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By 14 October 2013 | Categories: news

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For a glimpse of what’s in store on the technological front, it’s good to listen to what industry analyst Gartner is predicting for 2014 and beyond. Released at its recent Orlando Symposium/ITxpo 2013, Gartner's top predictions combine several disruptive topics, including Digital Industrial Revolution, Digital Business, Smart Machines and the Internet of Things, which will impact well beyond just the IT industry arena.

Gartner's top 10 predictions are broken out into four categories and include:

Digital Industrial Revolution

Gartner believes IT has become the catalyst for the next phase of innovation in personal and competitive business ecosystems. One place where this is evident is in the beginnings of a Digital Industrial Revolution that threatens to reshape how physical goods are created using 3D printing.

By 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in IP globally. 

The plummeting costs of 3D printers, scanners and 3D modelling technology, combined with improving capabilities, makes the technology for IP theft more accessible to would-be criminals. By 2015, at least one major western manufacturer will claim to have had intellectual property (IP) stolen for a mainstream product by thieves using 3D printers.

By 2016, 3D printing of tissues and organs will cause a global debate. 

Bioprinting is the medical application of 3D printers to produce living tissue and organs. The day when 3D bioprinted human organs are readily available is drawing closer. The emergence of 3D bioprinting facilities with the ability to print human organs can leave people wondering what the effect of it will be on society. 

Digital Business 

Digital business refers to business created using digital assets and/or capabilities, involving digital products, services and/or customer experiences, and/or conducted through digital channels and communities.

By 2017, more than half of consumer goods manufacturers will receive 75% of their consumer innovation and R&D capabilities from crowdsourced solutions. 

Engineers, scientists, IT professionals and marketers at consumer goods companies are engaging crowds much more aggressively and with increasing frequency using digital channels to reach a larger and more anonymous pool of intellect and opinion. Gartner sees a massive shift toward applications of crowdsourcing, enabled by technology, such as: advertising, online communities, scientific problem solving, internal new product ideas, and consumer-created products.

By 2020, the labour reduction effect of digitisation will cause social unrest. 

Gartner believes digitisation is reducing labour content of services and products in an unprecedented way, thus fundamentally changing the way remuneration is allocated across labour and capital. Long term, this makes it impossible for increasingly large groups to participate in the traditional economic system — even at lower prices — leading them to look for alternatives such as a bartering-based (sub)society, urging a return to protectionism or resurrecting initiatives like Occupy Wall Street, but on a much larger scale. 

By 2017, 80% of consumers will collect, track and barter their personal data for cost savings, convenience and customisation. 

The escalation of consumer awareness of data collection practices has set the stage for offering consumers more control over the disposition of personal data — collected both online and offline. As increasing demand and scarcity drives up the value of such data, incentives grow to entice consumers to share it voluntarily. 

By 2020, businesses and governments will fail to protect 75% of sensitive data, and declassify and grant broad/public access to it. 

The amount of data stored and used by businesses and governments is growing exponentially, such that any attempt to protect it all is unrealistic. Instead of facing an unfathomable task of protecting all data, organisations and governments will focus on protecting only a small part of it, but protecting it well. 

Smart Machines 

The emergence of smart machines adds opportunity and fear as "cognisant and cognitive systems," and can enhance processes and decision making, but could also remove the need for humans in the process and decision effort. CIOs will see this as a means of delivering greater efficiency, but will have to balance between the active human workforce and the cold efficiency of machines that can learn.

By 2024, at least 10% of activities potentially injurious to human life will require mandatory use of a nonoverideable "smart system”. 

The increasing deployment of "smart systems" capable of automatically responding to external events is increasing all the time, but there remains a deep-seated resistance to eliminating the option for human intervention. The willingness of the general population to accept initial widespread deployment and increasing removal of manual override options is the issue.

By 2020, a majority of knowledge worker career paths will be disrupted by smart machines in both positive and negative ways. 

Gartner forecasts that smart machines will upend a majority of knowledge workers' career paths by 2020. Smart machines exploit machine learning and deep-learning algorithms. They behave autonomously, adapting to their environment, and IT professionals need to recognise that smart machines can create substantial competitive advantages, as well as entirely new businesses. 

By 2017, 10% of computers will be learning rather than processing.

Deep learning methods, based on deep neural networks, are currently being applied in speech recognition systems as well as some object recognition applications. Gartner believes quality of life improves when society is able to derive useful information from the copious amounts of unstructured data collecting in the internet. 

Internet of Things 

The Internet of Things cements the connection between machines, people and business interactions in the modern era. With the advent of massively connected devices, businesses, governments and people now have access to more information about themselves and their surroundings than they can actually act on. 

By 2020, consumer data collected from wearable devices will drive 5% of sales from the Global 1000. 

Wearable computing, or wearables, is quickly moving into mainstream society, led by the growing, multibillion dollar health and fitness markets. Within five years, consumer wearables will become more sophisticated, capturing what the user sees, hears or even feels through biorhythmic responses. 

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