Top Five Connected Tech Stories in 2017

Bigdata

By: R. Scott Raynovich

As 2017 winds down, Futuriom can't be left out of the year-end list sweepstakes. We've scanned the stories we covered this year, as well as the reports we've published, and come up with a list of connected technology stories likely to have the most impact on the future. Here's what we found:

1. Cybersecurity Crisis Continues

There seems to be little end to an ongoing crisis in cybersecurity, where consumers and large global online operators regularly get hacked, new security products fail to plug holes, and corporate security practices are often revealed as a sham.

One only needs to look at the Equifax hack, in which the records of as many as 145 million consumers were exposed. The post-mortem of the Equifax revealed poor patch management, bad security governance, and an apathetic corporate response. But that was not all. Wannacry may seem a distant memory, but this springtime virus wreaked havoc with antiquated systems without adequate patches. Arby's and Xboxes were hacked, the Verifone point of sale (PoS) was breached, Dun and Bradstreet's marketing database was pushed publicly, and Deep Root Analytics leaked info on nearly 200 million voters with inadequately protected cloud records, according to an IdentityForce review. 

Why does this keep happening? It's a management challenge in addition to a technology problem. As Futuriom's SysSecOps Report revealed, the cybersecurity crisis is as much a corporate management and leadership problem as it is a technical one. Unfortunately, right now, the average corporate boardroom does not appear to be on top of the situation. 

2. Blockchain Panic Hyping

Quick -- get a blockchain strategy! You see it every day from technology companies ranging from IBM to Overstock.com. But what does it really mean? Unfortunately, most of the blockchain messages seem to stem from corner-office insecurity, with panicky executives grabbing onto anything blockchain-related to generate buzz. 

Whether it's consumers grabbing cryptocurrencies, or obscure biotech companies changing the entire corporate plan, everybody wanted a piece of the blockchain action. In the worst cases, the cynical use of blockchain may not have much to do with business at all, such as Long Island Ice Tea Co.'s name change to Long Blockchain Co., insuring that future beverages will be somehow blockchained. 

There is no doubt that blockchain technology, which provides a distributed, peer-to-peer ledger for digital transactions, will have many exciting business and technical applications. But please, can we focus on the direct use case rather than spraypainting your company with marketing hype? 

3. AI as a Service

Apparently I may not be the only one that notices that Alexa seems to answer only about a quarter of my questions right. But what the Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven bots lack in sophistication, they have made up for in vision, giving us a glimpse of the future. Natural language commands and cloud-driven machine learning technology are changing the way humans interface for machines -- for the better. 

All of this activity is drawing a huge amount of funding into AI applications and platforms, whether they are built in the cloud or closer to the edge. The World Economic Forum last estimated more than $1.5 billion in investment in AI startups

Whether it's Amazon providing machine-learning services in the cloud or you figuring out how to avoid losing your job to a robot, everybody is thinking about the next implications as AI becomes a marketable service. A big theme going forward will be AI everywhere, whether it's built into the sensing devices in your phone, a personal assistant, or a cloud service for your job. 

4. SD-WAN Land Grab

As networking hardware and software companies get tuned into both the opportunities and threats of software-defined wide-area networking -- which enables virtualized networks to be extended out to end users using software and commoditized hardware -- the major players started snapping up startups to form their strategy. Two of the more prominent SD-WAN startups (both profiled in our September SD-WAN Growth Report) were bought by two of the biggest players in software-defined networking, with Cisco buying Viptela and VMware buying VeloCloud

Viptela went for about $610 million, an estimated 25 times forward revenue. VMware did not discuss the purchase price for VeloCloud but industry sources speculate the deal was probably in the $400-$500 million range, also a large multiple to VeloCloud's projected revenue. These are large prices to pay for technology that may end up cannibalizing existing networking products -- especially Cisco routers. 

The SD-WAN battle is likely to shape up as a key strategic battle for networking as a whole, as VMware looks to encroach further on Cisco's empire with a software virtualization strategy that is extending out of the datacenter to the edge. It will also have impact on service providers, who are moving to market cheaper and simpler SD-WAN services that jeopardize their lucrative MPLS services. All in all, SD-WAN will continue to reshape both the enterprise networking and service market in 2018. 

For more information on the fast-growing SD-WAN market, including profiles of all the leading players, you can purchase the premium Futuriom research report, "The SD-WAN Growth Report," which includes an overview of the leading vendors as well as a market growth forecast. Use discount code "FUTU" for a 10% discount on a one-user license for the report, which retails for $595. 

5. IIoT Business Case Dilemma

Everybody loves to talk about Industrial Internet of Things  (IIoT) -- but ask them how they're making money and it can be a real conversation killer. As our Ultimate IIoT Report revealed, IIoT technologies ranging from Low Power Wide Areas Networks (LPWANs) to cloud analytics are becoming widespread, but specific examples of business returns are harder to find. 

Analytics, inventory tracking, and big data are just some of the applications discussed for IoT in manufacturing or healthcare. The idea is to blanket the world with sensors, absorb all the data, and then run them through AI and analytics programs that tell your customers how they can improve the efficiency of their business. It all makes sense on paper, but it's harder to implement in reality. Just ask GE, which has invested billions in its GE Predix analytics platform, but then saw its share-price fall to six-year low as larger corporate struggles came to the fore. Apparently IIoT isn't a magic bullet. 

Whether it's Emerson partnering with Microsoft to tell us how they can improve industrial maintenance or Eli Lilly working on smart injectables, everybody has their IIoT game plan. Now we need to see more evidence of it all working. All of these stories make for great reading in glossy marketing brochures and trade journals -- the problem is that when you ask for numbers they are few and far between. 

The Futuriom Ultimate Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Report covers a wide range of communications and cloud technologies that are being applied to businesses around the world to provide connectivity, analysis, automation, and optimization of a range of industrial applications. For Futuriom community members, we are offering a special discount on a one-user license to this report for 20% off, which means you pay only $760! Go to the report page and use discount code "EDGE" for purchase.