Digital disruption: What does it mean for human-machine synergy

At the recent IoT Asia trade event in Singapore, attendees were questioned how far they would go to create a live “internet-ready human being”. Could this be a budding harbinger of the next wave of Internet of Things (IoT)-driven digital disruption?

The use of smart machines, which encompass cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, intelligent automation, machine learning and deep learning, is poised to profoundly transform as well as disrupt the way work is done and how value is created in the enterprise, according to Susan Tan, research vice president at Gartner.

Smart machines, which will be adopted by 30% of large companies by 2021, will have broad applicability in all industries, from dynamic pricing models and fraud detection, to predictive policing and robotics, Tan added.

Hence, business and technology leaders who understand and harness the evolving synergistic relationships between humans and machines will be well positioned to restructure jobs and acquire the talent needed for success.

In 2013, Gartner had suggested how, with emerging technologies, smart machines can augment human performance; replace humans and work alongside humans. These trends are laying the foundation for smart machines and humans to better understand each other and the environment they operate in for context-aware interactions, and to essentially grow smarter by working together.

Know your customer

To help illustrate how human-machine relationships can or cannot work, practice leaders at Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory company, highlighted how flight attendants have become a “pivotal workforce segment” as airlines strive to differentiate customer experience. “Imagine flight attendants wearing a version of Google Glass, through which they can access customer data and personalized preferences,” they wrote. “No nut dishes served to Charles in 3C given his allergy … early seating meal for Sarah in 2A so she can get to sleep quickly. And so on. For flight attendants using this technology, a unit improvement in individual performance provides even greater increases in organizational value.”

To leverage digital technologies and the data they produce for profitable business transformation, enterprises must quickly identify areas where pivotal workforce segments (such as flight attendants for airlines) can acquire and apply deeper skills on the job to drive even greater increases in organizational value.

Key priorities for IT organizations providing digital leadership in such transformation will invariably include acquiring talent to develop innovative applications that tap human-machine synergies, or nurture tech-related skills that will help foster greater automation and efficiency.

For the latter, cloud expertise is vital. F5 Networks’ 2017 State of Application Delivery (SOAD) survey revealed that one out of five respondents plan to have more than half of their applications in the cloud this year, and four out of five are adopting hybrid or multi-cloud environments. Additionally, expanding cloud deployments have perpetuated a gap in related skills, which 34% of respondents cited as a significant security challenge, especially with increasing sophistication of attacks.

To address the gap, 25% of the SOAD respondents have opted to deploy DDoS protection or mitigation as a service – a deployment model that lets them leverage expertise from managed security service providers and expand protection to applications deployed off-premises in public, private and colocation environments.

Internet of human beings

Organizations are also turning to automation and orchestration as well as service-based offerings to address security and scalability amid the talent crunch. They aim for efficiencies and productivity boosts by leveraging DevOps and SDN-related technologies to ensure innovative yet secure, high-performing and highly available applications that are at the core of modern network infrastructure.

To protect against increasingly massive DDoS attacks, for example, F5 is quickly adapting with not only tools that enable load sharing and collaboration between DoS mitigation devices but also the intelligence for the network to defend itself.

As IT organizations and the businesses they support compete for highly sought-after talents, human-machine synergistic relationships continue to evolve. News of the recent fatal crash in the US involving an Autopiloted Tesla contrasts with that of major fund management firm BlackRock betting on machines, algorithms and models for successful stock-picking. With the burgeoning IoT creating many human-machine synergies, perhaps smart chips will be inserted into drivers, asset managers and other people one day to create the “internet of human beings”.

This is a QuestexAsia feature commissioned by F5 Networks Asia Pacific.