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  1. Technology Trends for 2020

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    2019 was a whirlwind year in the technology industry. Many trends from the year will continue to be a factor in 2020 and beyond. The demand for process automation will keep rising for the foreseeable future as web-based products become more widely used by businesses. Cybersecurity continues to be a top priority for businesses across the globe and artificial intelligence will drive demand for cloud-based services. Conversely, autonomous vehicles had been gaining steady traction, but slightly stalled in 2019 amid concerns regarding adequate safety and testing.

    No matter what 2020 brings, DQE is prepared with solutions to keep your business at the forefront. Here are the major trends we’re anticipating:

    5G

    As of November 2019, dozens of U.S. metropolitan areas had 5G, and major carriers promised more will come in the near future.

    The system will enhance device and network capabilities, offering a high rate of data, more capacity, better connections and more device connectivity. The demand for fiber optics will increase as the 5G network continues to expand because of its capacity capabilities and ability to connect carriers to fixed wireless access networks.

    Telecom Mergers

    The Sprint/T-Mobile merger grabbed headlines this year as the Department of Justice approved the $26 billion deal. Look for mergers and acquisitions on a smaller scale to be a large part of growth strategies for local and regional businesses in 2020. More telecom mergers were expected in 2019 than 2018. The current data center infrastructure is already heavily in use, and the continuing trend will mean more demand for data center infrastructure, including fiber optic cable.

    Data Center Growth

    With the rising demand of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT), the global data center market has experienced growing demand. The global data center market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of more than 4% by 2024. Fiber is an integral tool in any data center, meaning the demands on the fiber market will also remain high.

    Cybersecurity

    IoT opens a world of possibilities for users, but it also a potential portal for cyberattacks. IoT attacks were up 600% in 2017, and more than 8,800 breaches were recorded between January 1, 2005, and April 2018, with small businesses of fewer than 1,000 employees being the most vulnerable.

    The need to protect financial data and private customer information is at an all-time high. Distributed Denial of Service mitigation services will grow as businesses of all sizes look to put processes in place to prevent or minimize breaches.

    Artificial Intelligence

    As artificial intelligence (AI) and information technology (IT) needs of various industries increase in use, the infrastructure that supports those technologies will need to keep pace.

    The medical industry is turning to web-based technology to communicate with patients and even conduct surgeries in some cases, however the general IT infrastructure of hospitals is often outdated.

    Technology is playing a larger role in the education system with students attending class through virtual classrooms and teachers communicating with parents through apps and other web-based forums.

    Conclusion

    To keep up with demand, industries across the globe will need to strengthen their cloud solutions and overall network capabilities to give the end user the fast, seamless and secure services necessary to remain relevant in today’s digital marketplace. DQE’s expansive fiber-based services provide scalable, safe solutions for businesses across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. The network is built to grow with the industry and will be ready to meet increased bandwidth needs that will come with these trends in 2020 and beyond.

  2. Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Agents and Things

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    One of the hottest trends in technology is autonomous agents and things. That nebulous-sounding term is actually quite precise – it’s a technology that takes advanced machine learning a step further, so that it can make complex decisions on its own, or autonomously. This is beyond simple automation, where something happens automatically according to hard-and-fast rules. Instead, autonomous agents and things make reasoned decisions based on multiple factors about the current situation – they choose actions designed to meet a certain goal without the involvement of people.

    Examples include technologies like self-driving cars, advanced robotics, certain computer programs (including some viruses), or even something like a smart thermostat that senses when people are home and when they’re not, as well as other environmental changes, and adjusts accordingly – as opposed to one that is merely automated, running on a pre-programmed schedule.

    This is an emerging technology, but we can see its evolution in technology most of us encounter every day. For example, virtual assistants like Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft) and Now (Google) began as little more than voice recognition search functions, but are now much more sophisticated. In fact, in 2016 Apple announced that it is allowing third-party apps to access Siri, so that users will be able to ask Siri to accomplish tasks such as sending payment or searching images. Eventually the user experience of a smartphone will likely have an autonomous agent as the entire user interface, rather than a screen full of buttons for different applications.

    Autonomous agents and things builds on the Internet of Things, in which devices are connected to the internet so that actionable data can be gathered. But the deluge of data provided by the IoT is becoming so overwhelming that it’s too much for humans to process. That’s where autonomous agents and things comes in — in the autonomous world, many technologies are interconnected and share data, and then act on it without the involvement of people. In fact, we’re now starting to refer to the Internet of Autonomous Things, or IoAT.

    Challenges with the technology

    We’re not close to the point where an autonomous agent could take over the world, as has been depicted in numerous sci-fi movies (2001: A Space Odyssey, or Her). But there are some significant, albeit more pedestrian, challenges to be addressed.

    Data security on the devices themselves is a significant problem, in that data can be easily recovered from decommissioned items such as smartphones – and people upgrade their phones at an extraordinarily rapid rate. And all kinds of IoT devices with capacity for storing and transmitting data are discarded frequently as well.

    But virtual data security is an even more significant issue. As we’ve seen, the IoT is vulnerable to hacks and security breaches. Currently, the most pervasive problem is that devices are inadequately protected by passwords, leaving them open to be recruited into giant, impersonal botnets used in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. But as we move toward the Internet of Automated Things, where decisions are being made based on data collected by these devices, the potential implications of such hacks – either to the devices themselves, or the cloud where the data is stored – could become more directed, and even more serious.

    Furthermore, security issues – perceived as well as actual – might impact the growth of the technology in that they could cause people to distrust automated systems and things. We’ve already seen this effect with the IoT. It will be important for designers of automated consumer goods to learn from the mistakes of the IoT and effectively address security issues early in the technology’s evolution.

    Another potential issue for automated consumer goods is that people might find them too complicated to use. If, for example, consumers pay extra to buy cutting-edge automated thermostats but get frustrated trying to program them, they’ll give up on those advanced features and just use the manual settings – and might think twice before choosing an automated product again. To avoid this, designers will need to pay special attention to the user experience as they roll out new products.

    In the longer-term, liability will become more of an issue as systems become more and more autonomous – in other words, who will be held responsible if the system makes a decision that has harmful consequences? The manufacturer, or the owner of the system? It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which an autonomous system makes a decision that truly couldn’t be foreseen, especially as systems become more sophisticated. The regulatory framework will need to evolve along with the technology.

    Current applications of autonomous agents and things

    Computer programs are among the most well-developed applications of autonomous technology right now. For example, sophisticated supply chain management programs are capable of evaluating and reacting to needs such as ordering supplies, scheduling workers and so on without human involvement – going beyond simple automation.

    Driverless technologies are already utilized in cars – for example, cars that can park themselves into tight spaces, or automatically brake when they get too close to another car or object. Evolution of truly driverless cars isn’t far behind — in fact, experts think this is possible by 2021. Ford, Nissan, Google, BMW, General Motors, and Daimler are just a few of the big names working toward this goal. Data security is of particular importance with this potential application, as the implications of hacking could be dangerous or life-threatening.

    The world of autonomous agents and things is ever-changing. Keep up with your business’s advancing bandwidth demands with DQE’s secure fiber optic network services, where scalability is unlimited and customization is key.

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