Savvy businesses increase value from emerging technologies in 2021
- Posted on December 13, 2021
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, technology development and deployment accelerated to help us adjust. As 2022 approaches, our data shows that the adoption of emerging tech isn’t slowing down.
We launched our inaugural Emerging Technologies Index survey in 2020 to get a better sense of how businesses across the world were experimenting with 12 categories of emerging technologies, including next-generation networking, IoT/edge, conversational AI, blockchain and AI recognition. We found that testing was nearly ubiquitous, although results, motivation and maturity varied quite a bit. Our 2021 survey results show that this momentum is accelerating, both in terms of spending on emerging technologies and in value received.
Following are key findings from our 2021 EmTech Index:
Emerging tech first improves experience, then efficiencies
With emerging tech there is inherent risk in trusting that it will perform as expected over time but ending experimentation too early could mean losing out on the value of wide-scale deployment. In 2020, businesses seemed to be earlier in their testing – closer to pilot than full deployment – and the value they accrued tended to focus on improving the customer or employee experience even though “improving efficiencies” was the top reason to test. But even with that mismatch between expectations and results, a majority of respondents felt their testing efforts were at least delivering enough value to be worthwhile (with a good percentage saying they actually received a significant level of value).
The good news is that the focus on testing provides time for the technology, and an organization’s understanding of how best to use it, to mature. This year, the results were much more even than in 2020, with top technologies most commonly improving efficiencies across four of our six industry sectors. That might be due to increased maturity – every technology we asked about this year was most frequently deployed across multiple business units, rather than in pilots or just one business unit.
Tech and business executives should keep in mind that not being able to predict specific ROI doesn’t mean there will be no ROI; positive impacts for employees and customers can occur even if that’s not the main focus of initial testing. Ensuring experiments are short and inexpensive enough to allow as many cycles of testing and learning as possible increases the chance of finding the best place for an emerging technology to take root and grow – or confidently deciding that the place is elsewhere.
Businesses are building a new type of relationship with emerging technologies
This means what used to be siloed is better integrated. Compared to 2020, twice as many companies are now testing new technologies in combination, which means they’re more likely to get greater value than when testing them independently. Many of these technologies are closely interconnected (like IoT/edge and next generation connectivity), so it makes sense to think of them in terms of combined use cases instead of as stand-alone products. Testing this way increases the chances of getting a higher ROI, and it also helps avoid potential future dependency or integration issues.
IoT and Edge hit an inflection point
As for the technologies themselves, we saw more fluctuation in results among industries in 2020. Things were a little more even in 2021: IoT/edge and blockchain were far and away the most commonly tested technologies across all industries (although AI recognition, including facial, emotional and object recognition was in the top two for financial services). Since this is the second year that IoT/edge sits at the top of our list, it seems safe to assume that it’s reaching an inflection point in adoption, especially as more sophisticated networks come online and digital twin technology advances (we expect our survey next year to show an increase in popularity of next-generation connectivity and digital twins in particular).
Obstacles preventing further adoption of IoT and edge vary more between respondents, but security/privacy and lack of maturity in data tools remain consistently top concerns. Defining smaller, more targeted tests in conjunction with the security team can help break down those barriers. On the data side, we’ve found that logging and reporting are often the biggest issues, so it may make sense to find additional tools to augment those capabilities as a way to keep experimentation going.
To recap, our key findings for this year’s EmTech Index are:
- The pandemic has driven more testing in emerging technologies — and that shows no sign of slowing.
- Industries vary in how they approach emerging technologies, but blockchain and IoT/edge are the most frequently tested.
- Most technologies delivered business value that justified their investment.
- Obstacles to adoption have gotten more varied, but security/privacy and lack of maturity in data tools remain top concerns.
- Twice as many companies are now testing technologies in combination.
Keep an eye out for a more detailed report with specific data points for industries and all 12 technologies, which we’ll be publishing soon.