Simon Walsh, CEO of NTT Ltd, is passionate about disruptive technologies. In this piece, he will share what he considers to be three emerging technology trends that have the best hope at solving some of the world’s biggest challenges.
Like never before, the future of people, prosperity and the planet demands fresh new approaches to drive positive change. Tackling the world’s biggest challenges means doing things differently. Let’s discuss three pressing problems and how technology and digital trends offer potential solutions to address them.
Make cities more sustainable through digitally enabled and enhanced spaces
According to the UN, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities; by 2050, two-thirds of us will be urban dwellers. As we begin to recover from the pandemic, cities face crowds and congestion again. Our lives are hectic and busier than ever. There’s real value from signing into an app before leaving home to see if the train or bus is bursting with bodies or checking how long the queue is at the coffee shop. Technology is exploring new ways to improve urban living and conditions.
Digitally enabled modern urban spaces connect varying forms of technology, such as IoT, electronics, voice-movement activation and sensors to collect information for improved real-time responses and actions. When actual occupancy, capacity and presence detection information are available to businesses and citizens, endless city congestion issues can be solved. We address traffic management using autonomous vehicles connected to smart roads to save time and energy. Intelligent data and information response platforms act as a multi-orchestrator that provide an overlay solution and adapt to immediate needs by optimally controlling multiple resources, including cloud, networks, devices and applications.
Updated forms of digital twin computing are going one step further by enabling interaction between models, recombining to perform more precise, high-precision simulations of the real world. Smart cities will gain better urban design through highly detailed virtual replicas that accurately mimic local environmental conditions with complex data and information variables. It’s becoming possible to model a simple object or process or even a complex, sophisticated system that connects multiple things working together across a broader ecosystem. Beyond the clear end-user experience benefits, the real value of this type of virtual reality mapping is the insights into potential future city design and process improvements or predictive modeling that considers the beneficial yet elusive ‘what if’ scenario.
This integrated approach to gathering past, present and predictive data to anticipate patterns and outcomes is entirely transferable across industries, giving the manufacturing, transportation and healthcare sectors an upper hand in improving operations, processes and experiences.
Solve the energy crisis with zero environmental impact networks
Networks, platforms and systems across multiple physical and virtual locations: SaaS applications and devices at the edge produce thousands of pieces of data requiring space and energy. There’s a seemingly never-ending need for more bandwidth and speeds, putting growing pressure on energy grids. The rate at which that growth is happening is evident by how we talked in terabytes, then petabytes and by today, zettabytes.
Extending beyond the environmental regulations and sustainability indices that help us determine IT’s green footprint, many of us know that a fundamental change is needed to relieve the burden on the environment. Some influential members of the technology industry are working together to pilot an energy-efficient network that would effectively connect zero environmental harm with economic growth. It’s still early, but based on global, open architecture and optical transmission, this kind of network will improve equity and access for an energy-efficient digital society.
Collaborative efforts are underway to create new transmission laws for vast volumes of data across a massively globalized interconnected network. Its infrastructure uses ultra-high capacity, ultra-low latency and ultra-low power consumption that steps away from relying on heat-heavy electronics and moves towards photonics. In addition, new platforms will connect, manage and control data, and combine the real world with the digital to create service applications.
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Zero environmental impact networks lay the groundwork for a future that relies on larger-scale technologies, enormous computing resources and faster real-time information processing.
Prepare better for future upheavals with higher-tech, more connected and resilient infrastructure
We’re facing an increasingly complex, disruptive and uncertain future. A connected and resilient infrastructure is at the core of navigating the shocks and strains of change. Those industries and organizations that adopt more interconnected networks and systems with next-generation technologies, such as AI, 5G and software-defined platforms, will prove more resilient and effectively support the inevitable, continuous reliance on digital.
Drawing on the learnings of the past two years, today’s CIOs are thinking outside of the enterprise IT box to better understand and provide the best end-user experience possible, regardless of external forces and disruptions. IT leaders who focus on meeting the growing demand for more intelligent, enriching experiences attuned to people’s personal and professional needs are ahead of the game.
One way to better prepare for uninterrupted and enhanced customer, employee and digital experiences is to examine current IT systems and determine if it provides the necessary resilient foundation. In an ideal world, aka the holy grail of IT, you’d approach your organization’s technology by starting with the end-user experience framework and build it from there, but this doesn’t always happen.
IT leaders typically inherit disconnected networks, which can be limiting, yet beginning your examination here provides an opportunity to identify bandwidth gaps, update legacy systems and add-on extended capabilities, automate processes, and drive new efficiencies and better resiliency. Much of this process involves bringing together disparate and siloed legacy systems using improved, more advanced types of connectivity curated for business-critical applications that provide new levels of network redundancy.
Increasingly, new transformative technology fully integrates into existing IT and IoT infrastructure. Emerging styles of hybrid cellular and wireless capability are meeting multiple business needs. For example, more advanced networks can prioritize security and provide useful levers and pathways to access faster speeds with a range of latencies and support millions of IoT-enabled devices in an operating environment. Building an onramp to digitalization offers a valuable solution to improving predicted performance and scalability when it’s needed the most, and it also creates more consistent and enhanced digital experiences.
As the world challenges mount, new digital technologies that were once viewed as nice to have are today considered critical to driving positive change across business, cities and the environment.
Simon Walsh, CEO of NTT Ltd Americas.