Internet of Things brings new lots of new capabilities to lots of different objects, it’s primarily about sensors collecting data, which is allowing us to measure and quantify things in ways that were never possible before. And once we can measure and monitor things then we can manage them. We can find inefficiencies that we didn’t know existed and optimize them away.

4. Digital transformation

It’s the buzz phrase that’s arguably bouncing around businesses and the tech industry more than any other this year. Nevertheless, while the other three items on this list are all technologies, this one is not.

It’s simply about telling better stories.

The enterprise has been talking about better IT-business alignment for decades, which is evidence that it never quite sunk in. Digital transformation has finally become the catalyst–and the rallying cry–that’s making it happen. IT leaders are using it to lead with the business impact of tech projects in ways that everyone in the organization can understand.

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