Future of cloud computing: trends in data security, AI, IoT and more

For businesses looking at digital transformation in order to grow and remain competitive, cloud computing is a key enabler. Whatever stage your business is in terms of adoption of cloud technology, it’s important to understand the future of cloud computing, its trends and what this technology can do for your business.

The power of cloud-based technology lies in the fact that it can give your business access to various resources like computing power and storage, without the pains of managing those resources. Because it’s powerful and cost-effective, and can be deployed rapidly, businesses realize that adopting cloud computing is the way forward.

One of the advantages of cloud that made it extremely useful (and visible) during the Corona pandemic is its flexibility. Thanks to this technology, businesses could switch from offline to online modes with a great deal of ease, without having to worry about security. This has led to a substantial uptick in the number of businesses considering embracing cloud or expanding their existing usage. And this number is only going to increase in the future.

In this post, we look at some of the trends in cloud computing, especially in the context of how they will improve and transform businesses.

1. Improved focus on data security

With every passing day, cyber-attacks are getting more sophisticated. Regulations for data breach are getting increasingly stringent. And as more businesses turn to IT, digital assets are facing heightened risks. As a result, more businesses than before are realizing that handling all this by themselves could be overwhelming, not to mention the strain their resources would be under.

One of the cloud computing trends that emerges with this is that of data security. Because of the sheer scale of their operations, cloud service providers would be in a better position to effectively overcome these challenges on behalf of companies opting for cloud.

We foresee cloud vendors putting in place even more elaborate governance systems and robust infrastructure with which to provide better security to clients. With a security-first design and virtually impregnable firewalls, these service providers are equipped to easily defend your data from bad actors.

Sturdy access management and identity protocols, encryption and value-added services like data masking will add further layers of security. All this, and more, will make the cloud of our near future more secure and more reliable.

2. Better usage of AI and ML

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are extremely capable, yet companies do face challenges while actually putting these technologies to use. The principal challenge, in almost all cases, is the absence of a clear strategy and understanding of how to best leverage them.

Thankfully, cloud services companies have this figured out. As we dig deeper to understand the future of cloud technology, we are increasingly convinced that with better governance, improved policies and deeper expertise, cloud vendors will better leverage AI and ML for their clients.

For instance, cloud services will help clients draw more gains from big data. Consistent frameworks, stronger systems and economies of scale are some of the benefits that clients will begin realizing right from the early stages of cloud adoption.

And because of all this, businesses will have access to cloud-based services that were, independently, out of reach for most of them earlier. In that sense, it will democratize technology because more businesses than ever before will enjoy clear, tangible benefits.

3. More of hybrid and on-premise cloud

In the early stages of cloud, end-user organizations and businesses adopting cloud had limited choices. As a result, they were also constrained by the limitations of whatever model they chose.

The coming year will witness a major shift in the cloud landscape, because hybrid models will evolve further and offer more choices to users. Amongst the various benefits that are visible with the trends in cloud computing, flexibility stands out. It will become easier for you to select the features you want, instead of a take-it-or-leave-it deal.

Consider this: you might decide to get space from one cloud platform and deploy technology on a different cloud platform. You can also use a mix of private cloud and public cloud, and then combine it with some on-site infrastructure that you think most suits your needs and budget. That lets you be in charge, because you can opt for different providers for data processing and storage.

Your cloud consulting services partner will balance the varying features of each model. They will optimise your choices and make the transition smooth and productive. Finally, they will ensure your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) remains low even while you reap all the benefits of the fusion.

4. The growth of edge with cloud

A well-known study by Forrester says edge computing and cloud will compete and collaborate in a meaningful manner. This points to the evolution of new business models that “facilitate the deployment of edge”, powered by improved AI and wide-spread use of 5G technology.

Prima facie, cloud technology and edge computing appear to pivot in different, if not outright contradictory, directions. Cloud is essentially about centralizing the processing of data, irrespective of where the data originates. Edge, on the other hand, is about bringing computing and related services closer to or almost at the point of data source.

The convergence of the two is among the major cloud trends. Placing data centers closer to the data source achieves at least three goals. One, it leads to a considerable increase in processing power. Two, it eases loads on the cloud’s processing resources. And three, it can minimize the time-gap between a client request and server response, also known as latency.

The Forrester study further mentions edge will carry “cloudlike solutions deployable to anywhere”. Because data capturing, storing and processing will be nearer to the data source than ever before, businesses will get contextual insights and thus be able to become more responsive to customer needs.

Businesses may opt to connect with the cloud only when they need, the rest of the time they will store and process data at their own end. This means they will be able to exercise better control over data security, in the context that regulations require them to. On the whole, such cloud trends suggest better agility for businesses even while they enjoy advanced cloud-based applications.

5. The widening reach of IoT

Wired estimates that there are at least 10 billion devices connected to the internet today, while Gartner places this number at 25 billion – both way more than there are people on earth.

The humongous number of connected devices will lead to one thing: a flood of data. These IoT devices therefore will play the role of a conduit – collecting data from various sources. Then, by leveraging the power of cloud-based applications to store and process data, IoT will generate more insights for businesses with which to drive product innovations and improved customer service, among other things.

Moreover, the technology will be able to send out alerts in case of malfunctioning, failure or inconsistency of performance. Hence, IoT platforms will create novel cloud computing trends in the manufacturing sector as well because of the sheer data they will be able to generate.

6. Gaming gets serious

That cloud giants like Amazon are dedicating cloud capabilities exclusively to game development companies is one of the strongest proofs that the growth of gaming will be powered hugely by cloud. And this growth is further evidenced by an estimate which says global revenue in online games will cross a staggering 23BN US dollars.

Cloud trends present a strong case for gaming in that gamers may no longer have to invest in expensive hardware. To further support that trend, we are seeing online entertainment platforms (particularly Amazon Prime and Netflix) add further games to their inventory of digital content.

7. Storage capacities expand

If cloud were to be summed up in two phrases, it’d be massive storage and sophisticated hardware. With tons of data being generated, stored, processed and consumed everywhere, cloud is pretty much the surest and the safest way ahead.

With cloud becoming even more widespread, economies of scale will trickle down further to the end-user. That means not only more storage at affordable prices but also enhanced security at all levels. Estimates vary a little, but most experts agree that for cloud, storage capability could grow 2X or thereabouts. As a natural extension, we will see more businesses relying on cloud for strategically processing the same data they have stored on cloud.

8. Containerization and Kubernetes

The primary objective of containerization is to encapsulate software in a way that it can run consistently across diverse infrastructure, including cloud. Because cloud offers varied and advanced computing abilities, the growth of containerization and Kubernetes will be in sync with the future of cloud technology. For instance, one of the increasingly popular trends in cloud computing is using Kubernetes to design cloud-native solutions.

Containerization helps segment cloud for microservices. A variety of microservices can be developed, each of which may have diverse requirements in terms of configuration and storage. Because the cloud is segmented, such microservices will be able use those different segments and thus satisfy their respective requirements.

Two of the many important applications are DevOps and application modernization. In DevOps, services will be deployed and scaled using containers. With application modernization, older applications using dated technology can be ‘modernized’ enough to be transferred to cloud.

9. Cloudnative turns promising

Wouldn’t it be exciting to run your analytics software outside your ‘regular zone’? Current cloud computing trends suggest this might soon be possible, at least where you use Kubernetes platform. Consequently, building, operating, and scaling (and even migrating) apps will become easier, more efficient, and more flexible.

We expect to see more open-source projects getting underway as cloud opens up new possibilities. Businesses building and trying out new applications will have more freedom to experiment and juggle various alternatives.

Summing up

Cloud has long ceased to be a distant, on-the-horizon technology. It’s here and now, widely embraced and enthusiastically utilized. The future of cloud computing augurs well on all counts: improving data security, bringing multiple technologies, expanding storage capabilities, fueling gaming, edge computing playing a bigger role… As cliched as it may sound, the possibilities are truly endless.

The most exciting part about the future of cloud technology is that it will likely unravel even more opportunities than one can predict. We will continue to see more solutions being developed and popularized while keeping cloud in the center. Businesses and customers will continue reaping rich dividends with cloud, which is what should be the goal of all technologies.

EHS software: Customised vs off-the-shelf software

Among the various software modern businesses use, the QHSE software is sometimes an underrated hero. That’s partly because the software is about quality, safety and compliance, and hence the EHS management system doesn’t come across as something that’s as stylish or growth-focused as a CRM or something similar.

And yet, if there’s one software modern businesses need if they are to compete and grow in the most challenging situations, it’s EHS management software.

What is QHSE

A QHSE management software is a software technology used to automate safety program management, manage compliance requirements and protect the safety of employees.

The QHSE management system (the letters QHSE stand for Quality, Health, Safety and Environment respectively), is variously referred to as HSE or EHS software. It lets you centralize processes, documents and resources in a way that you can control quality levels, automate admin activities, and prevent undesirable events.

In addition to that, you can use it to assign tasks and trigger events or actions, based on deadlines or conditions.

Should my business opt for EHS software?

As digitization becomes the norm in businesses of all sizes, this question isn’t truly accurate, because software products are overwhelmingly superior to manual tasks. Therefore, it’s more a question of ‘how soon’, rather than ‘whether’.

Answering the following three questions will help you determine how urgently you must opt for QHSE software.

1. How much time does reporting (whether manual or spreadsheet-based) rob my teams of the time they might have otherwise invested in more meaningful activities, like chasing growth or process improvement?

If you think your teams are staring at a potential burnout, it’s time you engage them in more fulfilling activities and let automated systems do the repetitive admin tasks.

2. Are we spending more time than ever before, looking for the right data and formats?

If you are already spending more time in such activities than earlier, rest assured that compliance requirements will only rise. Bring in software and automation before you are completely swamped by such tasks.

3. Are we doing enough to simultaneously improve productivity and minimize operational risks for teams?

Chances are you’re opting for safety for your teams, but at the expense of productivity. It doesn’t have to be that way; you can achieve productivity and safety at the same time, if you have the right software in place.

Benefits of EHS digitization

For many years, businesses have digitized EHS and relied upon software to meet the various requirements. Digitalization has  helped businesses bring in quality control, compliance with federal regulations, and, in general, ensure comprehensive digital transformation.

Businesses that have a manual EHS system are rare to find, and even businesses using spreadsheets are becoming difficult to find today. That’s because software is hugely more powerful, agile, and robust.

Here are the principal benefits of EHS digitization:

1. Centralized and organized: One of the biggest safety and compliance risks is that information is siloed. Compliance deadlines may pass by and your teams might still be searching for that one particular piece of data, just because different data resides in different places.

The digitization of the EHS management system ensures that all data is centralized. This makes it easy for your teams to collaborate and exchange data on a need-to-know basis. In other words, your teams know that every piece of data they’ll need will be available in one place.

Moreover, centralization of data means the formats of data remain uniform. In absence of a centralized system, one department may have to waste hours hammering data received from another department just to make sure they get the data in the format they need. Centralization means that your data formats are standards, making data collection, storage, and retrieval efficient.

2. Easy, accurate, and timely reporting: As you grow, more industry watchdogs and federal authorities come into picture. That puts more pressure on you, because you must ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Thankfully, EHS software will make compliance and reporting easy for you. Even with tons of data, you will always have easy and quick access to the report you need.

This means you’ll be able to report on a timely basis, even while you pursue your business growth goals.

3. Fully reliable and robust: On the one hand, advanced data collection tools can flood you with data. On the other hand, authorities ask for reports on the most unusual stuff. In the light of all this, inadvertent mistakes can be expensive in more ways than one.

A QHSE management software is not only comprehensive but also reliable and robust. Because the reports are automated, there’s no way human errors can jeopardize things. Besides, it is robust enough to keep churning out report after report, without any error or fatigue.

4. Easy to steer: Reporting isn’t the only goal you achieve with EHS software. Because it’s a centralized system, the software allows your teams to join hands and collaborate.

Because everyone is on the same page, it becomes a great deal easier and faster to assign activities and tasks. And because it’s an automated system, follow-ups are prompt and persuasive – a bit like tickets in customer service portals that remain open until they are satisfactorily closed.

Off-the-shelf vs customized EHS software

For some time now, SaaS products have been available to take care of most of your quality, safety and health requirements. As a part of your digital transformation, health and safety standards were mostly met with these products.

While many of these SaaS products are great, you’ll agree that theirs is a one-size-fits-all approach. Such products have multiple modules and you’re expected to select and use the features you need. In other words, an off-the-shelf HSE management system is a good idea as a quick patch solution, but it comes with lots of riders.

A ready-to-use system, while faster to implement, can only take you so far. That’s because of a variety of reasons. However, the main reason it doesn’t meet all your needs is that the system is designed for no one in particular.

A customized EHS management system scores over SaaS products in virtually all fields. Here’s the top 4 reasons why businesses choose tailormade health, safety and environment management systems over off-the-shelf SaaS products.

1. Customized EHS software means better reporting:

In the modern world, no two industries are identical. The environment requirements for a company manufacturing headphones will be vastly different from a business offering advisory services. As a matter of fact, even two businesses within the same industry may have different needs, depending upon the scale of operation, geographies where they are present and so on.

It’s not possible for a SaaS product to serve each according to their needs. It means that if you use a SaaS product, you’ll always be short of some reports or data that the authorities absolutely need.

A tailor-made software, on the other hand, will have gone the extra mile to understand the smallest of your requirements. It will not only map out each of the reports you currently need but also lay out how you can generate reports in new formats, should your requirements expand in future.

2. Customized EHS software virtually eliminates non-compliance

When you rely on manual processes for compliance, there’s always a chance that some human error keeps you from fully complying. An off-the-shelf software doesn’t let things pass by but it has its own limitations.

For example, there’s no way you can generate a specific report out of the readymade QHSE software – a report that only your business needs. As a result, you end up either spending too many resources on that one single report or face the risk of non-compliance.

A custom-built EHS software already knows what your requirements are, so there’s no question of you wasting time on hunting for a particular report. In such a software, extracting data and compiling reports out of that data is based purely on your business needs.

Hence, it brings you peace of mind that comes only when you know you have fully met the statutory requirements and that there’s nothing pending. This assurance lets you focus on your business, marketing, talent acquisition or product development, whichever is the priority for your business at that time.

3. Customized EHS software keeps your real costs down

On the face of it, some SaaS products that are offered as solutions to your EHS management system appear to be cost effective. Even a quick fact-checking will tell you that’s not the case.

To begin with, a SaaS product is typically a subscription-based product, so you’ll be shelling out money every month or year. Against that, a customized EHS software is yours with a single payment.

However, there’s more. The readymade SaaS product isn’t designed to suit your requirements; you have to fit your requirements to whatever they offer. As a result, such SaaS products will be loaded with features that you will never need.

In other words, a SaaS product kind of forces you to pay for features that you’ll not be using. That drives up the cost and doesn’t make the product any leaner. Against that, your tailor-made software has only those features that you need. That means you pay only for what you really need.

4. Customized EHS software offers a better ROI

Aah, now’re talking! A readymade SaaS product typically requires you to keep paying on a monthly basis. In many cases, upgrades will cost you extra even if you don’t need most of the features of the upgrade. Also, future monthly payments may be revised upwards, costing you even more money.

Against that, your customised QHSE management software is precision-made. You have made a one-time payment and that’s it – no future cash outflows. This ensures that you know what exactly it costs you – no uncertainties of future payments.

Summarily, it means the costs of a customized software are lower, clear and precise.

Closing words

There’s no two opinions that modern technology is hugely more effective when it comes to mitigating risks, ensuring safety, and streamlining incident investigation. Further, a custom-built software is more powerful and reliable when it comes to nailing deficiencies, reporting as required and putting in remedial activities.

So what should a business like yours do? How do you understand, with real-life usecase, the way other businesses have benefitted? Naturally you’d like to understand the challenges and the deliverables involved.

We encourage you to check out our case study where we have discussed how our client went around having customized QHSE software. You’ll be able to draw clear parallels and arrive at a conclusion. Here’s the link to the case study

And yes, we’d love to answer any questions you might have before or after you read the case study!

Smart cities in the world – An Inevitable Reality

“The 19th century was a century of empires, the 20th century was a century of nation states and the 21st century will be a century of cities.” -Former Denver Mayor Webb.

There’s a small correction to the above quote though, the 21st century will be about smart cities.

Here are two statistics that is a telling statement about the need to build Smart Cities:

  • Tokyo, which has more than 36 million people, would be the world’s 35th biggest in terms of population if it were a country. It is also the largest urban economy in the world by GDP.
  • The top 600 urban centers generate more than 60% of global GDP.Many of these big cities have glaring issues that make them unlivable with each passing day.

This is where smart cities come into play.

Many of our day-to-day activities are governed by technology aka the Internet. Smart cities should be the inevitable solution to embrace and we should not treat it as a concept that came out of Isaac Asimov’s mind.

What makes a city a smart city?

A Smart City is a future-focused framework which brings solutions to us in every aspect of urban life with the help of connected infrastructure. It uses data, digital tools and human-centered design to create a great experience for its residents as well as help in the city’s decision making.

The simple handheld device called smartphone has given us a peek into what a smart city could entail. Right from booking a cab, getting instant information, accessing health services, everything is digital these days. Who would have thought during the beginning of the 21st century that we could book a taxi with a mobile phone? The use cases are endless. Imagine if we could extrapolate all of this technology and more into building a city. That’s how you get a smart city.

A myriad of technologies is used to build a smart city that thrives with the least resources. Every device will be connected to the Internet to come up with a variety of solutions. Innovations like smart waste management systems, smart traffic solutions, public safety, smart metering, smart water conservation system, environmental monitoring sensors, smart lighting systems, smart parking solutions, etc., will enhance the quality of our lives in ways that would have been unimaginable earlier.

Why do we need smart cities?

#1 Data-driven decision making:

Thanks to interconnected IoT, we will be able to tap into the collective intelligence of the city by capturing localized bits of knowledge, ideas, data and opinions which will allow us to make data-based decisions. We will get access to information that might have been impossible to gather earlier. From knowing when a streetlamp requires replacement to self-healing grids, you will be able to make intelligent decisions.

By being in the know about such data, the city will function more efficiently and it will result in an improvement on most quality of life parameters. The ability to forecast will also help in cutting costs dramatically while providing better services to people.

The city of New York has created a tool called the NYC Business Atlas, it provides access to high quality data to its citizens and even the government uses it to make decisions. The entrepreneurs and small business owners are given free access to market research data and analytics. It also helps in the creation of new jobs for NYC’s residents. Not only does it provide access to data, but offers sophisticated analytics and visualization tools which helps an entrepreneur to understand the potential in starting a business in a particular locality in the city.

#2 Reduced carbon footprint:

Smart cities will enable air quality sensors, energy-efficient buildings, and use renewable energy resources that will reduce our environmental footprint. A report from Juniper Research says that traffic and parking management in smart cities will reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 164 million metric tonnes (MMT) in the next five years. 165 MMT is equal to the emissions of 35 million vehicles annually. While this is a dated report, we can safely assume that the effects to the environment will still hold value.

#3 Urbanisation:

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The anticipated complexities such as negative effects on the environment, question mark over physical safety and security of residents due to overcrowded living conditions, more pressure on food supply systems, and the expenses associated with urbanisation is greatly reduced when there is a structure for developing smart cities. The United Nations says that by 2030, the world is expected to have 43 megacities with at least a 10 million population, most of these in developing countries.

A smart city successfully covers the following areas: sustainable urban development, sustainable building and equipment, smart network infrastructures, provision of urban services, collective efforts of collecting data by the citizens and government.

A report by IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) says that more than half the world’s population will be at risk due to water stress by 2050 if we maintain the status quo in terms of water consumption. The state of California in the United States used smart water solutions to reduce home water consumption by 5 percent. This reduction is expected to have helped a long way in meeting the 20 percent state wide water reduction per capita goal. For an oft-drought hit state like California, these are encouraging numbers.

#4 Better transportation:

The Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) for smart cities has unique approaches when it comes to transportation modes, traffic management solutions, advanced infrastructure, and uses a mixed bag of wireless and communication technologies. All of this ensures that the citizens have a much advanced and safer way of travelling.

Singapore’s ITS system has the ability to deliver real-time traffic alerts to the public, making it one of the least congested cities in the world. The city of New York has invested in cameras and sensors at more than 10,000 city intersections. It has deployed a Connected Vehicle Pilot Program which collects and analyzes data of connected vehicles which improves safety and traffic management in real-time. According to a report by KPMG titled ‘2020 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index’, the United Arab Emirates scores the highest in change readiness for technology infrastructure. The UAE is also taking steps to make 25 percent of its transport autonomous by 2030, a strategy that was put forward in 2016.

#5 Better economic opportunities:

A report by Chordant titled ‘Role of Smart Cities for Economic Development’ says that smart cities could increase cities’ economic development by more than 5% and drive at least $20 trillion in more economic benefits by 2026. Successfully implementing a smart city brings many economic benefits to its citizens.

Urban centers are the engines of economic growth and prosperity. By building Smart Cities, you will attract the brightest minds, and it shall give rise to more channels of economic prosperity. It will lead to continued growth which can tackle competition from the rest of the world. A smart city should be able to balance the increasing need for better infrastructure and also keep its citizens safe and secure.

Thanks to technologies like IoT and AI, automation of a city’s resources is possible. Every connected device results in the city’s performance getting improved, not to mention the fact that all of this directly affects the citizens positively.

Smart buildings can even generate their own electricity and heating, thus saving resources, increasing sustainability, and boosting the economy. Thanks to a sustainable ecosystem that a smart city creates, people will lead more happier, healthier and satisfying lives.

Conclusion:

Smart cities will have a transformative effect on every aspect of our lives, from better and improved healthcare to effective provisioning of public services. They address the real needs of the city’s residents and create solutions that are durable, easy to implement, and scalable from a small pilot to a city-wide experiment. The combination of technologies like IoT, AI, ML, Big Data, Robotics, Drones, 3D printing, Blockchain, SMAC, etc., are extremely powerful and create the perfect ingredients for disruptive innovation.

The global smart cities market size is expected to grow from 410.8 billion USD to 820.7 billion USD by 2025. Building a city, using a radical concept like that of a smart city is more a responsibility than something that should be driven by pure numbers. But with the right intention and resources, building sustainable smart cities is a possibility. Singapore, Dubai, Oslo, Copenhagen, Boston, Amsterdam, New York, London, Hong Kong and Barcelona are considered as some of the smart cities in the world. If you are looking for smart city solutions, we have the wherewithal and expertise to get things started. Get on a call with us to understand how we can help you.