Innovation is as much about improvement as it is invention. And while it's certainly natural to clamor for the next big thing, many times what's next is born from what already exists.
Such is the case for four of the most significant trends in the digital world for 2019.
One represents a giant leap forward in well-known and widely used technology. Two of our trends showcase a maturation of recent technologies only now starting to scratch the surface of their real potential. The final trend covers the neglect of one of our fastest growing yet least understood or appreciated digital resources - personal data.
All four represent varying degrees of innovation and advancement, but each has the potential to transform our lives in profound ways, both personally and professionally.
2019 Digital Trend #1: Process Automation Unlocks Seamless Data Management Practices
More and more, companies are looking for ways to automate routine, repetitive processes. Oftentimes these mundane, repetitive processes rely heavily on both paperwork and human capital.
It’s for this reason that so many companies are looking to automate. A recent survey of 500 IT and business leaders found that a whopping 51% of them intend to implement automation around mission-critical processes by 2019.
As the survey notes:
"While 16 percent of respondents say they are currently applying automation and AI to one or more mission-critical business processes, more than three times as many (51 percent) say they expect to do so by 2019. This rapid increase in adoption suggests IT and business leaders are becoming more confident that current proof-of-concept and pilot projects will move into production in the next 24 months."
In other words, IT and business leaders are finally becoming confident enough in automation technology to begin implementing it in their businesses.
The automation process, which falls under the umbrella of digital transformation, allows companies to spend less time on tedious, non-revenue generating tasks and more time on mission-critical tasks.
One key area where automation is making significant headway is in data management. Collecting, analyzing, and transferring data seamlessly between different business units or team members is an essential part of most businesses. It’s also an area that’s ripe for automation.
Generally speaking, data management is no simple task. As Pam Neely at Ko Marketing notes:
“...data has to be accurate and formatted correctly so it can be accessed. It has to be current, and you’ll have to figure out a way to keep that data “clean” so no delayed process ends up updating a field with outdated information.
Managing all those data inputs can be tough. And it isn’t going to get any easier. The number of data sources used by most marketing organizations is actually increasing.”
In other words, when you’re dealing with a large number of data inputs, it’s tough to stay on top of everything.
If you’re dealing with documents or web pages with a significant number of inputs, keeping data clean and accurate can be even more difficult.
This is where automation can be so powerful.
By using automated workflows that validate inputted data and seamlessly pass data between various documents, it’s much easier to keep data pristine and accurate. Signatures on documents can be effortlessly collected and data that is input in one location can automatically populate repeated fields where necessary to ensure that it stays the same throughout.
These kinds of automated workflows dramatically cut down on time spent fixing document errors, processing signed documents, and appropriately filing everything.
HelloWorks is designed specifically for making these types of automated workflows.
2019 Digital Trend #2: Companies Invest in Workflows to Reduce Privacy Risks and Liability
It’s a narrative that is becoming all too familiar. With each passing week, it seems there's another news story in which a massive data breach compromised the personal records of millions of individuals.
When looking at the whole of 2018, the overall numbers were discouraging. Billions fell victim to personal data invasion, mostly through cyberattacks. Although no one single breach rivaled the 2016 hack of Yahoo and its 3.5 billion compromised accounts, the past year did have its share of eye-opening hacks, including:
- Marriott - 500 million accounts breached
- Under Armour - 150 million accounts breached
- Quora - 100 million accounts breached
- Facebook - 29 million accounts breached
- Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor - 5 million accounts breached
If you’re keeping track, those five attacks rank in the top 25 largest breaches of all time, with the Marriott hack ranking second behind Yahoo incursion.
So what does the future hold? Greater personal loss of privacy and personal data? Or viable solutions to better protect our private information?
Experts agree that better management and greater protections are necessary, and the solutions are available.
Vera Security director of product marketing Jessica Marie, explains:
“I'm most excited about advancements in cybersecurity, particularly encryption technologies and securing data in the cloud/collaboration tools. Something tells me with recent breaches, this might become very necessary,” she stated.
When it comes to securing data in the cloud/collaboration tools, we’re starting to see more and more companies build secure digital tools for capturing personal information.
Companies know that 92% of malware is still delivered by email, and so they’re taking steps to gather information in other, much more secure ways.
One particularly simple way for companies to invest in greater document security is by creating digitally encrypted document workflows using HelloSign and HelloWorks.
The end-to-end encryption on these workflows ensures that sensitive data is protected from start to finish, while also ensuring that all necessary data is collected.
If you’re looking for low-hanging security “fruit”, this is an outstanding place to start.
2019 Digital Trend #3: AI Enables Intelligent Business Operations
Once upon a time, the phrase Artificial Intelligence (AI) invoked fear that machines would one day break free from their human creators and wreak havoc on a world ill-prepared to challenge them.
Okay, maybe that’s just cliched science fiction, but Artificial Intelligence is indeed on the rise, and it’s revolutionizing how businesses operate.
According to a 2018 report from Narrative Science, adoption of AI jumped from 38% in 2016 to 61% in 2017, and is expected to see continued growth.
Three core technologies are making this AI transformation possible:
- Machine Learning. The idea that a machine or an intelligent system can learn from data and use critical thinking to make informed decisions with little to no human assistance.
- Natural Language Processing. A computer science discipline concerned with teaching computers to understand and process natural human language.
- Predictive Analysis. The process of using data from existing information to make reasoned predictions about future trends and developments.
Together, these advances will put AI at the center of our personal and professional lives, assisting with everything from the mundane, such as making phone calls to set up appointments, to the increasingly complex, such as performing medical operations.
The fully realized idea of AI replacing the vast majority of human-performed duties may still be years away. However, we’re already beginning to see AI make many mundane tasks much easier.
For example, Artificial Intelligence can be used to power processes and create intelligent workflows which require significantly less manual labor than in years past.
2019 Digital Trend #4: IoT Will Jump From Consumer Devices to Business Applications
To its credit, and the developers and engineers who keep pushing technologies forward, the Internet of Things, or IoT, is rapidly transitioning from innovative curiosity to the must-have tech of today.
We are filling homes with automated functionality from smart locks to intelligent appliances to robots that can cut the grass or clean our floors. Home hubs or smart speakers - and their accompanying digital assistants like Alexa or Siri - help tie together each device.
The effortless control we now have over our comfort, entertainment, and information finding systems is unmatched versus any previous time in our history. Yet, that's only a fraction of what's possible.
The real growth in the IoT will come not in the home, but in business applications..
Of the multitude of industries aiming to connect to the IoT, health care, transportation and civic management, and energy all stand at the forefront of the new technologies.
“Everything generating data outside of a data center and connected to the Internet is at the edge,” says Oliver Schabenberger, who serves as the Executive VP and Chief Technology Officer for analytics firm SAS. “That includes appliances, machines, automobiles, streetlights, smart devices in the home, turbines, locomotives, pets and healthcare equipment.”
Imagine machines diagnosing their own repair needs or scheduling maintenance based on data collected from within the device itself.
Cities employing IoT technologies to collect data and remotely automate and manage traffic - both vehicle and pedestrian - and to better distribute and make more efficient use of public resources.
Contact lenses that measure glucose levels for individuals with diabetes or ingestible sensors that promote adherence to medical advice or provide real-time monitoring capability to a physician.
That latter development is already in the early stages of entering the marketplace.
Some estimates predict the number of connected devices will grow by more than 300% over the next 6 years, reaching over 75 billion worldwide by 2025.
Timothy Chou, who is a mathematician, author, and lecturer at Stanford University agrees.
“In the next ten years, the IoT revolution will dramatically alter power, water, agriculture, transportation, construction, health care, oil, gas and every other industrial sector of the economy. These sectors account for nearly two-thirds of the global GDP.”
He goes on to add, “Now we can connect devices, collect a lot of data, learn from it and then figure out what to do. It’s a new way of looking at the world. We’re just at the beginning of what’s possible with the future of IoT.”
Are You Ready For It?
It's difficult not to look ahead and try to wrap our imagination around what 2020 and beyond will bring for society. Between future-casting and nostalgia for inventions that have gotten us this far, it's clear we're in an incredibly exciting time of transformation.
As we move through 2019, it's important to understand and learn from the technologies that have our attention now. After all, they are certain to be the foundation for the even greater technologies that we develop tomorrow.