by Ronald Ravel, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa
In recent years, the arrival and implementation of technologies such as cloud computing, 4G, and ever more portable but powerful laptops, has enabled many organisations to achieve a certain level of digital transformation – namely realising unprecedented levels of workplace mobility, efficiency and security. But given the consistent pace of digital innovation, there is an emerging wave of technologies set to drive a new era of change. While solutions such as cloud remain integral to the workplace, the arrival of virtual and assisted reality, mobile edge computing, and AI – to give just a few examples – will shift the IT landscape and drive the second wave of digital transformation.
5G unleashing digital transformation 2.0
The emergence of 5G will be a major catalyst in driving enterprise adoption of these new technologies, many of which will benefit significantly from the enhanced capacity and speed of the next generation cellular network. While mobile and flexible working have been on the radar of companies for some time, 5G opens up new pathways in the areas of IoT and edge computing – areas which boast tremendous potential in terms of boosting operational efficiency and productivity, but to date have seen slow adoption.
It is 5G’s ability to create a convergence between multiple technologies which will be particularly instrumental in shaping the way digital transformation 2.0 is undertaken by organisations. IoT and M2M solutions, for example, are given a platform to enterprise adoption by mobile edge computing solutions – all of which will benefit from 5G’s impending arrival in the commercial sphere this year.
Working at the edge
The value of mobile edge computing in an era of unprecedented enterprise mobility comes in its ability to provide secure and powerful computing at the periphery of the network. It reduces operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source – something which is already invaluable in this increasingly mobile age, and only set to become more so as data proliferation continues at an extraordinary rate. It’s no surprise then, that by 2022 IDC expects over 40 per cent of organisations' cloud deployments to include edge computing.
As a result, mobile edge computing can act as the gateway for IoT solutions to be used across the professional world, and especially by field-based and frontline workers prevalent in heavy industry, healthcare and security, to name but a few sectors. In the same way that laptops and smartphone created a new environment for office workers, mobile edge computing will do the same for these workers.
Stemming from this, we first expect to see IoT devices like wearables create a tangible impact within the realm of industry 4.0, with sectors such as engineering, manufacturing and logistics primed to take advantage. Solutions like AR smart glasses have already arrived to help mobile workers better perform their day-to-day tasks. Take, for example, warehouse workers, who can use smart glasses to assist in a variety of tasks – from manual order picking, sorting, and inventory management, to goods receipt and removal processes. Having access to location assistance and the use of voice conformations to run through checklists also enables next-level workflow and efficiency optimisation.
Security a constant priority
Of course, the opportunity provided by this new wave of technologies also brings with it the challenge of maintaining the security of an ever-growing network perimeter. Security will remain the priority for IT leaders in the age of digital transformation 2.0, with cyber-criminals evolving their methods in order to capitalise on any potential weaknesses within an organisation’s IT strategy.
Ensuring devices have additional layers of security, such as biometric solutions, can help to safeguard against the pitfalls of purely using passwords. Meanwhile, solutions which can be installed on company devices and managed centrally by IT add yet a further layer of protection. Security specialists such as Avast are specifically calling out IoT as a key battleground in 2019 as sophistication increases, while SonicWall’s research supports this stance, with the company identifying over 12,300 new variants of malware in the first six months of 2018 alone.
Organisations can protect themselves through technologies like mobile edge computing, which enables data communication to be locally encrypted and translated to a communication protocol before being sent to the company’s network core via the cloud. Ultimately though, it is important that IT managers exercise caution and implement measures which ensure file access and management can be handled centrally, while also investing in staff training so employees understand the evolving threat landscape and their role in minimising risk.
The ongoing necessity to keep a watchful eye on security is no reason, however, for organisations to shy away from embracing this next wave of digital transformation. Technology has always been a key enabler for organisations to remain competitive and successful, and that is truer than ever in 2019 as the tools arrive to deliver unprecedented organisational mobility and productivity.