Gartner lifts the lid on next year’s key strategic technology trends
Delegates at last month’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2016 in Orlando, Florida were given the heads-up on the the Top 10 strategic technology trends that are likely to be making waves in the next 12 months.
Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as: a) one with substantial disruptive potential that is just beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use; or b) one with a high degree of volatility that will reach tipping point over the next five years.
Gartner Fellow and vice president David Cearley says that next year’s key trends set the stage for what Gartner calls the Intelligent Data Mesh.
“The first three embrace ‘Intelligence Everywhere’; how data science technologies and approaches are evolving to include advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, allowing the creation of intelligent physical and software-based systems that are programmed to learn and adapt. The next three focus on the digital world and how the physical and digital worlds are becoming more intertwined. The last four trends focus on the mesh of platforms and services needed to deliver the intelligent digital mesh,” he said.
So, what are the trends resellers and their customers should be shaping their strategies around?
1. AI and Advanced Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced machine learning are moving beyond traditional rule-based algorithms to create systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously. This, says Cearley, is what makes smart machines appear ‘intelligent’. “Applied AI and advanced machine learning give rise to a spectrum of intelligent implementations, including physical devices (robots, autonomous vehicles, consumer electronics) and apps and services (virtual personal assistants, smart advisors). These implementations will be delivered as a new class of obviously intelligent apps and things, as well as providing embedded intelligence for a wide range of mesh devices and existing software and services.”
2. Intelligent Apps
Intelligent apps that perform some of the functions of a human assistant, such as virtual personal assistants (VPAs) or virtual customer assistants, will make everyday tasks easier and users more productive, for example by prioritising emails or highlighting the most important content and interactions. In this way, they have the potential to transform the nature of work and the structure of the workplace. “Over the next 10 years, virtually every app, application and service will incorporate some level of AI,” says Cearley. “This will form a long-term trend that will continually evolve and expand the application of AI and machine learning.”
3. Intelligent Things
Intelligent things, such as drones, autonomous vehicles and smart appliances, go beyond the execution of rigid programming models to exploit applied AI and machine learning. This enables them to deliver advanced behaviours and interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people. As they become more prevalent, Gartner expects there to be more collaboration between intelligent things.
4. Virtual and Augmented Reality
Immersive technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), will transform the way individuals interact with one another and with software systems. “The landscape of immersive consumer and business content and applications will evolve dramatically through 2021,” says Cearley. “VR and AR capabilities will merge with the digital mesh to form a more seamless system of devices capable of orchestrating a flow of information that comes to the user as hyper-personalised and relevant apps and services. Integration across multiple mobile, wearable, Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor-rich environments will extend immersive applications beyond isolated and single-person experiences. Rooms and spaces will become active with things, and their connection through the mesh will appear and work in conjunction with immersive virtual worlds.”
5. Digital Twin
A digital twin is a dynamic software model of a physical thing or system that relies on sensor data to understand its state, respond to changes, improve operations and add value. Digital twins include a combination of metadata (e.g. classification, composition and structure); condition or state (e.g. location and temperature); event data (e.g. time series); and analytics (e.g. algorithms and rules). Gartner predicts that within three to five years, hundreds of millions of things will be represented by digital twins that organisations will use to proactively repair and service equipment, plan manufacturing processes, operate factories, predict equipment failure and perform enhanced product development. Digital twins will eventually become proxies for the combination of skilled individuals and traditional monitoring devices and controls (e.g. pressure gauges, pressure valves).
6. Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers
Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger in which value exchange transactions (in bitcoin or other tokens) are sequentially grouped into blocks. Each block is chained to the previous one and recorded across a peer-to-peer network, using cryptographic trust and assurance mechanisms. Blockchain and distributed-ledger concepts are gaining traction because they have the potential to transform industry operating models. While the current hype is around the financial services industry, there are many possible applications, including music distribution, identity verification, title registry and supply chain. Cearley points out that while distributed ledgers are potentially transformative, most initiatives are still in the early alpha or beta testing stage.
7. Conversational Systems
The current focus for conversational interfaces is focused on chatbots and microphone-enabled devices (e.g. speakers, smartphones, tablets, PCs, vehicles). However, as the digital mesh encompassing endpoints that people use to access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, Government and businesses, moves beyond the traditional desktop computer and mobile devices to encompass the full range of endpoints with which humans might interact, connection models will expand and greater cooperative interaction between devices will emerge. This, says Gartner, is laying the foundation for a new continuous and ambient digital experience.
8. Mesh App and Service Architecture
In the mesh app and service architecture (MASA), mobile apps, web apps, desktop apps and IoT apps link to a broad mesh of back-end services to create what users view as an ‘application’. The architecture encapsulates services and exposes APIs at multiple levels and across organisational boundaries, balancing the demand for agility and scalability of services with composition and reuse of services. The MASA enables users to have an optimised solution for targeted endpoints in the digital mesh (e.g. desktop, smartphone and automobile), as well as a continuous experience as they shift across these different channels.
9. Digital Technology Platforms
Digital technology platforms provide the basic building blocks for a digital business. According to Gartner, the five major ones are information systems; customer experience; analytics and intelligence; the IoT; and business ecosystems. Every organisation will have some mix of these five platforms.
10. Adaptive Security Architecture
The intelligent digital mesh and related digital technology platforms and application architectures are creating an ever more complex world for security. Gartner says that established security technologies should be used as a baseline to secure Internet of Things platforms, adding that monitoring user and entity behaviour is particularly needed in IoT scenarios. “However, the IoT edge is a new frontier for many IT security professionals, creating new vulnerability areas and often requiring new remediation tools and processes that must be factored into IoT platform efforts,” warns Cearley.
Gartner clients can learn more in Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017.