Increasing acceptance of artificial intelligence in both the business and consumer sectors coupled with the growing popularity of wearables has shaped analyst firm Gartner's predictions for the IT space. We take a look into their magic eight ball.
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From machine learning tools that help organisations make better decisions to digital personal assistants that can manage the lives of users, artificial intelligence is gaining traction with both businesses and consumers. This is a common theme through Gartner's Top Strategic Predictions for 2016 and Beyond: The Future Is a Digital Thing report.
Drawing from the key trends Gartner has observed in the industry, the analyst firm has come out with its top 10 IT predictions for 2016 and beyond:
#1 By 2018, 20 per cent of business content will be authored by machines
Gartner expects that in the next few years, machines will be writing business reports and turning database and analytical information into content that companies can use through automated writing tools. These include shareholder reports, legal documents, press releases and whitepapers.
Microsoft is already using machine learning tools to help generate financial forecasts internally and this is a technology area the company, along with its competitors, are looking to do more work in.
#2 By 2018, six billion connected devices will be requesting support
The number of products being released now that are internet-enabled as a result of the Intenet of Things (IoT) trend has reached ridiculous proportions. Trouble is, all these devices require support and Gartner can see this spawn an entirely new industry focusing on servicing IoT goods.
#3 By 2020, autonomous software will participate in fiver per cent of all economic transactions
Software using sophisticated algorithms could soon be completing financial transactions all on its own without the need for human interference. Gartner predicts this to kickoff what it dubs as the "programmable economy". According to Gartner:
The programmable economy has potential for great disruption to the existing financial services industry. We will see algorithms, often developed in a transparent, open-source fashion and set free on the blockchain, capable of banking, insurance, markets, exchanges, crowdfunding - and virtually all other types of financial instruments.
#4 By 2018, more than three million workers around the world will be supervised by "robo-bosses"
Forget human managers, robo-bosses are going to be used in the workplace to monitor and assess worker performance. They will be able to measure performance directly based on output and customer evaluation so they can provide a more accurate view of just how well a worker minus any subjective impressions. Eventually, they may even be able to dictate staffing decisions made within an organisation.
While some of you may think this kind of reality is hard to swallow, there has been research that showed people would rather have robots in charge of a workplace. An MIT study last year indicated that humans prefer to take robo-orders when it comes to manufacturing which resulted in increased productivity.
#5 By 2018, 20 per cent of smart buildings will suffer from digital vandalism
From digital signage to air conditioning systems, much of a buildings' functions can be controlled and automated by computers these days, resulting in the rise of "smart" buildings. There are a number of advantages to this such as improved energy efficiency and easier building management, but Gartner has observed that there are not enough security measures being put in place which leaves smart buildings vulnerable to attacks. This could range from outsiders defacing digital signage to mucking about with vital controls of an office such as lighting and thermostats.
"Smart building components cannot be considered independently, but must be viewed as part of the larger organizational security process. Products must be built to offer acceptable levels of protection and hooks for integration into security monitoring and management systems," Gartner said.
#6 By 2018, 45 per cent of the fastest growing companies will have fewer employees than instances of smart machines
This is something that Gartner has warned of before. In 2013, a majority of CEOs the analyst firm surveyed thought the idea of smart machines stealing the middle-class jobs is a "futuristic fantasy" but as development ramp up in robotics and artificial intelligence, the idea doesn't sound too far-fetched.
To clarify, smart machines are intelligent devices that encompasses robots, self-driving cars and cognitive computing systems. It's essentially machines that can make decisions and solve problems by themselves. No human intervention necessary. In terms of business applications, smart machines bring a swathe of benefits as they can speed up internal processes, improve productivity and, as a result, save money for companies.
Organisations can also save on recruitment and training costs if they opt for tasks to be performed by smart machines rather than by humans. As a result, Gartner foreshadows the advent of fully automated supermarkets and physical security firms offering drone-only surveillance services.
#7 By end of 2018, digital customer service assistants will become more sophisticated
Digitial customer service representatives have already seen widespread adoption by online shopping outlets. Gartner is not only expecting them to acquire new abilities but also spread to physical stores.
Clothing retailer Uniqlo recently unveiled an in-store shop assistant that can pick a t-shirt for you depending on your mood. Gartner predicts this kind of digital assistant to progress even further to be able to listen to customers and provide responses back based on contextual information such as shopping history. It will even be able to recognise a customer's face and voice. "This signals an emerging demand for enterprises to deploy customer digital assistants to orchestrate these techniques and to help "glue" continual company and customer conversations," Gartner said.
#8 By 2018, two million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment
Companies are beginning to see the importance of having fit and healthy workers. Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson, is a firm believer of helping employees maintain their fitness and health.
"If you’re not feeling fit or healthy, your batteries quickly run down and you’re not going to be able to perform at work and in general as well," he told Lifehacker Australia last month. Unhealthy workers also tend to take more sick days which can severely impact an organisation's productivity.
Gartner sees companies taking their employees health and fitness into their own hands by mandating workers to strap on wearables that track their vital stats. While the analyst firm sees emergency responders such as police officers and fire-fighters as the first wave of workers that will be required to wear these trackers, this will eventually expand to include employees in other critical roles such as politicians, airline pilots, and remote field workers.
#9 By 2020, smart agents in the form of virtual personal assistants will facilitate 40 per cent of mobile interactions
We're already seeing companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook heavily investing in their own digital personal assistant technologies. According to Gartner, we will eventually see these digital assistants monitor user content and behaviour with the help of cloud-hosted neutral networks "to build and maintain data models from which the technology will draw inferences about people, content, and context". Through this, these assistants can predict your needs and may even begin to make decisions on your behalf.
#10 Through 2020, 95 per cent of cloud security failures will be the customer's fault
The reality is cloud services are never 100 per cent secure, but they're pretty damn close these days. Only a small percentage of security incidents that have affected enterprises using the cloud could be blamed on their cloud providers.
Companies themselves are beginning to realise they need to take responsibility for the security of their cloud services. By 2018, Gartner expects 50 per cent of enterprises with over a thousand users will use cloud access security broker products to monitor and manage their software-as-a-service and other public cloud offerings they consume.
What are your thoughts on the IT trends from Gartner? Let us know in the comments.