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Credit by: Peter High

Today Gartner, Inc. announced its top ten strategic technology trends for 2020. Analysts presented their findings during Gartner IT Symposium in Orlando.

Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as “one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which is rapidly growing with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.”

David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow said, “People-centric smart spaces are the structure used to organize and evaluate the primary impact of the Gartner top strategic technology trends for 2020. Putting people at the center of your technology strategy highlights one of the most important aspects of technology — how it impacts customers, employees, business partners, society or other key constituencies. Arguably all actions of the organization can be attributed to how it impacts these individuals and groups either directly or indirectly. This is a people-centric approach.”

The top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020 are:

1. Hyperautomation

Hyperautomation is the combination of multiple machine learning (ML), packaged software, and automation tools to deliver work. Gartner notes, “Hyperautomation refers not only to the breadth of the pallet of tools, but also to all the steps of automation itself (discover, analyze, design, automate, measure, monitor and reassess). Understanding the range of automation mechanisms, how they relate to one another and how they can be combined and coordinated is a major focus for hyperautomation.”

Gartner’s report notes that this trend was kicked off with robotic process automation (RPA). The report notes that, “RPA alone is not hyperautomation. Hyperautomation requires a combination of tools to help support replicating pieces of where the human is involved in a task.”

2. Multiexperience

Gartner hypothesizes that through 2028, user experience will evolve significantly in how users perceive interact with the digital world. Conversational platforms are partially the reason, as are virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). The change in perception and interaction models leads to the future multisensory and multimodal experience.

Cearley notes, “The model will shift from one of technology-literate people to one of people-literate technology. The burden of translating intent will move from the user to the computer. This ability to communicate with users across many human senses will provide a richer environment for delivering nuanced information.”

3. Democratization of Expertise

Democratization, in this case, refers to wider access to technical expertise (e.g., ML, application development) or business domain expertise (e.g., sales process, economic analysis) for users via “a radically simplified experience and without requiring extensive and costly training. “Citizen access” (e.g., citizen data scientists, citizen integrators), as well as the evolution of citizen development and no-code models, are examples of democratization.”

Through 2023, Gartner expects four key aspects of the democratization trend to accelerate:

  • Democratization of data and analytics (tools targeting data scientists expanding to target the professional developer community)

  • Democratization of development (AI tools to leverage in custom-developed applications)

  • Democratization of design (expanding on the low-code, no-code phenomena with automation of additional application development functions to empower the citizen-developer)

  • Democratization of knowledge (non-IT professionals gaining access to tools and expert systems that empower them to exploit and apply specialized skills beyond their own expertise and training).

4. Human Augmentation

Human augmentation is a topic connoting how technology can be used to foster cognitive and physical improvements to human experience. Gartner notes, “Physical augmentation enhances humans by changing their inherent physical capabilities by implanting or hosting a technology element on their bodies, such as a wearable device. Cognitive augmentation can occur through accessing information and exploiting applications on traditional computer systems and the emerging multiexperience interface in smart spaces.”

Gartner hypothesizes that over the next ten years, increasing degrees of physical and cognitive human enhancement will become more commonplace as individuals seek personal improvements. This will create a new “consumerization effect” where employees seek to take advantage of and extend these personal enhancements to improve their office environment.

5. Transparency and Traceability

An outgrowth of controversies regarding technology company’s gaining benefits from consumer data has made consumers increasingly aware of the value of their data, leading to an increased desire to control that data. Consumer awareness which has led to increased government regulation on the topic has Organizations noting the increasing risk of securing and managing personal data. Transparency and traceability are key elements to support these digital ethics and privacy needs.

Gartner notes, “Transparency and traceability refer to a range of attitudes, actions and supporting technologies and practices designed to address regulatory requirements, preserve an ethical approach to use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies, and repair the growing lack of trust in companies.” As organizations build out transparency and trust practices, Gartner notes three areas of focus:

  1. AI and ML;

  2. Personal data privacy, ownership and control; and

  3. Ethically aligned design.

6. The Empowered Edge

Edge computing is a computing topology in which information processing and content collection and delivery are placed closer to the sources, repositories and consumers of the data. It attempts to keep the traffic and processing local to reduce latency, exploit the capabilities of the edge, and enable greater autonomy at the edge.

Gartner’s Cearley says, “Much of the current focus on edge computing comes from the need for IoT systems to deliver disconnected or distributed capabilities into the embedded IoT world for specific industries such as manufacturing or retail. However, edge computing will become a dominant factor across virtually all industries and use cases as the edge is empowered with increasingly more sophisticated and specialized compute resources and more data storage. Complex edge devices, including robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and operational systems will accelerate this shift.”  

7. Distributed Cloud

Gartner notes, “A distributed cloud is the distribution of public cloud services to different locations while the originating public cloud provider assumes responsibility for the operation, governance, updates to, and evolution of the services. This represents a significant shift from the centralized model of most public cloud services and will lead to a new era in cloud computing.”

8. Autonomous Things

Autonomous things are physical devices that use AI to automate functions traditionally conducted by humans. These include robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and ships, and appliances. Their automation transcendsautomation provided by rigid programming models, and they exploit AI to deliver advanced behaviors that interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people. As the technology capability improves and regulation permits and social acceptance grows, autonomous things will be deployed in uncontrolled public spaces at an increased rate.

Cearley notes, “As autonomous things proliferate, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things where multiple devices will work together, either independently of people or with human input. For example, heterogeneous robots can operate in a coordinated assembly process. 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 aboard the vehicle could then affect final delivery of the package.”

9. Practical Blockchain

Gartner notes that blockchain has the potential to reshape industries by enabling trust, providing transparency and enabling value exchange across business ecosystems, potentially lowering costs, reducing transaction settlement times, and improving cash flow. Assets can be traced to their origin, significantly reducing the opportunities for substitutions with counterfeit goods. Asset tracking also has value in other areas, such as tracing food across a supply chain to more easily identify the origin of contamination or track individual parts to assist in product recalls. Another area in which blockchain has potential is identity management. Smart contracts can be programmed into the blockchain where events can trigger actions; for example, payment is released when goods are received.

“Blockchain remains immature for enterprise deployments due to a range of technical issues including poor scalability and interoperability. Despite these challenges, the significant potential for disruption and revenue generation means organizations should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don’t anticipate aggressive adoption of the technologies in the near term,” said Cearley.

10. AI Security

Gartner notes, “AI and ML will continue to be applied to augment human decision making across a broad set of use cases. While this creates great opportunities to enable hyperautomation and leverage autonomous things to deliver business transformation, it creates significant new challenges for security teams and risk leaders with a massive increase in potential points of attack with IoT, cloud computing, microservices, and highly connected systems in smart spaces. Security and risk leaders should focus on three key areas — protecting AI-powered systems, leveraging AI to enhance security defense, and anticipating nefarious use of AI by attackers.”  

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