Tech Trends

What’s Ahead: Technologies to Watch For

Written by Randy Johnston

Technologies such as robots, drones, intelligent cities, self-driving cars, blockchain, voice recognition, next generationartificial intelligence, and big data are coming together to create a 4th industrial revolution. The fourth industrial revolution is not a product revolution, however, it’s a system revolution, These technologies should come together over the next 5-10 years to change the way we work. Sound lofty? I don’t think so, but let’s take our heads out of the clouds and put our feet back on the ground to understand the technologies we will have to solve current problems in the future.

Editor’s Note: Randy Johnston is a top-rated technology speaker at the annual Accountex conference. Randy is widely known for his Technology Update presentation, which he updates continuously. Every year, he steps back, reflects on the future, and resets his compass for the best future destination.

We get to help clients use technology to improve their businesses and lives. How rewarding is that! However, there are times when the pace of change may make you tired and confused. I’m forecasting that we are heading into one of those times. Personal computer technology certainly hasn’t been around that long—only 40 years or so. And mobile technology even less. Most of us were not exposed to the Internet until about 20 years ago, and smartphones aren’t quite 10 years old.

Setting the Groundwork—Yesterday’s and Today’s Technologies

In the 1960s and 70s, centralized computing was the only option we had. Computers were big, expensive, and complex. In the early 1980s the first personal computers were delivered, and by the time we were in the 1990s, networks, client/server computing, and databases were working well enough and fast enough that for many businesses larger computing facilities were not needed.

During the 2000s, as we began to see more virtualization along with faster Internet communication and complexity, the stage was set to move some of the servers and applications back to centralized data centers, including co-location facilities. Many of the traditional PC applications were virtualized and hosted and a new generation of browser-based products was born. This evolution into Software as a Service and the subscription model has set the stage for where we are today.

So what is imminent in technologies, and what is next?

Looking Ahead: Communication Standards

Arriving in the near term will be faster communications through improved 802.11ac wireless, including the following:

  • Planned software upgrades to make this wireless work faster and for more people in a small area;
  • New wiring standards, including CAT8, which currently supports 40 Gbits/second and should be able to make 100 Gbits/second;
  • Faster fiber optic service to improve the speed of the Internet backbone, including the current deployments of WBMMF—wideband multimode fiber that supports 400 Gbits/second;
  • 265 for 4K compressed video,
  • Software defined networks (SDN), which is virtualization for firewalls and switches); and
  • 5G cellular (2018).

What does this alphabet soup of communications standards mean? Faster, secure performance in more places on more devices. Expect speeds of 5-6Mbps to your cell phones and tablets within 2 years and speeds of 10 to 40 Gbits to your laptops and desktops. All of our devices in almost all places will be able to communicate more rapidly.

Looking Ahead: Hardware Standards

Even though we don’t expect any breakthrough in processing speeds in hardware CPUs, we are seeing more speed in everything that connects to today’s processing chips, like Solid State Drives, co-processors, and connections for peripheral devices through Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C 3.1 Gen2 that support speeds of up to 40 Gbits/second. Further, a new class of computer memory architectures—Storage Class Memory (SCM products)—will yield 1,000 times the performance of SSD, and are 10 times as dense as DRAM.

Vendors delivering products like the following will speed up the hardware technology we have:

  • Intel & Micron 3D XPoint (pronounced crosspoint)—a “transistor-less three-dimensional checkerboard where memory cells sit at the intersection of word lines and bit lines”;
  • HP & SanDisk (= Western Digital ReRAM) Memristor; and
  • Fujitsu Nano-RAM – DDR4.

What does this alphabet soup of hardware standards mean? Faster performance in hardware at about the same price point even without notable processor speed increase. As with today’s databases that are running in memory for analytics and performance on large-scale machines, we’ll be able to do similar things with local hardware over the next few years.

A New Stage of Smarter, Centralized Computing

But don’t most business just want to solve their operational problems? How does all this technology helptechnologies them? The communications and hardware infrastructure allows software developers to deliver products in ways that were completely impossible only 5, 10, or 20 years ago. Publishers are trying to make more things run on centralized computing, like we did in the 1960s and 70s (think Cloud), with far more user-friendly interfaces (think Web and Mobile).

In addition, developers have the infrastructure resources to make our applications smarter. In this case, think about voice recognition, touch screens, pattern recognition to detect fraud, classification (like we see in bank feeds in QuickBooks or QuickBooks Online), document recognition (like we see in Tallie, Expensify, Nexonia, Concur, and other expense reporting products), as well as data feeds from multiple sources including banks, and applications where we can create reports easily in a single tool (like Dynamics 365 for Financials, Microsoft Power BI, or Biznet).

What does this alphabet soup of developer talk mean? Easier-to-understand applications that can do more, learn tasks we are trying to perform, and help us make smarter choices as business owners.

Last Thoughts

This article has not even tried to touch on extra technologies such as wearables, sensors, and the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IOT), which will provide an increasing amount of actionable data. As a Sleeter Group member, note that there are expert members and resources to explain these technologies.

What does all of this technology mean to you and your clients? New opportunities, better solutions, and constant change. You’ll have to keep learning. If you don’t quite understand how everything works together, you can get by with a little help from your Sleeter Group friends to meet your needs or those of your client.

Note: Are you thinking about your future plans? How are technology changes going to affect you and your clients? If your firm needs guidance on products to solve client problems, The Sleeter Group can connect you with resources to help you make the right decisions.


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About the author

Randy Johnston

Randolph P. (Randy) Johnston, MCS has been a top rated speaker in the technology industry for over 30 years. He was inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame in 2011. He was selected as a Top 25 Thought Leader in Accounting from 2011-2013. His influence throughout the accounting industry is highlighted once again this year by being a recipient of the 2013 Accounting Today Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting award for the tenth consecutive year. Among his many other awards he holds the honor of being one of nine technology stars in the U.S. by Accounting Technology Magazine. Randy writes a monthly column for The CPA Practice Advisor, articles for the Journal of Accountancy, and creates articles for both accounting and technology publications, as well as being the author of numerous books. He has started and owns multiple businesses including K2 Enterprises in Hammond, Louisiana and Network Management Group, Inc. (NMGI) in Hutchinson, Kansas. In 2010, NMGI announced their national support of CPA firms. His wife and four children enjoy many experiences together including theatre, music, travel, golf, skiing, snorkeling and model trains.

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