The rollout of 5G will enable a rapid rise of IoT and AI, changing everything — again — for CIOs.
CIOs and CTOs have managed rapid digital transformation, yet even bigger change is coming. Soon. The impending rollout of 5G networks will enable a more rapid scaling of Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) platforms. This signals a major turning point in digital transformation in the enterprise, as technology leaders will be challenged to leverage these changes to boost the customer experience while protecting endpoints and data.
Enterprise CIOs and CTOs gathered recently for a roundtable, sponsored by T-Mobile for Business at the New York Stock Exchange, to discuss this significant wave of change about to crash ashore and wash over their global IT organizations.
All acknowledged that within a few years, AI platforms will routinely churn through unfathomable volumes of data generated by billions of IoT devices connected over 5G networks. As a result, organizations will have unprecedented opportunities to deliver entirely new customer experiences. Yet each enterprise will be similarly challenged to leverage the ‘big three’ (AI, IoT and 5G) to improve operations and processes and develop new products and services — all in the name of competitive advantage.
Who’s driving the change?
IoT growth projections are roughly 25 percent per year for the next several years, reaching a half trillion dollars globally within three years. Deloitte predicts the number of mobile providers launching 5G networks globally will double from 25 to 50 by the end of next year. Accenture research on the impact of AI in 12 industrialized countries found that AI could double annual economic growth rates by 2035 through changing the very nature of work.
Make no mistake: The building wave of 5G-IoT-AI is as inevitable as it is enormous. The potential for disruption and change was not lost on the panel participants.
To Eash Sundaram, executive vice president and digital and technology officer at JetBlue Airways Corp., there is little question that consumers will drive the transformation triggered by these emerging technologies. “Consider what happened with the iPhone. Consumers drove the smart phone revolution and the enterprise adoption naturally followed,” Sundaram said.
The CIO of a major enterprise communications company agreed, saying, “Consumers will pull 5G into the enterprise, without doubt.”
JetBlue’s Sundaram noted that his company’s decision to provide free high-speed internet connectivity on its flights is another example of consumer-driven transformation. JetBlue customers want, and now expect, to have a consumer internet experience while flying. JetBlue went a step further than other airlines in offering this service free of charge on all domestic flights, and is working on boosting connection speeds.
Securing the mountains of data
Sundaram believes the challenge with the explosion in IoT devices on 5G networks lies in linking them in ways that augment the customer experience. With regard to security, Sundaram says his experience and his ‘glass half-full’ philosophy lead him to think that the tenacious work of security experts will keep enterprises relatively safe.
However, the founder and CTO of a fast-growing security start-up said the velocity and sophistication of attacks is growing fast, leading him to question whether this will slow the expected boom in enterprise IoT devices. He said security in this emerging IoT environment would be the responsibility of AI platforms capable of quickly noting anomalies from enormous streams of IoT and network data. But, as he and others noted, AI can be deployed to hack these devices as well.
This cautionary view was echoed by Dr. David Dodd, vice president and chief information officer of Information Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology. “I see high-speed 5G networks and IoT becoming commoditized,” Dodd said. “But rest assured the bad guys are actively figuring out how to compromise millions of new endpoints. How the enterprise will prepare for this reality and secure it will be a serious challenge.”
Neil Green, vice president and transformation chief digital officer at Otis Elevator Co., says his company is already benefitting from IoT sensors and high-speed networking to sharply reduce elevator downtime, an aggravation to which most everyone can relate. Otis is actively mining sensor data to reduce major delays due to door malfunctions. Analyzing sensor data allows Otis to accurately predict minor failures that can lead to total shut down, thus limiting most repairs to short intervals when traffic is light.
Green also spoke of the potential to leverage anonymous facial recognition and other data to predict who is using elevators and when (millennials, business executives, high-end shoppers, etc.), thereby allowing clients to deliver highly targeted advertising. “Digital transformation is all about the data, and a lot of us are struggling to figure out how to monetize it,” Green said.
This last point suggests one more challenge for CIOs: Beyond building improved customer experience and better security, what are the products and services these technologies will enable and how can they be monetized?