According to Gartner, a strategic technology trend is one with substantial disruptive potential on the cusp of breaking out of an emerging state into wider impact and use. It also relates to those rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.
In their top 10, Gartner refers to the entwining of people, devices, content and services as “The Intelligent Digital Mesh”. This is created by digital models, business platforms and a set of services that support digital business.
- Intelligent refers to how AI is seeping into virtually every technology and with a defined, well-scoped focus can allow more dynamic, flexible and potentially autonomous systems.
- Digital refers to the blending the virtual and real worlds to create an immersive digitally enhanced and connected environment.
- Mesh refers to the connections between an expanding set of people, business, devices, content and services to deliver digital outcomes.
“The Intelligent Digital Mesh has been a consistent theme for the past two years and continues as a major driver through 2019. Trends under each of these three themes are a key ingredient in driving a continuous innovation process as part of a ContinuousNEXT strategy,” said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow.
“For example, artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of automated things and augmented intelligence is being used together with the Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing and digital twins to deliver highly integrated smart spaces. This combinatorial effect of multiple trends coalescing to produce new opportunities and drive new disruption is a hallmark of the Gartner top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019.”
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Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019 are:
1. Autonomous Things
Think robots, vehicles and drones, and then think AI and automation. According to Gartner, automation now goes beyond rigid programming models; AI can deliver behaviours to automate functions previously performed by humans.
As autonomous things proliferate, Gartner expects a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of connected intelligent things, with multiple devices working collaboratively, either with or without human input.
Cearley explained: “If a drone examined a large field and found that it was ready for harvesting, it could dispatch an “autonomous harvester.” Or in the delivery market, the most effective solution may be to use an autonomous vehicle to move packages to the target area. Robots and drones on board the vehicle could then ensure final delivery of the package.”
2. Augmented Analytics
Augmented analytics relates to augmented intelligence, which focuses on AI’s assistive potential and aims to enhance human intelligence instead of replacing it. Augmented analytics capabilities, according to Gartner, will advance rapidly to mainstream adoption, as a key feature of data preparation, data management, modern analytics, business process management, process mining and data science platforms. This shift is due, in part, to machine learning (ML), which will transform how analytics content is developed, consumed and shared.
According to Gartner, augmented analytics automates the process of data preparation, insight generation and insight visualisation, eliminating the need for professional data scientists in many situations.
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Cearley added: “This will lead to citizen data science, an emerging set of capabilities and practices that enables users whose main job is outside the field of statistics and analytics to extract predictive and prescriptive insights from data.
“Through 2020, the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than the number of expert data scientists. Organisations can use citizen data scientists to fill the data science and machine learning talent gap caused by the shortage and high cost of data scientists.”
3. AI-Driven Development
This is about using AI within the development process. According to Cearley, we will eventually see AI-Driven code generation given how we are already seeing automated testing tools and automated model generation.
Gartner believes there’s a rapid shift in the market in which professional data scientists must partner with application developers to create most AI-enhanced solutions to a model in which the professional developer can operate alone using predefined models delivered as a service.
Cearley said: “Ultimately, highly advanced AI-powered development environments automating both functional and non-functional aspects of applications will give rise to a new age of the ‘citizen application developer’ where nonprofessionals will be able to use AI-driven tools to automatically generate new solutions. Tools that enable non-professionals to generate applications without coding are not new, but we expect that AI-powered systems will drive a new level of flexibility.”
Gartner says that by 2022, at least 40% of new application development projects will have AI co-developers on their team.
4. Digital Twins
A digital twin is a digital representation of real-world items that are connected together. According to Cearley, we can have digital twins of people, processes and things.
Many manufacturers in various sectors are already using the concept of the digital twin to monitor real-world assets and drive significant savings in maintenance, repair and operations. Over time, Gartner believes we’ll link the digital twins of various process of people and things together to support the likes of smart cities and similar initiatives.
“One aspect of the digital twin evolution that moves beyond IoT will be enterprises implementing digital twins of their organisations (DTOs). A DTO is a dynamic software model that relies on operational or other data to understand how an organisation operationalises its business model, connects with its current state, deploys resources and responds to changes to deliver expected customer value,” said Cearley. “DTOs help drive efficiencies in business processes, as well as create more flexible, dynamic and responsive processes that can potentially react to changing conditions automatically.”
5. Empowered Edge
This trend is all about driving great capabilities into edge devices.
There are three key things Gartner looked at here:
- Cloud to the edge – looking at how computing is not competing with the edge; instead it’s using cloud architectures to deliver capabilities out to the edge;
- Empowering edge devices – Looking at how AI chips will provide greater compute capabilities and more storage;
- Communicating to the edge – Thing like 5G, which are going to start ramping up and growing over the next five years, are going to drive edge computing.
6. Immersive Experience
This trend is all about how humans interact with each other and the digital world. According to Gartner, these immersive platforms are changing, due to the proliferation of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). Take, for example, remote assistance; companies are using them in many instances, such as using them to have an expert engineer work with somebody in a remote factory to get a piece of equipment back online.
“Over time, we will shift from thinking about individual devices and fragmented user interface technologies to a multichannel and multimodal experience. The multimodal experience will connect people with the digital world across hundreds of edge devices that surround them, including traditional computing devices, wearables, automobiles, environmental sensors and consumer appliances,” said Cearley. “The multichannel experience will use all human senses as well as advanced computer senses (such as heat, humidity and radar) across these multimodal devices. This multi-experience environment will create an ambient experience in which the spaces that surround us define “the computer” rather than the individual devices. In effect, the environment is the computer.”
For Gartner, the key value proposition around blockchain is reducing business friction, and technology friction as this ledger is independent of individual applications and potentially operating across companies.
“Current blockchain technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations. This is particularly so with the complex elements that support more sophisticated scenarios,” said Cearley. “Despite the challenges, the significant potential for disruption means CIOs and IT leaders should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don’t aggressively adopt the technologies in the next few years.”
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8. Smart Spaces
According to Gartner, a smart space is a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in an increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems. Multiple elements — including people, processes, services and things — come together in a smart space to create a more immersive, interactive and automated experience for a target set of people and industry scenarios.
“This trend has been coalescing for some time around elements such as smart cities, digital workplaces, smart homes and connected factories. We believe the market is entering a period of accelerated delivery of robust smart spaces with technology becoming an integral part of our daily lives, whether as employees, customers, consumers, community members or citizens,” said Cearley.
9. Digital Ethics and Privacy
According to Cearley, just because we can do something with artificial intelligence doesn’t mean we should. In recent times we’ve seen significant privacy challenges for companies. People are becoming more concerned about how organisations and third-parties are using their personal information.
Cearley said: “Any discussion on privacy must be grounded in the broader topic of digital ethics and the trust of your customers, constituents and employees. While privacy and security are foundational components in building trust, trust is actually about more than just these components.”
“Trust is the acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation. Ultimately an organisation’s position on privacy must be driven by its broader position on ethics and trust. Shifting from privacy to ethics moves the conversation beyond ‘are we compliant’ toward ‘are we doing the right thing.”
10. Quantum Computing
Imagine you had a giant library with millions and millions of books, a traditional computer would linearly read all those books. With quantum computing, it’s like reading all the books at the same time.
Cearley said: “Quantum computing has the potential to solve problems in chemistry, material science and other areas that are impossible to address today. These are the trends that you can’t afford to ignore these are the trends that are going to power your continuous next process; these are the trends that are going to underlay your creation of the intelligent digital mesh. These trends are going to create business value and your differentiation of the future.
“CIOs and IT leaders should start planning for QC by increasing understanding and how it can apply to real-world business problems. Learn while the technology is still in the emerging state. Identify real-world problems where QC has potential and consider the possible impact on security.
“But don’t believe the hype that it will revolutionise things in the next few years. Most organisations should learn about and monitor QC through 2022 and perhaps exploit it from 2023 or 2025.”