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Businesses prepare to enter ‘knowledge society’

While new technology has always had an effect on business, recent advancements made in computing and internet infrastructure have some experts believing the cutting-edge is now outpacing the traditional market.

“I get the sense that the [fourth] industrial revolution is right in front of us as technological advancements continue at a rapid pace,” said Vincenzo Clemente, CEO of Cross River Fiber, a fiber network company based in Morristown.

The trends for 2018 can be understood through the perspective of a societal shift from an era of information overload to a new age where tools are available to distill that information into knowledge.

“If you take a megatrends view of things, we evolved from a data society to an information society; [now] we’re going into a knowledge society,” said Samuel Conn, president and CEO of NJ Edge, a nonprofit that provides technology services in New Jersey. “There’s evidence all over the place that our economy is becoming more knowledge-based.”

This evidence can be seen in the advancements made over the past year and how the ubiquity of these technologies can improve all sectors of business. Here’s what experts are looking at:

Big data will have a big effect

Big data is the collection of massive amounts of consumer trends and preferences that are then compiled by advanced computing to provide meaningful insight on how a business should or could be structured.

Data analytics have been a rising field over the past several years but the spread of advanced computing will allow for more companies to take advantage of the data that they already are collecting.

“The advent of cloud computing is reshaping how we interoperate with big data, that’s a natural evolution of the disruptive technologies out there,” Conn said.

Some universities and colleges have invested in advanced computing systems, such as Rutgers University’s Amarel computer that’s open to independent users to rent out computing nodes to collate large datasets.

Companies that sell to massive amounts of customers, or have multiple variables in one consumer’s choice, could benefit from utilizing big data analytics.

Conn pointed to an airline company that had its data analysis system suggest bundling a popular magazine along with a cigar and bottle of scotch. A significant number of customers bought these items together, or in some combination.

Without specifics, the pairing seemed inexplicable, but the analytics showed this trend was most common when flights from New York to London were serviced, he said.

“People typically would get a [magazine] to read on the airline, and scotch to drink with the cigar when they got home,” Conn said. “When you have large data, you start to see the trends and behaviors that tell a story.”

Internet infrastructure expansion after net neutrality repeal

Net neutrality was born on the premise that internet service providers are required to treat all data as the same. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission enshrined net neutrality into law by classifying the internet as a public utility. But late in 2017, a Republican-dominated FCC reversed that decision.

Many business owners criticized the FCC’s decision, but noted it could potentially lead to further investment in internet infrastructure.

“The incentive is now on to deploy more network,” said Gil Santaliz, CEO of New Jersey Fiber Exchange, a Wall-based company that provides internet and datacenter services.

Net neutrality’s repeal will allow internet service providers more revenue streams by charging premiums for specific web content, which could be used to expand their infrastructure network.

“The first guys to move that are forward-thinkers are the guys with the deep pockets,” said Santaliz. “You’ll see deals that might not have made sense last year make sense in 2018.”

Internet businesses may want to be cautious about making deals given the instability caused by the repeal. The net neutrality protections were created and repealed within just two years, and there’s no guarantee the current law will remain in place.

Some New Jersey Democrats already have suggested they would pursue legal or legislative action to maintain net neutrality protections. Gov.-elect Phil Murphy also indicated he plans to challenge the FCC’s decision once he takes office.

But some experts say the ruling won’t make much of a difference.

“Regardless of what laws have changed around net neutrality, there will continue to be a void and necessity to fill that void,” said Clemente in an email. “I only see an increasing trend for future investments in the infrastructure space with major cable, [telecommunications] and wireless service providers leading the pack.”

Cryptocurrency is here to stay

Cryptocurrency is form of digital currency built off a decentralized network. Whereas a typical currency is validated by a central structure such as a bank, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin validate transactions by sending them through the internet to a wide network of peers that compete to confirm the transaction. A transaction is confirmed by having a computer validate cryptographic securities built into the bitcoin system.

You don’t have to understand how bitcoin works to know how it will affect your business. As a digital currency that exists outside of regulated markets, it reached astronomical evaluations at the end of 2017, with some analysts suggesting it had a market value of $250 billion.
Bitcoin originally was created in 2008 and primarily used as the currency for illegal transactions until last year when traditional businesses began to discover its uses in the mainstream market.

“People are seeing its potential, it’s a form of currency outside of regulated markets,” Conn said.

These uses range from providing a consistent currency for multinational exchanges to securities for businesses concerned about ransomware threats.

As the use of cryptocurrencies increases, so will government’s interest in regulating it. Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency catching the market’s attention.

“Bitcoin is just one, there’s over 200 now,” Santaliz said.

Conn suggested that Ripple, another form of cryptocurrency, could overtake bitcoin in the near future.

Arthur Augustyn
Arthur Augustyn grew up in Massachusetts and previously covered the video game industry in Los Angeles, city politics in Malibu, California, and local news in Bergen County before working at NJBIZ. He currently covers cannabis, government and tech.