By Megha Kumar, senior research manager, software, Middle East & Africa, IDC
There can be little doubt that we now find ourselves in an era of transformation as organizations in the Middle East increasingly seek out 3rd Platform technologies such as cloud, mobile, social, and Big Data. In addition to this, IDC has identified six technologies that will accelerate transformation and drive organizations to innovate and seek new business models and, more importantly, achieve their digital ambitions. These six technologies are the Internet of Things, next-generation security, 3D printing, cognitive systems, augmented/virtual reality, and robotics – or what we at IDC term as 'Innovation Accelerators'.
Adoption of 3D printing and the Internet of Things is already well underway across the region. Indeed, IoT is gaining considerable momentum at both the enterprise level and with consumers through the growing popularity of wearables. Meanwhile, 3D printing continues to evolve in the region, with enterprises increasingly using the technology to enable rapid prototyping and consumers being exposed to new applications for the technology through regular demonstrations in retail outlets.
Earlier this year, IDC stated that one of the trends that would shape 2016 would be various initiatives launched by select governments in the GCC aimed at spearheading innovation. This is already very much a reality, with the aforementioned 'innovation accelerators' being used by various GCC governments and within key sectors such as telecommunications, transportation, education, healthcare, and security.
A very live example of such an initiative is the use of virtual reality at Dubai's Mall of the Emirates metro station to create a new 'Virtual Mall' experience that enables users to engage with an interactive screen to shop for products that are then shipped to a location of their choice. This is very similar to the 'connected store' concept that was launched by Rebecca Minkoff in collaboration with eBay in 2014. Virtual reality is also being used by the education sectors in countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, robotics has made a major foray into the region, with drones increasingly being used by organizations and garnering interest from individuals and hobbyists alike. In response to the growing interest in drones and as part of its overall quest to drive greater levels of innovation, the UAE government launched the 'Global Drones for Good' program. Similarly, cognitive systems are being adopted within the government, healthcare, and transportation sectors for the purpose of enhancing process optimization, operational efficiencies, agility, and strategic decision making.
The successful and widespread adoption of innovation accelerators will require vendors to build a lot of awareness around use cases, drive thought leadership around the associated benefits, and invest in setting up the right channel ecosystems to support customers both in terms of deployments and maintenance services. Skills for new and emerging technologies will be a challenge, and vendors will need to seek out partners that are ready to support investment in allocating headcount for these innovation solutions.
End-user organizations are going to have to look closely at various factors that will ultimately drive or inhibit the adoption of innovation accelerators, including user experience, risk, and cost. Another critical factor will be whether these solutions can be interwoven with current business processes or whether organizations will have to realign their existing processes in order to achieve the highest levels of return – be that in terms of reduced costs or the enablement of enhanced efficiency.