Tech Trends That Will Impact iGaming Industry In 2021
AI engineering, distributed cloud, business agility, and anywhere operations are some of the technology trends that are likely to impact the iGaming market in 2021.
As I write this, we have now been seven months into the Covid-19 pandemic. The iGaming industry has not been immune to the disruptors that have appeared as a result of the wide-spread impact the pandemic has had on people, companies, and governments. Sporting events are still being cancelled or postponed. Many land-based casinos are still closed or have re-closed due to the second wave of Covid-19 cases sweeping across the globe.
The iGaming industry trends mentioned above existed prior to the pandemic, however, in most cases they have been accelerated out of a necessity to respond quickly.
In the first few months of the pandemic, most operators were reeling from the speed at which the initial effects were being felt. The cancellation of sporting events forced operators to quickly launch new online products, whilst in parallel, they focussed their attention on adapting their operations to cater for a remote workforce, to their suppliers working remotely, and to the rapidly changing needs and behaviours of their own customers.
iGaming suppliers had to react quickly. Trade shows and events were cancelled, there was a rapid move to online webinars and virtual events. Across the whole iGaming value chain, there was a general belt tightening. Pre-covid product roadmaps were torn up and re-prioritized. In many cases, initiatives were ‘put on hold’. “Let’s sit tight and see how things are in a couple of months” was a phrase often repeated.
Time has ticked by and we are now seeing businesses start to move again. Sitting still and maintaining a holding position isn’t an option for most. Covid-19 is driving changes that can’t be ignored and a realization that this isn’t something that is going to disappear in a couple of months has hit home. Companies have moved past the Covid-19 response phase and are now focussing again on growth.
At Symphony Solutions we were forced to pivot quickly and accept that things were changing quickly.
We launched our own Symphony Anywhere Operation and within six weeks has hired our first staff member under the new remote operating model. I myself moved from Barcelona to Gran Canaria on the 17th of September; I was keen to avoid being in a large city and having to endure a second wave of Covid related restrictions, the ones that indeed we can now see being implemented across mainland Spain.
I have spoken to numerous iGaming companies; most have accepted work from home through until at least Q1 of next year remote working and ‘anywhere operations’ will be the norm. I strongly believe that many companies will not return to previous ways of working at all. Social distancing bubbles are being implemented across Europe. Some companies are considering a ‘bubble shift’ system with the workforce being split into cross-functional bubbles that come together in the office on certain days, with the majority of time being spent working from home. I suspect this will continue well into next year.
Remote operations have become one of the gaming market trends too. Anywhere Operations drive many technology changes and open up value add experiences across the area of collaboration, secure remote access, cloud infrastructure, automation, and the online experience required to support an iGaming remote operation.
Investments in these areas are already taking place and will continue to be more highly prioritized than BC (Before Covid).
At Symphony our teams are in constant discussion with our customers, helping them to add value in response to the shift to Anywhere Operations.
AI Engineering As One of The Main iGaming Tech Trends
A September 2020 report on a survey by Gartner showed that growth – namely customer experience, retention, and revenue growth – along with cost optimization were the top focus areas for current AI initiatives.
For most operators, AI has proven hard to scale internally. Finding vendors that provide AI-driven solutions that can significantly improve the customer experience, resulting in an uplift in engagement and retention metrics has been challenging. Many suppliers do not have solutions that address the specific needs of the iGaming industry. Start–ups formed having identified these gaps and have been thriving, with a rapidly growing order book.
Many operators have struggled with internal buy in to scale their AI capabilities and feel there is a lack of AI talent, and that they are blocked by their inability to find so-called ‘unicorns’.
“AI talent is not one thing, it’s multiple things,” said Erick Brethenoux, research vice president at Gartner. “The biggest misconception in the journey to successfully scaling AI is the search for ‘unicorns,’ or the perfect combination of AI, business and IT skills all present in a single resource. Since this is impossible to fulfill, focus instead on bringing together a balanced combination of such skills to ensure results.”
Fortunately for us, we have a depth of talent across AI business and IT skills and can bring the combination of skilled people together, taking your AI initiatives through concept development to launching and the implementation of AI operationally. Moreover, our engineering team has the expertise of the successful development of AI personalization solution for gaming business. So, our teams can educate and work with you to overcome the challenges around privacy and security concerns and the integration of AI into your existing infrastructure.
Distributed Cloud For iGaming Products
The distributed cloud approach is an important change in how networks are planned and implemented. At a high-level, a distributed cloud refers to the distribution of cloud services to different geographical locations as opposed to a more common centralized cloud model in which services are centralized in one location.
In the distributed cloud model, system workloads can be shifted between a central cloud, regional, and even an ‘edge cloud’. In addition, workloads can also be distributed between both private and public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft’s Azure Products.
The benefits for iGaming operators of a distributed cloud model are that it can reduce latency, network congestion and minimize data loss while improving product quality user experience and increase customers base as in the case of cloud-based sportbook app for Ladbrokes Coral we developed. This is important to those with mobile users in rapidly developing gambling areas such as Africa and Latin America where latency is a common issue.
Special care and attention should be paid to ensure applications reside in the best location and where and how they are processed.
Symphony Solutions is a premier Amazon Web Services Partner; our cloud services teams are actively helping our customers ensure they make the right choices.
Business Agility As iGaming Business Trends
If there is a silver lining to the current pandemic, it is that the world is being put to the test. The result of which is that governments, companies, and people are innovating to prepare and grow despite the economic and market conditions we are faced with and that we will be faced with for the next few years.
Business Agility has been much talked about – it is nothing new. However, as is the case with other trends mentioned in this article, Covid is driving the focus and rate of change at a far quicker rate than would have been predicted BC (before Covid).
Business Agility is not something to be restricted to IT departments. It requires that everyone needed in the provision of value to the end customer is involved. Business and technology, legal, marketing, human resources, finance, support, compliance, security, operations, product, and IT need to use proven Lean and Agile practices. That results in the rapid delivery of high-quality products and services that delight their users and are proven by our client’s success story about Agile implementation in the operations. Those who do it faster than their competition – win.
Closing Summary & Future Gaming Technology Predictions
iGaming operators will need to ensure they focus on not just one of the gaming industry trends mentioned above. Those that succeed will need to focus and act on a combination of the points mentioned above. Resiliency will be central to the ‘new normal’.
We are living through a turbulent time. We will no doubt look back on this time with sadness and deep regret about the loss of life and the profound economic hardship endured. In addition, we will look back on this period as a time that propelled us to new ways of working, to embrace new technologies. A time that gave rise to entirely new operating models that became the ‘norm’ in the future.
The leaders of iGaming companies, their CIO’s and CTO’s will need to look for opportunities to design next-generation digital platforms. Ones that will modernize and rationalize applications and infrastructure whilst implementing extremely flexible capabilities to design and deliver new products, better services, and experiences to both their own employees and their iGaming customers. This will be Covid’s IT legacy. If you want us to help you create that legacy, please look over our igaming platform development services and get in touch. Together we deliver cutting-edge products to the market.