Technology professionals are gathered here at Spiceworld in Austin, Texas, Spiceworks' annual conference, to share their tips and tricks on making their CIOs happy, ensuring their end-users satisfied, and more importantly, keeping their IT operations up and running. But these days, no discussion about IT is complete without mentioning effects that the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies are having on the workplace.
The industry has high hopes for these next-generation technologies.
In June, IDC forecast that spending on IoT devices and services would balloon to nearly $1.4 trillion in 2021. Recently, technology research firm Tractica predicted that the AI market will reach $43.5 billion by 2024. Enterprises will account for a little over $11 billion of that total, a big jump from the $202.5 million they are expected to spend on AI hardware, software and services.
In the here and now, those technologies are having some measurables effect on how IT workers are doing their jobs and delivering business results, according to a roundtable discussion held at Spiceworld today.
But first, IT professionals are laser-focused on the security implications of adding IoT, AI and augmented and virtual reality (AR, VR) solutions to their IT environments. Expecting to get hacked, William Brown, information security officer at Engaging Solutions, an Indianapolis, Ind. IT consulting firm, takes zero chances.
As a precautionary measure, Brown's team places IoT devices on a guest network, preventing attackers from reaching deep into the main network and accessing sensitive data. Additionally, he advises his fellow IT professionals to make sure their IoT vendors stick to their patch schedules. "If you don't patch, there's a bot waiting out there waiting," he warned.
Those precautions can spare companies a lot of grief. Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, revealed that "29 percent of organizations have adopted Internet of Things devices in the workplace," according to a survey of 1,000 IT professionals conducted by his company.
And adoption IoT is rising. Tsai noted that 48 percent of organizations intend to deploy IoT devices by the end of 2018.
Generally, the IoT has enabled Engaging Solutions to run more efficiently. Rather than physically travel to his company's server room to check on a potential climate control issue in the middle of the night, he can access sensor data and assess the situation remotely.
Despite the IoT's benefits, IT pros are more bullish about the role of AI in the workplace and society at large. AI has the most potential to revolutionize how work is done, according to Christian Lind, IT director of Nebraska Cancer Specialists. For example, the combination of AI and big data can help enable precision medicine, he said.
Although the average person may know of 20 or so types of cancer, "in reality there's a couple thousand different kinds of cancer," noted Lind. Effective treatments can depend on the minute changes in how each is treated. The industry is just now exploring how to apply AI and big data processing on the massive data sets healthcare organizations are sitting on to find and deliver live-saving treatments, he added.
AR and VR, meanwhile, has plenty of room to grow.
At Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, systems administrator Brad Bishop, who also pulls double duty as a lab technician, described an augmented reality sandbox system at his school that helps students study the topology of a landscape under various environmental conditions. Down the line, Bishop envisions AR and VR systems that can help construction companies "see the pipes that you can avoid breaking into [and see] wiring in the walls," he said. For the more IT-minded, viewing a real-time visual representation of wireless coverage may one day involve using an AR-enabled app or headset.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.