A view askew of the new year

Some wild predictions for 2019, because why not
Image: Stockfresh

18 December 2018

Niall Kitson portraitIt’s been fun watching the last 12 months of emerging technology yet I have to wonder if so much has emerged that the the IT industry won’t be able to keep up with demand – or convince the right people to buy in to the latest offerings.

Using the suffix ‘as-a-service’ still has positive connotations from the perspectives of cost, capability and scalability but some managed services will be in need of of a charm offensive 2019.

The biggest challenge will be in print, where environmental concerns will drive companies to be more considerate in their use of consumables. Last October St James’s Hospital, the largest acute hospital in the state, completed a three-year digitisation project consolidating patient histories from multiple paper records to a single digital file. Project Oak is the largest operation of its kind to date in Ireland is expected to speed up patient care and significantly reduce overall waiting times. Such projects capture the imagination and deliver appreciable benefits. At time of writing the Mater Private Hospital is working on a similar project for cardiac patients. Managed print has its place in functions such as accounts, administration and the legal professions but if healthcare can streamline its record keeping there and co-working spaces maintain their popularity then it may take more than advances in watermarking or voice control to keep customers engaged. With HIQA just passing guidelines on e-prescriptions managed services should be considering a healthcare sector that just isn’t into them.

Ricoh seems to have got the Green message with its commitment to the Leaders Group on Sustainability’s Low Carbon Pledge to reduce emissions by 50%. It’s good optics in a field that needs to show some Green cred. Expect some high-profile acquisitions and unexpected diversification.

One area this could happen is in GDPR compliance, where document management (soft and hard copy) takes on a whole new level of significance. We are only one big fine away from a second wave of compliance hysteria. In the same way everyone considers themselves to be an above average driver, many companies are considering themselves immune from the effects of the new data protection regime. According to the third national GDPR report from legal firms Mazars and McCann Fitzgerald, 84% of Irish employers surveyed said they were satisfied with their compliance efforts. Maybe there’s a bit of wishful thinking here. The report put the average cost of achieving compliance at up to €250,000, so there’s likely a sense that businesses are considering no news to be good news and hence a sound return on investment. Let’s see if the mood changes when the first round of fines from the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner land. Should Facebook be worried about an oncoming €20 million sanction? One can dream.

One space that has managed to confuse through overachievement is cloud. A survey of decision-makers in 1,000 enterprises carried out by Forrester last year found that 86% were already adopting multicloud solutions. Furthermore, 60% of respondents said they were happy to move mission-critical applications to the cloud. Although the study says that “no single cloud platform meets all enterprise workload requirements” the old on- versus off-premise argument is being supplanted by ‘which off-prem is right for you’. The market requires businesses not just aware of cloud but to be ‘cloud literate’. This is a massive opportunity for the channel to demonstrate its worth as intermediaries to partners and clients. Failure to do so could stifle digital transformation at a time when, according to the IEDR, 40% of Irish business still can’t handle online transactions. There can be no transformation without education.

Network effects
None of the above makes any sense until you look at the backbone of ICT: networks. In 2018 we got a taste of 5G when Vodafone marked the arrival of its 5G test site in Dublin’s docklands with a demonstration holographic video call between the Dublin docklands and a location in Germany. The telco’s interim CTO for Ireland Max Gasparroni lauded the next gen technology for its applications in IoT, 4K streaming, mobile VR and, yes, holographic calls.

Cementing their commitment to 5G, Vodafone and Ericsson announced the creation of a 5G accelerator with NovaUCD to work with 12 companies to conduct workshops looking for what UCD director of Enterprise & Commercialisation Tom Flanagan called “an opportunity to be disruptive”.

So far we have yet to see what spectacle Imagine, Airspan, Three and Meteor will bring to their official launches.
As for mobile 5G, an auction of the 700MHz spectrum is due in 2019. Unlike the 4G and fixed line 5G auctions, mobile will be sold on the basis of geographic coverage – in theory nullifying the attraction of the big population centres. As cost estimates for a fibre-based national broadband solution explode into the billions from an original estimate of €500 million, we’re likely to see mobile 5G become a realistic alternative to fibre-to-the-home connections. There won’t be any tears shed for the National Broadband Plan if government decides to sit on a decision as trials continue.

If you’re waiting to see what the fuss is about, the first 5G consumer devices come to market in Q4.

Finally, for anyone who has just gotten over having to call the Grand Canal Dock Silicon Docks, last July we were introduced to the Grand Canal Innovation District. The plan is to follow the Grand Canal from Charlemont Street all the way to the Docks. When completed Dublin, will have a throughway with WeWork tenant Amazon at one end (when building finishes some time this year) and Facebook at the other. The lesson from the West Coast is stark: high-paid tech workers have put pressure on local housing stock, leading to inflated rents and a flight of longterm residents from the city.

The situation is such that software developers with salaries starting at $130,000 are having to commute up to four hours a day from satellite towns. There is no ‘solution’ to this kind of prosperity but there is fairness and the stewardship of the capital relies on co-operation from private and public sectors. My view is that if Dublin’s archaic planning laws should be reviewed to accommodate taller residential or mixed-use buildings. There is nothing to say our Georgian city cannot co-exist with a bratty tech sector. Who knows, the locals might even put some manner on it.

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