Information technology leaders stand to drive new revenue streams for their businesses by leveraging “context-based services,” an emerging technology trend where real world and digital data are aggregated to understand “who you are, where you are, and what you are doing” to give consumers an “extremely rich experience,” according to a new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
Accenture identifies context-based services as one of six key trends in its Technology Vision 2012, an annual outlook of the most important emerging technology trends that are predicted to have a critical impact on businesses. Accenture has been researching and predicting the future of technology trends for more than a decade.
Accenture predicts that a surge in context-based services is imminent, enabled by the convergence of and easy access to many sources of contextual information, including soaring smartphone usage, the expansion of cloud computing, an explosion of social media participation, and the development of powerful tools for aggregating and analyzing multiple forms of data.
“CIOs and other IT leaders who have started to leverage contextual data to build a deeper understanding of consumer preferences and habits are establishing themselves as strategic players within their companies,” said Gavin Michael, Accenture’s chief technology innovation officer who spearheaded the project. “They are teaming more effectively with functions such as sales and marketing and leveraging contextual services to drive new revenue and deliver more value for their businesses.”
As an example, consider one travel company that scans Twitter accounts in search of mentions about upcoming trips. It then alerts hotels located in the communities where the traveler is headed. The traveler benefits because the hotel – via Twitter – might offer discounted rates as an enticement. And the hotel benefits by potentially gaining a new customer. In another example, several mobile phone service providers are experimenting with technology that automatically deactivates phones for motorists, thereby preventing them from violating laws against driving while texting or speaking on the phone.
The big difference is that technology now enables rapid aggregation of data from multiple sources and delivers new insights that can give users a much more immersive and valuable experience, according to the report.
The other trends in the Accenture Technology Vision 2012 include:
Converging Data Architectures: As data becomes a more valuable asset for most organizations, data architectures will need to change and bridge between old and new databases and systems to unlock the value. It is not hard to find predictions about the likely growth in the volume and importance of data. Indeed, one hot topic has been so-called ‘big data’. But ‘big’ misrepresents the issue. It is not just the rising volume of data that will challenge organizations, but rather developing new data architectures for effectively handling both structured and unstructured information. Furthermore, getting the architecture right is a crucial foundation for supporting another data-related trend: the need to share data far more freely and easily, to generate new business value.
The report foresees a rebalancing of the database landscape to manage unstructured data, as data architects embrace the fact that relational databases are no longer the only tool in the toolkit.
Industrialized Data Services: Related to the data architecture trend, the report says the true value of data – from both inside and outside their organizations — will be realized when it is shared freely. To do that, data is being decoupled from applications and no longer owned by a single business. What’s needed, according to the report, are fresh approaches to data management.
In the next few years, Accenture sees leading organizations mastering the types of data management necessary to strike the right balance between constraint and freedom for their data, based on a clear-eyed view of the real value of the data. They will start to think in terms of industrializing the sharing of data.
Social-Driven IT: The report finds that social media will no longer be just a “bolt on” marketing channel for organizations. They are becoming powerful catalysts that are changing the ways customers, employees and partners use technology to interact with the world around them. Most enterprises have yet to catch up to that reality and almost none take full advantage of it.
PaaS-Enabled Agility: IT leaders that try to select a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) architecture based on what they think will “win” or view ‘as-a-service’ platforms as only cost-saving measures may not be seeing the total picture. Instead the report emphasizes the importance of the agility of the platform in concert with market viability and a focus on the complementary collection of business services also provided by the vendor.
The report predicts that PaaS providers will increasingly offer three additional components: reusable business services, integration capabilities, and extension capabilities. It also notes that every platform will need to offer rich and robust capabilities for management and infrastructure.
Orchestrated Analytical Security: Companies are more “connected” than ever—not only through the Web and mobile devices, but through other non-traditional routes, most notably in the physical world. Think about how connected automobiles and industrial controls are to other systems. Consequently, the risks have increased and how organizations assess the risks is changing. The good news is that taking a data-centric view toward security – and running the equivalent of analytics-driven security – will help combat the risks.
“The Accenture Technology Vision 2012 represents more than a casual peek into the near future,” said Michael. “We believe the trends we have identified hold the potential to profoundly change the face of corporate computing and that IT leaders who embrace these trends stand to gain a strategic advantage.”