Essential Guide

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From blockchain to RPA: A look at cutting-edge tech and the enterprise

In this CIO Essential Guide, learn about four cutting-edge technologies that could give your company the upper hand over industry competitors.


New technologies are coming to market at an unprecedented rate, and CIOs are often faced with the daunting task of determining what's relevant to the business -- and what isn't. Today, how a company utilizes cutting-edge technology -- and how quickly -- can translate into a distinct advantage over the competition.

This essential guide examines four of the most talked about emerging technologies today: blockchain, robotic process automation, augmented and virtual reality, and 3D printing. It breaks down how these technologies are making a splash, why CIOs should pay attention to them and how CIOs can introduce cutting-edge tech into their IT strategies.

The stories presented in this guide delve into the fundamentals of these emerging technologies and shine a light on the ways in which leading CIOs are using cutting-edge tech to boost business performance -- from automating routine jobs and improving customer service to supporting a major digital transformation initiative.


Beyond bitcoin

A blockchain tracks the transactions of digital assets. It is, in other words, a digital ledger, and it remains current when new transactions -- in the form of a new block of encrypted data -- are added to the chain of transactions that have already taken place. Its best-known use case is bitcoin, the digital currency.

Why should CIOs care? A blockchain can be used to record the transaction of any digital asset -- from music to messages -- without the need for a central authority, which means it's fast. Copies of the digital ledger are stored across a network of computers and updated simultaneously, and transactions have to be approved algorithmically by a majority of the nodes in the network before they're added to the ledger, which means it's secure.

Financial institutions are already experimenting with the cutting-edge tech, but it's also popping up in other industries like shipping.


Will blockchain be a great disruptor? Maybe

One of blockchain's promises is that it will transform business transactions, but, as consultant Carl Lehmann points out in this Q&A, the technology is still in the experimental phase. Continue Reading


The first step to blockchain implementation? Find the use cases

Before placing bets on blockchain tech, CIOs need to figure out where the technology applies and, perhaps more important, where it doesn't apply. Continue Reading


Smart contracts: Defined

Blockchain's reach includes smart contracts, which are contracts that can self-execute. Continue Reading


Blockchain a vital technology for programmable economy

A new economic system will replace cash with loyalty program points or actions that are deemed valuable, and blockchain technology will be a big enabler. Continue Reading

Blockchain and the betterment of society

Consultant and author Don Tapscott lays out seven benefits of blockchain in this SearchCIO photo story. Continue Reading


IBM's Arvind Krishna sheds light on blockchain's thorniest issues

How many nodes is enough for consensus? Who owns blockchain data? IBM blockchain expert Arvind Krishna addresses these and other burning blockchain issues in this SearchCIO tip. Continue Reading


How to frame an enterprise blockchain use case

In this video, IBM's Pramod Achanta enumerates the benefits and challenges of implementing blockchain technology and offers pointers to identify blockchain's business use cases. Continue Reading


Beyond bitcoin, the Fortune 500 explore business benefits of blockchain

Companies from a variety of industries have started exploring how blockchain governance strategies can reduce costs, speed interactions and expand business capabilities. Continue Reading

2Robotic process automation-

Welcome to a future of more efficient -- and smarter? -- co-workers

Robotic process automation (RPA), sometimes referred to as software that automates other software, performs high-volume, manual, repeatable tasks by mimicking how humans interact with computers. Intelligent or cognitive computing, RPA's more advanced relative, uses machine learning and artificial intelligence and other technologies to take on human tasks that call for problem-solving skills and judgment. Together, these cutting-edge technologies will provide significant efficiencies and savings for enterprises and radically change how work gets done.


RPA technology and the road to automation

If CIOs are smart, they'll take advantage of the "R" in RPA technology to ignite a digital transformation. Continue Reading


Fundamentals of building the best RPA architecture

Enterprises are embracing robotic process automation to automate rules-based, repetitive tasks in a cost-efficient manner. ROI depends on having the right RPA architecture. Continue Reading


IT service providers leverage RPA tech

Large, global IT and business process outsourcing companies are reaping the RPA rewards. They use the technology internally to improve efficiency and externally to serve customers. Continue Reading


RPA shakes up the outsourcing sector

Robotic process automation challenges the labor arbitrage of offshore outsourcing, sparking a new discussion among vendors, business leaders and CIOs. Continue Reading


How to choose the right RPA tools

If an RPA tool isn't user-friendly and isn't built for the long term, chances are the dividends won't be immediate. Read this before choosing your RPA tools. Continue Reading


Emerging RPA use case: Bridging the gap between legacy and cloud apps

RPA tech has evolved into sophisticated frameworks that automate IT tasks and rules-based processes. Now, RPA benefits are bridging the gap between legacy apps and modern ones. Continue Reading


Could a cognitive RPA system be your next hire?

KPMG's Cliff Justice identifies three classes of RPA technology: basic process automation, enhanced process automation and cognitive platforms. It's the latter category that's set to disrupt the worker market. Continue Reading


Cognitive RPA advances get robots ready to work

Alec Ross, former senior innovation advisor to the Secretary of State, explains why robotics will upend the knowledge worker market in this CIO Minute column. Continue Reading


The effects of the automation age

Before ridding positions through automation, analytics expert Tom Davenport implores CIOs to think about job augmentation -- humans and computers working together. Continue Reading

3Augmented and virtual reality-

Gaming tech invades the enterprise

The convergence of the digital and physical worlds has already changed how businesses interact with customers. Augmented reality (AR), which virtually layers information over the physical environment, and virtual reality (VR), which immerses a user in a virtual world, will continue to blur the line between the two.

And, if the consultants are to be believed, the introduction of these cutting-edge technologies to the enterprise will happen quickly. "Unlike some of the previous revolutions we've seen, the cost of entry into augmented reality and virtual reality is significantly low. As a result, adoption has happened much more rapidly," said Steve Soechtig, a Deloitte Digital consultant.

Regardless of how the technology is used -- as a new digital experience for customers, as a way to build virtual prototypes for engineers or as a collaboration technology that replaces video conferencing for the business -- IT will have a role to play.


AR, VR enterprise use cases do exist

Deloitte consultants provide examples of how AR and VR technology will be used in the enterprise; they lay out how these technologies will affect IT. Continue Reading


CIOs: It's time to start thinking AR apps

More than 50% of organizations are experimenting with AR, according to IDC. It's time to make the technology part of your enterprise mobile application strategy. Continue Reading


CDM Smith CIO introduces HoloLens to the enterprise

In this SearchCIO video, David Neitz explains how the hologram technology is changing how the engineering and construction firm get work done. Continue Reading


Public cloud poor fit for AR, VR apps?

Cloud computing providers such as AWS use an on-demand model. That could cause latency issues in AR and VR applications because of the enormous processing power they require. Continue Reading


Make way for the enterprise of things

Analyst Jack Gold makes a bold prediction that by 2020, most people will be using AR technology -- and this new reality will have big implications for the enterprise. Continue Reading


Google Glass goes to work

Google Glass was a bust. But the reboot, known as Google Glass at Work, could be one of the first AR technologies in the enterprise. Continue Reading

43D printing-

Low cost of entry, new use cases for the enterprise

On the face of it, 3D printing may appear to be the most niche technology of those examined in this guide to cutting-edge tech. But CIOs who overlook 3D printing as a potential disruptor are selling the application of this emerging technology short. As IT expert Harvey Koeppel puts it, "I believe the current descriptions vastly underestimate the potential impact of 3D printing technology and its inevitable derivative technologies."

Although the technology may not be owned by IT, CIOs can play a significant role in its success. For companies where use cases are clear, IT will be responsible for network access and data security. For companies still on the fence about investing in the technology, they'll need a leader to evaluate its usefulness -- a chance for CIOs to round up use cases (or the lack thereof) and recast the IT department as an innovative partner to the business.

Another point: Cost of entry is low. CIOs can introduce 3D printing technology to the business for as little as $10,000, according to one expert.


Experts underestimate 3D printing's potential

IT expert Harvey Koeppel makes a case for CIOs to invest in 3D printing technology and provides a 12-step guide on how they can steer the course. Continue Reading


CIOs can recast IT with 3D printing

Experimenting with 3D printing technology gives CIOs an opportunity to demonstrate their IT organizations' technology chops and to help the business see IT as an innovation partner. Continue Reading


3D printing strategy hinges on use cases

Outsource or insource? Look to the 3D printing use cases to answer that question. Continue Reading


3D printing: A lesson in strategy building

CIOs owe it to their reputation as business leaders and emerging tech mavens to take a stab at 3D printing, says CTO Niel Nickolaisen. Continue Reading


Future state: A look at 4D printing

4D-printed materials can assemble or repair themselves, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Self-Assembly Lab. Continue Reading

5Emerging tech terms-

How to talk the talk

You're familiar with these terms, but your business partners might not be. Here are simple, straightforward definitions that can help you describe these complex technologies in user-friendly language.

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Excellent article! RPA, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are too much of a game changer to be ignored. Especially now. If we take a look at some of the predictions for 2017 in RPA we can easily say that these are the foundation of a new work environment.
Good article.