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

Last updated:October 2016

Editor's note

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.

1Welcome 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.

2Gaming 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.

3Low 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.

4How 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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