To realize the full potential of AI, robotics and other revolutionary technologies, businesses must redesign their infrastructures to enable real-time action in dynamic environments. In a future teeming with smart solutions, the Internet of Thinking will be the great enabler.

Advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and other disruptive technologies are increasingly giving businesses the opportunity to add value in real time. Smart sensors and IoT devices are everywhere, in every corner of our lives, providing ever deeper insights into a constantly expanding range of events and interactions. By 2020, these sensors are expected to generate more than 507.5 zettabytes of data annually, harvesting a wealth of information for companies to act on.

But therein lies the challenge: while these intelligent technologies are more than capable of transmuting immense amounts of data into exciting new value propositions, they also impose new demands on IT infrastructure. Real-time decision-making in dynamic environments requires greater speed and processing power than traditional centralized approaches or even the cloud can provide.

Without real-time processing, real-time applications and solutions cannot exist. To unlock the full potential of dynamic, intelligent action, businesses will have to modernize their hardware and infrastructure along with their mindset, adding new edge computing capabilities to build the Internet of Thinking

Why Your Business Should Focus on the Edge

Self-driving vehicles will transform transportation in many ways, but increased road safety is perhaps one of the most promising sides of the equation. Every day, some 3,400 people are killed in traffic accidents around the world. With artificial intelligence behind the wheel, society as a whole can count on drivers that are capable of seeing far more than any human and reacting accordingly, all without ever getting tired or losing focus.

The benefits are plain to see, but achieving this level of intelligent decision-making relies heavily on the vehicle’s ability to process a constant stream of sensor readings in real-time. If a pedestrian steps out into the roadway, the car must react immediately. Even half a second could make the difference between life and death. In situations like these, offloading sensor data to the cloud for processing would be unthinkable. Inputs must be processed as they arise using tailor-made hardware, enabling continuous intelligent action without the delays inherent in software or cloud-based approaches.

Image: Technology Vision 2018 - Trend 5 Internet of Thinking - Icon - by AccentureThe same rings true for all real-time applications. As the proliferation of smart sensors puts more data at your disposal and machine learning enhances your ability to translate that data into added value, the need for robust, dependable computing capabilities at the leading edges of your network will only continue to increase. Artificial intelligence, robotics and other transformative technologies will pave the way for new products and services and help you build better relationships with consumers, but to use these technologies effectively, you will need to drastically reconsider your business processes, strategy, infrastructure and hardware.

The Answer to Disruption Is Vision

In many ways, the Internet of Thinking can be seen as a key prerequisite for progress. Edge computing will prove to be a fundamental enabler in the years ahead, effectively becoming one of the cornerstones on which new products and services are built. Companies that lack the infrastructure necessary to process vast amounts of data at the edges of their networks risk being unable to capitalize on the opportunities presented by AI and robotics.

That said, as important as the development of new hardware and IT capabilities will be for the future of your company, the biggest elephant in the room is disruption. A wide range of industries will see major changes as the advantages of edge computing are applied to their automation challenges, from near-dark factories in the manufacturing and resource sectors to next-gen machine vision in agricultural businesses.

Image: Technology Vision 2018 - Trend 5: Internet of Thinking - Illustration - by Accenture

But while your competitors may siphon business away from you by using edge computing to better align their value propositions with the realities of tomorrow, new entrants will sooner shatter the status quo than wage a war of attrition. No industry is immune to this. Radical changes are coming and the only way to prepare for them is by creating a strong future vision of your own.

Juxtapose your current business models against the future needs of your clients and extrapolate the impact that innovative technologies will have on your core activities. This will help you spot disruption before it happens and establish a timeline for your own infrastructure transformation, helping you pivot from potential disruptee to potential disruptor.

Exploring a Future Full of Potential

While nobody can say exactly what the future will look like, one thing is certain: we are on the verge of unbelievable breakthroughs that will completely reshape business and society.

Combining extended reality with smart sensors and machine learning will allow us to greatly enhance human insights and abilities in a wide range of applications, from practical concepts like the Connected Industrial Worker to more distant visions like augmented intelligence. Imagine a firefighter who is able to look at a burning building and immediately see how many people are on each floor, along with real-time updates about their movements and current risk levels. This kind of insight would dramatically improve decision-making in crisis response situations, allowing first responders to concentrate their efforts on high-risk areas without losing track of the bigger picture.

Similarly, healthcare robots equipped with artificial intelligence and local computing resources could provide patients with superlative care within the confines of their own homes, relaying vital statistics to hospitals and alerting specialists at the first sign of trouble. As life expectancies continue to climb around the globe, solutions like these will help us remain self-sufficient in our old age while simultaneously reducing strain on medical personnel and care facilities.

These examples both rely heavily on edge computing to deliver their intended value and they are only the tip of the iceberg. The ongoing development of neuromorphic chips like Intel’s Loihi will help businesses add increasingly human-like capabilities to the edge, while novel approaches to swarm computing will enable further decentralization, increasing the versatility of robots, drones and sensors.

From closed-loop irrigation systems tending crops across hundreds of acres without human intervention to fully autonomous factories that minimize waste and maximize efficiency, we are headed toward a bright, data-driven future – one where your competitive advantage increasingly lives on the edge.

The Time to Prepare is Now

Image: Technology Vision 2018 - Trend 5: Internet of Thinking - Statistic - by AccentureWhat will the future of your organization look like? How will edge computing help you integrate intelligent technologies into your business and deliver new value in an increasingly dynamic world? Which new opportunities will the Internet of Thinking present, and how will it allow you to distinguish yourself from your competitors?

As we move toward a world where your ability to deliver real-time value determines your relevance as a company, these are the questions that should be on your mind. Formulating an effective strategy for your hardware and IT capabilities will be critically important to the development of your business.

Of course, you don’t have to disrupt your core business right out of the gate. You don’t have to go it alone, either. Small steps are often better than big leaps, especially when you venture off the beaten path. Find allies in your ecosystem and work with them. Embrace the experimenter’s mindset and develop your vision for the future alongside your primary value propositions. And above all, keep developing and refining your strategy as you work toward your goal.

The game is changing, that much is abundantly clear. And if you want to play, now is the time to start.

To watch this video you need to accept marketing cookies

Get inspired and learn what the Technology Vision 2018 trends can mean for your future business. Sign up for an exciting and meaningful deep dive at Accenture’s NanoLab in Heerlen. Please contact Kelly Claessens for more info.