Peering into the future of IT: Business adoption plans for IoT, AI, VR, and beyond

Study shows Internet of Things and artificial intelligence products will have the biggest impact

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Among emerging technologies, IT professionals expect Internet of Things (IoT) devices and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to have the biggest impact in the workplace, according to a new report from online IT professionals community Spiceworks.

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The study, "Future of IT: Hype vs. Reality," examines organizations' adoption plans for technologies such as virtual reality (VR), 3D printing, IoT and AI. While survey respondents don't expect mass adoption to take off for VR and 3D printers, some industries have significantly higher adoption rates than the industry average, the report notes.

Of the 566 IT professionals surveyed worldwide in October 2016, 80 percent said IoT devices will be useful to their business practices in three to five years, and nearly 60 percent said the same for AI. Over the next five years 60 percent of companies plan to adopt machine learning and 72 percent plan to deploy business analytics with AI.

Nearly one in five organizations surveyed have IoT technologies deployed on their network today and an additional 40 percent plan to adopt them. The healthcare industry has the highest adoption rate at 28 percent, with an additional 50 percent planning to deploy these technologies.

When examining the adoption of various types of AI, the results show that about one in five organizations use intelligent digital assistants for work-related tasks while relatively fewer reported using machine learning (8 percent) or business analytics with AI (8 percent).

Still, more organizations are planning to adopt AI technology over the next five years, with nearly half intending to adopt intelligent assistants, 60 percent planning to adopt machine learning, and 72 percent looking to deploy business analytics with AI.

On the other hand, only 7 percent of companies use VR and 13 percent plan to adopt it. The construction/engineering industry has the highest planned adoption rate of VR, at 27 percent. Only 11 percent of companies use 3D printers and 22 percent plan to adopt them. The education industry has the highest current adoption rate, at 45 percent.

While all of the emerging technologies have potential in the workplace, IT professionals are grappling with budget and security concerns as they evaluate the impact the technologies can offer today versus in the future, according to the report.

When asked what their biggest concerns are about AI in the workplace, most IT professionals cited security and privacy issues (48 percent) as their biggest concern. Despite these concerns, nearly 70 percent of IT professionals think AI and machine learning will enable more time to focus on strategic IT initiatives. Only a small percentage of professionals think AI will put IT jobs at risk.

"IT professionals are rightly concerned with the practicality of integrating emerging technology in the workplace, particularly when it comes to VR and 3D printing," said Peter Tsai, IT analyst at Spiceworks. "Many organizations are struggling to find viable use cases for VR and 3D printers that will justify the costs."

With IoT and AI, while many organizations understand the potential business benefits, IT professionals are more concerned about potential security risks over costs, especially in light of recent distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks originating from vulnerable IoT systems, Tsai said. As with AI, security is the top concern with IoT in the workplace.