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Treading a digital path in 2019

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

In the years to come, we will most likely remember 2018 for the increase in interest in personal data ownership, following numerous data breaches impacting tech giants, unfortunate driverless car crashes and Bitcoin’s dramatic fall in valuation. Whilst you would be forgiven for thinking that 2018 was quite a damning year in many ways for the tech industry, the outlook for 2019 looks much brighter. Here are five key trends that Cognizant expects to emerge in the year ahead, as technologies continue to mature and become mainstream.

1. From machine learning to deep learning

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is evolving rapidly and we have already seen commercial uses for deep learning systems blossom in 2018, whereby computers learn by example. Across multiple industries, the potential is massive, and its market size is only set to expand next year, replacing machine learning in many functions.

Simply put, machine learning requires immense amounts of data and examples to “programme” itself to understand images and scenarios. In contrast, deep learning requires significantly fewer examples to operate. The hardware to support this type of learning is already widely available. Intel’s Nirvana chipset and even the A12 bionic chip in the iPhone XS (Max) and XR, are everyday examples.

Deep learning excels at label-less, unstructured and unsupervised learning scenarios; and we expect additional commercial impacts of this technology to come to fruition in oil exploration, energy grid management, medical diagnosis of conditions, such as epilepsy, and border control in 2019.

2. Organisations begin to view the machine as a trusted colleague

Despite the trepidation around job displacement, voiced by some over the entrance of intelligent systems into the workplace, organisations are already seeing the positive impact they can bring, building new talent pools to work in tandem with them. These systems are augmenting the job roles of highly skilled professionals in white collared industries such as healthcare and finance. And many, including the mainstream media, have viewed the emergence of these new systems as the beginning of the end for swathes of human workers. However, as outlined in 21 (and 21 more) jobs of the Future, new jobs will be born out of these new technologies. As the report predicted, roles such as Man Machine Managers will come to fruition, with others that enhance human work to follow, as workers and organisations become increasingly comfortable with intelligent systems.

3. From plastic to package-free

In 2018 the world woke up to the devastating impact of plastic waste. Now that awareness has swelled, the tech sector will respond. Getting ahead of the game, Google have recently announced a new £19m fund, Impact Challenge, for businesses using AI to address environmental and social issues.

Innovative solutions to the plastic crisis will continue to crop up. British cosmetics company, Lush, have been long-standing proponents of waste reduction – over 40 per cent of their range is package-free. But now they’ve gone one step further. Powered by Tensorflow from Google, the Lush Lens app uses AI and product recognition to eliminate the need for packaging altogether – with intuitive information about the origins of a product popping up on users’ devices on the origins of the product instead. With this tech in tow, they are trialling a store in Milan that is 100 per cent package free. We expect an increasing number of tech giants to follow in Google’s footsteps in 2019, developing innovative solutions to the world’s toughest sustainability challenges.

4. Smart talent technology takes off

For most of us, each weekday we toggle between two disparate experiences – the consumer versus the employee. The consumer has become accustomed to tailored digital experiences powered by personal data, including shopping (Amazon), banking (Monzo), fitness (MyFitnessPal) and entertainment (Netflix).

2019 will see the widespread adoption of people analytics to fuel the development of employee experiences that – finally – rival consumer experiences. Employee data, advanced analytics and AI will deepen employers’ understanding of human behaviours at work. Examples include:

  • Tackling human bias in talent management: As the online environment becomes increasingly algorithm-dominated, it is crucial that humans are wary of unwittingly reinforcing prejudices by transferring them to intelligent systems. Augmenting human decision-making with insights from impartial AI will reduce the impact of bias in recruitment, promotion and development processes.
  • Rise of the Smart Workplace: With the smart office market expected to be worth $46.11 billion by 2023, workplaces powered by sensors, IoT and big data will support employee health, wellbeing and productivity. From ensuring the optimal temperature for all staff with smart thermostats for climate control, to increased security with smart locks and sensors, the rise of the smart workplace is just beginning.
  • New and improved learning and development: Beyond employee wellbeing, organisations will pay significant attention to their development as well. For example, people analytics will ensure organisations treat skills fitness in the same way, creating hyper-personalised, responsive learning programmes.

oahOHowever, for people analytics to succeed, organisations must be quick to focus on securing employees’ trust with robust ethical and privacy measures clearly communicated upfront.

5. From transformative to ethical innovation

Although the EU has already called for companies and researchers to develop AI ethically and transparently, the issue of ethics will further shape technology decision making in 2019, as concerns around artificial intelligence and the use of customer data accelerate. Corporate brands will start establishing strong governance as machines move into process work and government regulators begin to bite.

We expect to see firms forming new multidisciplinary boards that impact technology investment and its adoption. These boards will oversee the strategic use of data and will comprise economists, philosophers, lawyers, and customer representatives. They will work on advising companies on how to develop ethically designed, data-driven products and services. Expect to hear more about “ethical innovation” in 2019 as people and machines increasingly mesh together.

In short, 2019 will be a crucial year for corporate brands around the world as they continue to tackle environmental pressures, increasing customer demand and the rise of AI. To achieve this and win in the year ahead, organisations must put more trust into the new and emerging technologies. Whether apprehensive or excited, all businesses should continue to work with experts to find ways to merge business strategy and technology seamlessly, either incorporating them into existing business models or creating new ones. Only then will they be able to meet the needs of the increasingly decisive consumer in the coming year.

Euan Davis, European Lead, Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work
Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional

Euan Davis is the European Lead for Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, which provides original research and analysis of work trends and dynamics.