The next five years will mark a dramatic enterprise shift toward the edge of networks, where emerging technologies can be harnessed to radically improve user experiences, transform business models, and generate vast revenue opportunities.
That’s according to a new book, Opportunity at the Edge: Change, Challenge, and Transformation on the Path to 2025, developed by Fast Future in collaboration with Aruba, which reports that this move will catalyze the growth of entirely new industries.
It also argues that enterprises must embrace fundamental change to realize these opportunities, engaging in widespread strategic, structural, and leadership transformation.
Morten Illum, vice-president: EMEA at Aruba, comments: “The findings in this book highlight the vast commercial potential for enterprises utilizing edge technologies, if companies are willing and able to enact the considerable organizational changes needed. The edge represents a dramatic overhaul in how companies understand, service, and meet the needs of their customers and employees. It will be a world defined by dynamic, immediate, and personalized services.”
Commissioned to explore the scale of possibilities presented by edge technologies in the next 3-5 years, the book features insights from 19 leading global CIOs, technology leaders, and industry experts and a perspectives survey of 200 future thinkers from across the globe. It explores the edge technologies that are driving change, the use cases and businesses opportunities these are creating, and the ways in which organizations can adapt to take advantage.
Key trends that emerged include:
- The edge of the network holds the key to industry transformation: The edge is designed to enable and capitalize on modern digital experiences at the convergence of people, apps, and things – allowing customer and ecosystem partners to take these actionable insights to then create “experiences” for employees and customers. This is making it possible for businesses and organizations in various industries to leverage data and insights to deliver new and immersive experiences to consumers and end customers. It is driving sectors from education and retail to healthcare and hospitality to rethink how they act today. New types of experiences such as location-aware mobile engagement, digitally assisted patient care, and user-aware meeting rooms can give organizations a competitive advantage.
- One-third of businesses will create edge-enabled mainstream personalization by 2025: The study shows that a clear majority (67%) of respondents believe at least 30% of businesses will be using the edge to create “mainstream personalisation” in the next five years. From the classroom to the office, retail stores, and major event venues, edge technologies will enable personalized service delivery that meets growing user expectations of an immediate, customized experience.
- New benefits from the edge will be realized: Other benefits arising include localized products, services, and pricing (52% of respondents), enhanced real-time market insight (50%), improved customer and user satisfaction (48%), and faster product and service innovation (47%).
Opportunities on the edge
The edge will create transformative business opportunities for industries in all facets of the economy, using data to understand customers and tailor services to their needs, such as:
- A retailer that can provide custom-made clothing, fitted to your 3D hologram, as the industry evolves to provide an anywhere and everywhere experience;
- A classroom environment that automatically adapts to each student’s comprehension and comfort level, as schools and colleges harness edge technologies to enhance student performance, confidence, and mental wellbeing;
- A hospital that uses IoT monitoring sensors to provide continuous patient reporting at the point of care and real-time diagnosis, enhancing the ability of healthcare professionals to deliver efficient and effective care; and
- A workplace with always-on tools, enabling collaboration from any device around the world, as offices evolve to facilitate the same level of access and functionality for employees anywhere in the world.
These shifts will be underpinned by emerging business and revenue models, such as payment by facial recognition or biometrics (highlighted by 70% of survey respondents), commercial application of customer data accumulated via the IoT (67%), hyper-personalized instant offers (63%), demand-driven and location-specific pricing (55%), and subscription models for everyday purchases such as food and clothing (52%).
How enterprises must adapt to take advantage
While the opportunities of the edge are considerable, relatively few companies have moved quickly to embrace them. Simply implementing the technologies will not be enough; companies must rethink their entire business strategy to take advantage of edge opportunities.
The book outlines several key changes for enterprises to consider, including:
- Embrace a more progressive, experimental approach: A majority of survey respondents said that a change in business mindset was needed to embrace the concept of edge strategies (64%). This could include accepting autonomous decision-making by edge devices (60%), greater top-level support and leadership for the pursuit of driving smarter experiences (53%), and a willingness to experiment with solution design and business models for edge applications (53%).
- Focus on investment, training, and customer need: There were also calls to more clearly define the customer benefits of edge applications (50%), allocate appropriate investment funds (42%), and provide training in how to spot and specify potential edge applications (45%).
- Address emerging security concerns: Enterprises must address the security challenges of a network hosting many more connected devices. These include the creation of potentially thousands of points of risk exposure across the network (82%), uncertainty over whether a device has been compromised (67%), hacking of voice or biometric security (62%), and concerns that IoT devices and sensors are not being built with security in mind (62%).
Rohit Talwar, CEO at Fast Future, says: “To access the opportunities of the edge, companies need a mindset shift to drive both structural and strategic change. Leaders must take responsibility for navigating the journey to the edge, working hand in hand with IT to pursue open technology options, and maintaining a consistent dialogue with employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. Focused experiments, with clearly defined goals, proactive project owners, and dedicated resources, are likely to be the best way forward.”
Aruba’s Illum adds: “Enterprises should be excited about the edge opportunity, but they should not underestimate the degree of change needed to unlock it – including the implementation of a network infrastructure that is strong and flexible enough to withstand the greater demands edge technologies impose, and the security threats they create. Given the pace and uncertainty of the change ahead, it is also essential to base any edge strategy on an open technology ecosystem that leaves flexibility to adapt and evolve over time.”