Emerging technologies are fast becoming the tools with the highest priority for organisations facing rapidly accelerating digital business innovation.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2016 has selected three distinct technology trends – out of 2,000 – that organisations should track and begin to implement in order to stay competitive.
Their selection was based on what technologies will have the most impact and lead to the most competitive advantage, while establishing when these big technologies are going to mature (early stage or saturating).
Gartner’s research director Mike Walker said the hype cycle specifically focuses on the set of technologies that are showing promise in delivering a high degree of competitive advantage over the next five to ten years.
Information Age spoke to Mike Walker to gain a further insight into these three technologies, and their future business applications.
Transparently immersive experiences
These are human-centric technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and connected homes.
How will human-centric technologies be introduced into businesses, and how will businesses utilise them for profit and improving consumer experience?
Technology is becoming more transparent, and it’s pooling the rest of the trends along the hype cycle.
A lot of this [immersive technology] is going to come to them [businesses]. When I talk to facility management companies in office buildings, they say they’re putting an IP address on everything – chairs, walls, tables.
A lot of this we’re just going to walk into. The next generation, the millennial generation, is going to expect this in the workplace. They’re going to bring a lot of these technologies.
So the consumer side is to a greater extent influencing the adoption of the immersive experiences.
The other major factor here is as things become more digital, technology isn’t necessarily the differentiator – everyone’s bringing their own technology.
Starbucks is an example – in the US it’s the number one mobile payments provider. Starbucks doesn’t provide customers with mobile phones, or any hardware whatsoever.
The mobile business brings the technology to Starbucks to leverage the ecosystem.
If an organisation wants to be competitive in the digital market, they’re going to have to focus on user experience – and in that realm, immersive experiences provide the ability to capitalise and use these emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, to provide next-level experiences over and beyond our component.
Those are the two major factors.
The perceptual smart machine age
Smart machine technologies will be the most disruptive class of technologies over the next 10 years, including smart robots, autonomous cars and smart workspaces.
What are dangers of embracing smart machine technologies?
This is a highly complex one.
There lots of things in play. Some of the dangers are that there are a tonne of social and ethical concerns.
So you’ve got situations where workplaces are outsourcing their entire workforce to smart machine technology, laying off hundreds and thousands of people. Ethically is that something we want to do?
Or if we have access to employees movements, and health and wellness, are we allowed to really mine that data in order to establish a probabilistic determination on what that person is going to do?
It brings up a lot of social and ethical challenges.
The majority of the population doesn’t trust algorithms for autonomous vehicles or aeroplanes, even though the data says it’s safer than actually somebody behind the wheel.
What are the challenges facing smart machine technologies?
There are legal challenges because the policies and the laws that have been written haven’t caught up with what technology can do.
This technology is largely ready, but the law says you can’t put this technology on the road.
Businesses and individuals must be mindful about protecting their intellectual property.
Organisations need to be careful that when they’re looking at these technologies they don’t forfeit their intellectual property to their vendors.
IBM, for example, has an explicit clause saying you will forfeit your intellectual property when you move onto its platform.
What are the benefits of embracing smart machine technology?
There is an enormous range of benefits from machine learning – from helping in disease prevention [Google’s Deep Mind and Moorfield Eye hospital] with deep learning analysis on pictures of cancer patients, to providing virtual personal assistants to pretty much every trade across the board.
Every industry is leveraging machine learning technology – from predictive analytics to drones over worksites, such as analysing the behaviour of the workers, not as a security measure but as a pattern of how people are working to predict if they’ll be an accident in the future.
How long before there is a dramatic change concerning machine learning in the workplace?
We’re already starting to see the beginning of this because for the first time in a long time, technology is centralised.
So cloud is one of the key pillars of these emerging technologies.
It’s enabling an enormous amount of innovation because we don’t have to deploy this software in individual data centres.
The platform revolution
Emerging technologies including Blockchain, the Internet of Things and quantum computing are revolutionising the concepts of how platforms are defined and used.
The shift from technical infrastructure to ecosystem-enabling platforms is laying the foundations for entirely new business models that are forming the bridge between humans and technology.
What exactly do you mean by ecosystem-enabling platforms?
So there are going to be a set of emerging technologies that are going to set the stage for the next wave of business platforms.
The platform is a virtual lair, supported by many technologies.
Uber and Airbnb are good examples.
We’re seeing these new technologies being a foundation to support those rich ecosystems.
As everything talks to every kind of model, being event driven is going to be critical. So this is where microservice and blockchain come in.
Platform ecosystems are providing the foundational building blocks for businesses that are relying on these new technologies.
Do business models have a choice?
In many ways they’re forced to.
Between the competitive challenges in the marketplace and emerging digital business technologies, CIOs are recognising the need to embrace emerging technologies.
How will business models respond to these emerging technologies?
They’ve reacted to that by taking traditional disciplines like enterprise architecture and they’ve rolled in an RND department to focus on innovation.
One of the primary challenges facing these companies is innovation, putting creative ideas into action.
Based on Gartner’s hype cycle, and emerging trends, organisations must embrace these emerging technologies to thrive in the digital economy.
Continuing innovation through CIO and business leader collaboration will enable business models to transform, adapt and survive.
Emerging technologies will increase competitive advantage, maximise value through reduction of operating costs, and overcome legal and regulatory hurdles.