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Are we reaching the limits of technology?

Published: Feb 20, 2017
Author: Vic Bhagat and Shawn Hakl

In 2016, self-driving cars were rarely out of the news, virtual reality extended its reach beyond the realm of gaming and artificial intelligence (AI) became the bedrock of new customer experiences. We expect the pace of change to carry on unabated in 2017, with the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data moving from ad hoc projects to strategic necessities. It’s going to be a period of unprecedented opportunity for those that can harness digital—and of threat for those that can’t.

The problem

But there’s an underlying problem that every organization faces. We’re expecting more and more from technology, but are we reaching the limits of what it can deliver?

Computers are running out of power.

We’ve all grown used to the limits of computing power growing incessantly. This year’s phones, games consoles and laptops are faster than last year’s, and probably cheaper too. And today, pretty much every business has access to the sort of high-performance computing that used to be reserved for things like governments breaking codes. You don’t even have to invest in hardware; with cloud you can rent tremendous amounts of computing power by the hour. But the demands have been growing quickly too. We need more compute to handle the IoT, big data and AI. And we’re approaching the limits of existing technologies.

The internet wasn’t designed for billions of connected devices.

New data from Juniper Research has found that the number of connected IoT devices will triple from 2016 to 2021, reaching over 46 billion units1. Everything’s being connected—from pipelines, cars and lamp posts to hair brushes. And that’s creating exciting opportunities. 52% of organizations aim to create new services based on IoT and 44% aim to use it to transform their business model, according to new research from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services2. We’re going to see more manufacturers become service providers, the sharing economy impact more and more sectors and cities compete to attract residents with smart services. But to get there, we’re going to need more connections—and we’re going to need them fast.

Preventative security techniques aren’t foolproof.

The amount of sensitive data being stored and processed online is growing exponentially. The costs of entry to private cloud have made it an attractive proposition even for mission-critical workloads. And even the biggest companies are turning their backs on purchasing software in favor of renting it on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis. But this growing reliance on digital means your business is increasingly vulnerable to cyber criminals. Recent high-profile data breaches have made it clear that even the strongest defenses aren’t foolproof.

The answer

What does all this mean for your digital transformation? There are new technologies available today, and others on the horizon, that could hold the answers.

Quantum computers will accelerate computing.

Scientists are investigating many different ways to keep pushing the envelope of computing power. Quantum computing is one of the most interesting. Quantum computers could be many thousands of times faster at some tasks, like complex modelling, than any computer around today. And they could enable transformation in machine learning and AI—technologies that are already pushing the envelope in new product development and customer experience. There’s not going to be a quantum chip in your laptop any time soon. But thanks to public investment and efforts by technology leaders like Google and Microsoft, quantum computing may soon be a practical reality.

SDN is helping solve today’s networking issues.

While quantum computing may still seem far-off, we’ve seen many new technologies become mainstream in just a few years. When it comes to today’s connectivity issues, the big game-changer is software-defined networking (SDN)—and we’re implementing it right now to give organizations the reliable and scalable networks they need. It’s not enough to throw more network at the problems of higher-bandwidth media and IoT growth. That simply isn’t sustainable—and, anyway, more bandwidth doesn’t necessarily equal better performance. What you need is a smarter network that uses AI to self-correct and make better use of your resources and deliver on demand. That’s why we’re pioneering the use of technologies like SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV). 

AI and machine learning are providing new ways to tackle cybercrime.

Today’s intelligent networks are also helping to tackle cybercrime. Simply building a wall isn’t enough. There are always ways to scale a wall. What you need is the ability to spot the signs of a breach and act quickly and decisively to cut it off before it causes damage. AI and machine learning are the backbone of smart networks that can respond automatically to signs that could suggest an attack and block access. And they should be even faster and more effective at responding to threats when quantum computing becomes a reality.

Early movers have the advantage

For now, surviving the onslaught of data from IoT and other new technologies doesn’t necessarily mean you need to overprovision your data center. You need to leverage the ecosystem of cloud, big data, and the other tools we have at our disposal today to drive throughput. And you need to be ready for new technologies, like quantum computing, that could be here sooner than you might imagine. We’re already working with many organizations to implement the latest networking technologies, and helping them use data analytics and AI to turn data into insight. Their first-mover advantage is likely to be extremely high.


Vic Bhagat is the Chief Information Officer of Verizon Enterprise Solutions; Shawn Hakl is a VP in Product and New Business Innovation.


1 The Internet of Things: Consumer, Industrial & Public Services 2016-2021, Juniper Research, December 2016

2 The Enterprise Lacks a Big Data Strategy for IoT Transformation, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (sponsored by Verizon), 2017