Gartner Top 10 technology trends you should know for 2017

Gartner says AI, algorithms, Blockchain, intelligent apps and devices will rule the roost

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Considering how much significance Gartner is placing the future influence of artificial intelligence and algorithms, it comes as little surprise that the group is saying that technology will be one of the most strategic and potentially disruptive for 2017.

At its Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow detailed the key technology trends for 2017 as the group sees them including how data science technologies are evolving to include advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence is helping create intelligent physical and software-based systems that are programmed to learn and adapt. Other key trends include the impact of melding of the physical and digital environments and how digital technology platforms are influencing the enterprise.

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"Applied AI and advanced machine learning give rise to a spectrum of intelligent implementations, including physical devices (robots, autonomous vehicles, consumer electronics) as well as apps and services (virtual personal assistants [VPAs], smart advisors), said Cearley. "These implementations will be delivered as a new class of obviously intelligent apps and things as well as provide embedded intelligence for a wide range of mesh devices and existing software and service solutions."

Backing up the growing machine intelligence idea, Daryl Plummer, managing vice president, chief of research and Gartner Fellow stated that by 2020, algorithms will positively alter the behavior of more than 1 billion global workers global workers.

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“Contextualization algorithms have advanced exponentially to include a variety of behavioral interventions such as psychology, social neuroscience and cognitive science. Human beings tend to be emotionally charged and factually drained, causing them to be irrational. Algorithms can positively alter that behavior by augmenting their intelligence with the large collective memory bank containing knowledge that has been socialized and put to the test,’ Plummer said. “This will help workers "remember" anything or be informed of just-in-time knowledge that they have never even experienced, leaving them to objectively complete the task at hand but also to better appreciate life as it unveils. Use of algorithms can raise alarms of ‘creepiness,’ however, when used to effect positive outcomes, it can bring about changes to multiple industries.”

With all of that as a backdrop, the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017 from Gartner are:

AI and Advanced Machine Learning: Artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning are composed of many technologies and techniques (such as deep learning, neural networks, natural-language processing). The more advanced techniques move beyond traditional rule-based algorithms to create systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously. This is what makes smart machines appear "intelligent."

Intelligent Apps: Intelligent apps such as VPAs perform some of the functions of a human assistant making everyday tasks easier (by prioritizing emails, for example), and its users more effective (by highlighting the most important content and interactions). Other intelligent apps such as virtual customer assistants are more specialized for tasks in areas such as sales and customer service. As such, these intelligent apps have the potential to transform the nature of work and structure of the workplace.

"Over the next 10 years, virtually every app, application and service will incorporate some level of AI," said Cearley. "This will form a long-term trend that will continually evolve and expand the application of AI and machine learning for apps and services."

Intelligent Things: Intelligent things refer to physical things that go beyond the execution of rigid programing models to exploit applied AI and machine learning to deliver advanced behaviors and interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people. As intelligent things, such as drones, autonomous vehicles and smart appliances, permeate the environment, Gartner anticipates a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a collaborative intelligent things model.

Virtual and Augmented Reality: Immersive technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), 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," said 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 hyperpersonalized 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."

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 (for example, classification, composition and structure), condition or state (for example, location and temperature), event data (for example, time series), and analytics (for example, algorithms and rules).

Within three to five years, hundreds of millions of things will be represented by digital twins. Organizations will use digital twins to proactively repair and plan for equipment service, to plan manufacturing processes, to operate factories, to predict equipment failure or increase operational efficiency, and to perform enhanced product development. As such, digital twins will eventually become proxies for the combination of skilled individuals and traditional monitoring devices and controls (for example, pressure gauges, pressure valves).

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 block and recorded across a peer-to-peer network, using cryptographic trust and assurance mechanisms. Blockchain and distributed-ledger concepts are gaining traction because they hold the promise 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.

Conversational System: The current focus for conversational interfaces is focused on chatbots and microphone-enabled devices such as speakers smartphones, tablets, PCs, automobiles. However, the digital mesh encompasses an expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information, or interact with people, social communities, governments, and businesses. The device mesh moves beyond the traditional desktop computer and multiple devices to encompass the full range of endpoints with which humans might interact. As the device mesh evolves, connection models will expand and greater cooperative interaction between devices will emerge, creating the foundation for a new continuous and ambient digital experience.

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 organizational boundaries balancing the demand for agility and scalability of services with composition and reuse of services. The MASA enables users to have an optimized solution for targeted endpoints in the digital mesh (like your desktop, smartphone, automobile) as well as a continuous experience as they shift across these different channels.

Digital Technology Platforms: Digital technology platforms provide the basic building blocks for a digital business and are a critical enabler to become a digital business. Gartner has identified the five major focal points to enable the new capabilities and business models of digital business — information systems, customer experience, analytics and intelligence, the IoT, and business ecosystems. Every organization will have some mix of these five digital technology platforms. The platforms provide the basic building blocks for a digital business and are a critical enabler to become a digital business.

Adaptive Security Architecture: The intelligent digital mesh and related digital technology platforms and application architectures create an ever-more-complex world for security. "Established security technologies should be used as a baseline to secure Internet of Things platforms," said Cearley. "Monitoring user and entity behavior is a critical addition that 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."

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