The Infosys Labs research blog tracks trends in technology with a focus on applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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March 24, 2021

Distributed Cloud Computing

As a promising tech trend for coming years, distributed cloud computing is already carving out its space in the strategies of several leading organizations. Although on one hand, cloud service providers are ready to provide distributed cloud services, it is imperative for customer organizations to understand and appreciate the benefits of distributed cloud computing before readily jumping on the trend. Let us discuss some of such benefits, applications, and even challenges that distributed cloud computing has to offer.

There are few main reasons why an organization might want to have distributed cloud service. Either the applications require edge computing in which case distributed cloud forms a great base or it needs to comply with the regional specific or industry specific data privacy regulations. In both the cases, distributed cloud can be a great fit.

There is a dire need of minimum latency in running applications based on edge computing, internet of things, artificial intelligence and alike. Such applications drive the demand and growth of distributed computing. Some of the major use cases and benefits would be,

·        Cost effective scalability and agility: It is usually very expensive to build out a dedicated data centers in different geographies. Existing infrastructure could be expanded with distributed cloud and applications could be developed and deployed in the environment with same tools without actually investing much in physical infrastructure.

·        Easier regulatory compliance: Several data privacy regulations require personal information of users to stay within the country. Distributed cloud makes it easier to process PII in user's country of residence. It would become easier to comply with privacy norms of various industries if the data is processed at the source itself.

·        IoT, AI applications: There are several applications that rely on real time analysis such as video surveillance, manufacturing automations, self-driven cars, healthcare applications, etc. For such applications, the latency caused by data travel to the central cloud data center and back could cause irreversible damages. The low latency demanded by such applications can be fulfilled by distributed cloud.

Gartner believes that the future of distributed cloud will evolve in two different phases. In the initial phase, enterprise customers will tackle latency issues by mimicking the promise of hybrid cloud by buying cloud substations. Such customers will be reluctant to the idea of opening up their substations to other organizations in the near neighbor.

In the next phase, several organizations, government entities, etc. will eventually buy cloud substations and slowly open them up for use by organizations in the near surroundings thus establishing the idea of distributed cloud computing.

Even though distributed cloud computing has several benefits in terms of processing data locally, there are also certain challenges that comes with it.

For example,

·        Will enough public cloud capabilities be available on distributed cloud substation? Will it be partially distributed or fully distributed?

·        What would be the cost splitting model if such substations are made available to the neighbors in the proximity? How would be the cost split if the bandwidth is increased for effective operations?

·        What will be the nature of revenue models for sharing substations across multiple organizations? For example, who will the user pay? The cloud service provider or the organization who requested the substation there in the first place.

Such and several other issues will emerge while implementing and using distributed cloud computing. But such challenges should not hinder the growth and dwarf the hopes of organizations. They should definitely try and explore new tech trends that will effectively bolster their growth and enable them to realize their full potential through tech like distributed cloud computing.









March 8, 2021

Top Tech Trends to watch out for in 2021

As we move into the new year, it is essential to keep an eye on the changing technological landscape that has seen a considerable shift after the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced businesses to adopt digital transformation more than ever before. The number of businesses that have moved online in the past six months alone is more than those in the last decade. [1]

Such digital transformation has brought forth some interesting technologies that will complement the culture of work from home and enable businesses to function from anywhere. Following are few trends to look out for in the year 2021.

1. Internet of Behavior  

'Internet of behaviors (IoB)' is one of the top tech trends predicted by Gartner in their 2021 report. IoT for some time now have been capturing data through a network of devices. Companies are now quickly moving over to gathering and influencing a person's behavior through the collected data. By 2023, it is predicted that the individual activities of 40% of the global population will be tracked digitally in order to influence behavior.

For now, companies mostly use the IoT and IoB to observe and attempt to change or influence our behavior to achieve their desired goal.

2. Hyperautomation

Hyperautomation, at its core, combines several components of automation tools and technologies to enhance the ability to automate work, and that will be a key factor in driving success for businesses in 2021 and beyond. [3]

Everyday more and more businesses are increasing their investments in the RPA and trying to improve their business results. It can be said that Hyperautomation is primarily based on the concept of RPA, but it takes the methodology to a whole new level by integrating various other technologies in the mix. This way, hyperautomation focuses on the application of RPA bots to automate rule-based business processes while enhancing its capabilities to do a lot more.


3. Quantum computing

A research vice president at Gartner said, "2021 will be a pivotal year for seeing the maturation of the vendor landscape. Cloud service providers like Amazon, Azure, and other are aggressively ramping up their quantum capability, and current quantum leaders like IBM and DWave are developing in-depth roadmaps around the scale of the systems."

Globally, organizations are ramping up investment activities around quantum computing, partly driven by the hype and partly adding to the hype around this field. Value-aligned quantum computing service providers and established quantum systems innovators will likely successfully navigate the economic uncertainties of the coming few years. Organizations should start working on their quantum strategies as soon as possible, and measure success (KPIs) by the number of trained quantum experts they are nurturing each year.


4. Cybersecurity Mesh

Organizations should accept cybersecurity mesh as a distributed architectural approach to scalable, flexible and reliable cybersecurity control. This security trend takes a limelight as working from anywhere is becoming a new norm and hence company assets are now existing outside the original traditional security perimeter. Company information is now more distributed than ever in the home of employees, partners, etc.

This approach is directly related to the "Zero-Trust" security model from Gartner where it is stated that access control should be applied to any asset regardless of location.

The company's security perimeter is closely linked to data and identity. The context is also critical in this regard. It must be possible to determine which identity has access to which data, with which permissions, on which device, and in which location.


5. Distributed cloud

Newer data protection laws are enabling data to move away to different and more distributed clouds that considers the regulatory restrictions of a given country or business.

Gartner predicts that by 2025, more than half of all organizations will be using the cloud option where the location of preference can be chosen. The pandemic has marked the need to be able to work from anywhere. This trend is not likely to be gone after the pandemic, and it looks like it will become a true standard. Companies will have to support the business from anywhere and this is just the beginning.


6. Total Experience

There has always been a tough competition between the tech companies to attract the right talent and win the biggest clients. Although the focus has always remained on creating a great employee experience and wholesome customer experience. As per Gartner's report, "Organizations that make a shift to a more holistic approach will certainly outperform competitors on key metrics for years to come."

Total experience essentially incorporates together employee experience, customer experience and user experience, helping organizations to deploy most impactful tools and solutions. This is important moving into 2021 due to the constraints inflicted on tech companies over the last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Creating a cohesive Total Experience is critical because it reduces the total cost and redundancy and unleashing company-wide improvements. Although unified strategies and workflows play important role into creating a Total Experience, the entire concept of TX hinges upon technologies that enable unified communications.


7. Privacy enhancing computation

With more and more businesses commencing on their digital journey and are structuring their business around data, privacy is no longer a 'good-to-have', but a 'must have' feature. The need for privacy enhancing computation arises from the necessity to share the data while maintaining privacy and security. This trend revolves around three technologies which are:

·         Providing a trusted environment where sensitive data can be processed or analyzed

·         Performs processing and analytics in a decentralized manner

·         The third technology encrypts data and algorithms before processing or analytics

This trend enables organizations to "collaborate on research securely across regions and with competitors without sacrificing confidentiality," Gartner said.


8. Edge computing

Forrester reports suggest that until now, edge computing was promising but still developing. In 2021, new business models will emerge that facilitate the deployment of edge in production. Cloud platforms will compete while artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G will drive the rapid expansion of edge use cases.

Things will start to change in 2021, as edge-trained machine learning becomes increasingly possible thanks to Beefier AI chips from semiconductor giants like Intel and Nvidia and Emerging ML techniques like reinforcement learning and federated learning.

Edge application intelligence will blossom in 2021 to accelerate digital transformation, especially in industries that must bridge the physical and digital worlds in real time. [8]


9. 5G

5G will actually be noticeably different in 2021. Since many telecom companies are working on it, coverage will get better, speeds will get faster and phones will get cheaper. It'll be the year when consumers will be wanting more of 5G, rather than it being an extra throw-in on the latest device. And 5G will expand to even more products beyond phones as we start to see the promise of 5G fulfilled.

5G being an enabler technology will deliver value with more speed and faster data throughput, pervasive mobility, large-scale connected devices and sensors, greater energy efficiency per MB sent, easier service deployment, lower latency, and high network reliability.

Use cases that will benefit from edge computing on private 5G in 2021 include factory-floor automation as well as AR/VR and HD video applications for remote inspection and surveillance, quality assurance, remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and employee safety solutions.


10. Xreality

While we are on the topic of top tech trends for 2021, we definitely cannot miss out on the Xreality which really has the potential to augment the any space! This gets a boost after the world has seen what it is to work from home with existing technologies and how Xreality can transform that.

A Forbes article says that the AR market would see an exponential increase in its market size upto $198 billion by 2025. Evan Gappelberg, CEO of NexTech AR, says that 2020 catalyzed the adoption of remote interactions. Gappelberg adds that factors such as 5G for enhanced connectivity, new human holograms/3D modeling, and enhanced mobile capabilities have paved the way for AR and virtual reality (VR) to establish a more effective support system for these industries.

Xreality could find multiple applications and use cases in the coming year across multiple domains and bring about the desired shift in the current tech landscape.













Digital Twins in Supply Chain Management

In the movement towards Industry 4.0, the major focus is on digitalization and developing analytic real-time capabilities. Digital twins play a huge role here. They are essentially a virtual representation of a product or process across its lifecycle and utilize real-time and other sources of data to learn, reason and dynamically recalibrate for improved decision making. 

The global digital twin market is expected to grow at a rate of 58% CAGR from 3.1 billion USD in 2020 to 48.2 billion USD by 2026. The key technologies enabling digital twins include: internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, APIs and open standards, artificial intelligence, and AR/VR technologies (mixed reality).

In supply chain context, this virtual representation would include all aspects from the supplier to customer locations. These include the manufacturing factories, the warehouse and distribution centers, transportation routes and retailers. Businesses using digital twins can evaluate the complex interlinked trade-offs in capacity, service, inventory and total landed cost.

Due to measurable improvements it is gaining industry prominence. Businesses are able to understand the implications of their decisions by running 'what - if' scenarios and making recommendations based on simulations throughout the supply chain vertically and horizontally. The disruption caused by the pandemic has created challenges related to safety, supply chain resilience, labor etc. Real time access or visibility across company boundaries and down to the supply-demand chain has become crucial.

Supply chains are extremely complex especially in process industries like chemical, steel and industries where the production and distribution networks are interconnected. Despite forecasting there is a residual uncertainty/variability of demand and volatility of supply.

There are three key horizons where digital twins help the supply chain: long term planning, sales and operations planning and short-term planning.

In long term planning, these virtual representations help improve efficiency in capital expenditure and optimize the setup of the complete supply chain system by understanding structural bottlenecks and additional capacity requirements.

Digital twins also help in short-term planning and execution by identifying execution risks at an early stage and mitigating risks rather than managing crisis. Also helps idle time reduction of bottleneck assets and improves inventory positions.

Sales and operations plan optimization is carried out by feeding insights that are generated by running a plan back into the system for improvements. This will help identify misaligned plans, system constraints and latent bottlenecks. The insights generated also assist in maintenance plan alignment and inventory matching to market demand.

A supply chain digital twin is useful for:

·         Understanding supply chain dynamics and behavior

·         Optimizing warehouse design and operational performance

·         Creating a logistics network

·         Discovering bottlenecks in processes

·         Supply chain design change and development testing

·         Risk Monitoring & contingence testing

·         Transportation planning

·         Inventory optimization

·         Enhancing shipment protection

·         Predicting the performance of packaging materials

·         Cash and cost to serve analysis

·         Forecasting operations

There are some interesting startups in the space like Logivations based out of Germany which offer AI based software to create digital twins of a logistics network which is constantly optimized. Another startup, Cognition Factory offers AI based solutions to simulate warehouse planning, configuration and continuous optimization of material handling systems. US based Datumix provides 3D virtual simulations of equipment and then deploy algorithms to monitor in real-time for maintenance.

A few organizations who have utilized digital twins successfully include:

DHL: The global logistics giant created a virtual representation of their Tetra Pak product warehouse. It is used to identify optimal storage conditions and receives real time inputs from the equivalent physical warehouse which is located in Singapore to tracks performance in real time.

Unilever: The consumer-goods giant created virtual copies of its physical factories using AI/ML capabilities. The aim was to track physical logistic conditions and test operational changes. They are working in collaboration with Microsoft Corporation to create virtual versions of over 300 global plants.



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