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Jabil, Tampa Bay Tech leaders on what’s ahead for AI and the Internet of Things in 2020

Margie Manning

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2020 will be the year that businesses move past the hype surrounding emerging technologies and focus on value-driven real business use cases, according to CompTIA, the tech industry’s leading trade association.

The organization has released 10 trends to watch in the coming year, and the St. Pete Catalyst asked tech leaders in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area to comment on them. Over the next few days, the Catalyst will explore those trends, and hear what local tech leaders say about them.

Two trends highlighted in the “IT Industry Outlook 2020” have to do with how businesses uses technology.

Tech-washing, or the practice of slapping a trendy, new label on legacy solutions, will fade in favor of real strategy. “Businesses will become much more intentional about strategically integrating technology into their culture and roadmap,” the report said.

Daniel James Scott

There’s been a lot of excitement around emerging technologies, but hype will meet reality in 2020, the report said, and Daniel James Scott, entrepreneur and co-executive director and chief operations officer at Tampa Bay Tech, agreed.

“What I love about emerging tech is that it starts at the fringes. One single person can leverage a single new innovation to solve a single problem for a single audience. The bet, of course, is that this experiment will evolve into lots of people leveraging numerous variations on the method to solve various problems for a widespread audience. In short, it becomes part of everyday business. For this to happen, we have to move past the hype into strategy. From fringe to mainstream. From startup to corporate,” Scott said.

CompTIA’s end-user data shows a very slow adoption curve across various new trends, with only two trends beginning to reach critical mass. One of them is the internet of things (IoT), a system of inter-related computing devices that transmit data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

Gary Cantrell, chief information officer and senior vice president, information technology for Jabil

As with cloud computing and mobile devices, the groundwork has been laid for IoT to advance digital transformation, said Gary Cantrell, chief information officer and senior vice president, information technology for Jabil (NYSE: JBL) in St. Petersburg.

“As with many of these new capabilities, the volume of data generated will far exceed our ability to consume, analyze and store it all,” Cantrell said. “The challenge for businesses, even technologically advanced ones like Jabil, will be to identify which data has value to the company and its customers over the short, medium and long terms. If done successfully, this will provide a good financial return as well as a competitive advantage.”

The other trend reaching critical mass is artificial intelligence, or computer systems that can perform tasks that normally would require human intelligence.

Artificial intelligence can push software to the next level, CompTIA said, but it requires a different form of oversight and a need to ensure quality. “For all the disruptive power that AI holds for business operations and job roles, it opens new opportunities for those with the expertise to manage its appetite.”

It’s important to recognize the different expertise required to make decisions in this new environment, Cantrell said. “AI and its predictive capabilities will eliminate much of the mundane analysis required for current decision making, but it’s unclear how much this will impact the decision making process. Jabil recognizes that business-specific expertise, in combination with AI, will become critical for success,” he said.

One trend that didn’t make the list the 2020 CompTIA  list is blockchain, a digital platform for recording and verifying transactions.

CBInsights, which also tracks technology trends, reported that artificial intelligence mentions have overtaken mentions of blockchain on quarterly earnings calls, Scott said.

“There is no doubt this is because the business case for AI is better understood and, therefore, is being adopted,” he said.

The top technology area where small- and medium-size businesses need the most work is integrating all their technology platforms, application and data. Automation will help with that, CompTIA said.

Companies will also take new approaches to tackling online security, according to CompTIA. More about that in Friday’s report.

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