The latest trends point to a blurring of the lines between humans and machines, that according to the Gartner Inc. Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2018, released this week. Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), play a critical role in enabling companies to be ubiquitous, always available, and connected to business ecosystems to survive in the near future, and the workplace takes a central role in this year’s report.
“Business and technology leaders will continue to face rapidly accelerating technology innovation that will profoundly impact the way they engage with their workforce, collaborate with their partners, and create products and services for their customers,” said Mike J. Walker, research vice president at Gartner. “CIOs and technology leaders should always be scanning the market along with assessing and piloting emerging technologies to identify new business opportunities with high impact potential and strategic relevance for their business.”
The Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies garners insights from more than 2,000 technologies into a succinct set of 35 emerging technologies and trends. This Hype Cycle, shown below, specifically focuses on the set of technologies that is showing promise in delivering a high degree of competitive advantage over the next five to 10 years. While also denoting the stage of expectation they believe each technology belongs, starting with the innovation trigger and moving towards the plateau of productivity.
By examining these 35 technologies, Gartner has identified five overriding trends that will epitomize our development over the next decade. One trend, that we have all heard of by now, is artificial intelligence, which Gartner believes “will be virtually everywhere over the next 10 years.” Enabled by the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) business model, and digital trends like cloud computing, the “maker” community and open source, AI will eventually reach everyone.
“Technologies representing democratized AI populate three out of five sections on the Hype Cycle, and some of them, such as deep neural nets and virtual assistants, will reach mainstream adoption in the next two to five years,” said Mr. Walker. “Other emerging technologies of that category, such as smart robots or AI PaaS, are also moving rapidly through the Hype Cycle approaching the peak and will soon have crossed it.”
This technologically rich era we are moving into will need to be built on strong foundations that can handle the high volumes of data, computing power and ubiquity that these technologies demand. A fundamental shift will be required, one that moves from the compartmentalized technical infrastructure of today, to an ecosystem-enabling platform format that will bring about new business models and form the bridge between humans and technology. Systems like blockchain, digital twin, the Internet of Things and Knowledge Graphs will be crucial for this shift.
“Digitalized ecosystem technologies are making their way to the Hype Cycle fast,” said Walker. “Blockchain and IoT platforms have crossed the peak by now, and we believe that they will reach maturity in the next five to 10 years, with digital twins and knowledge graphs on their heels.”
Infrastructure will no longer just be a way of obtaining an organization’s goals. In the coming years, advent and mass popularity of cloud computing and its many variations have enabled an always-on, available and limitless infrastructure compute environment. For this ubiquitous infrastructure trend to take shape within the decade, technology infrastructure including 5G and deep neural network ASICs, in particular, will need to be deployed in the next few years.
Technology will become more human, to the point where it will introduce transparency between people, businesses and things, enabling smarter living, work, and other spaces we encounter. “Emerging technologies representing transparently immersive experiences are mostly on their way to the peak or — in the case of silicon anode batteries — just crossed it,” said Mr. Walker. “The smart workspace has moved along quite a bit and is about to peak in the near future.”
According to Gartner’s 2018 report, the Smart Workplace is nearing the peak of inflated expectations. Indeed, the hype surrounding current trends in business and technology suggest that the way employees work — where, when, why and with whom — will change completely over the next decade and bear little resemblance to work as we understand it today. A trend that can already be seen by the popularity of the co-working philosophy epitomized by WeWork, a New York based office space company.
This kind of Workplace-as-a-Service model will allow companies like WeWork to become experts in offices that better serve their occupants for the benefit of the enterprise. This means intelligent buildings will get more involved in the day to day management of the people themselves. “Technology will assess when people have worked too much and when they need to recharge,” the Gartner report suggests, for example.
The digital economy, as covered in the hype cycles trends, will in itself demand new ideas, new information and new business models that continually expand, combine and morph into new ventures and new businesses with new types of employee. In fact, employees at the center of this change will have to apply creativity, critical thinking and constant upskilling to solve complex problems. “Straight coding will be largely automated by 2027, and artificial intelligence (AI) engineers will have to move on to other scenarios as the AI products they create (re)design themselves,” the Gartner report suggests.
Rather than machines helping us work, we will begin to work alongside machines in the future workplace. Human workers will develop personal toolkits of virtual doppelgangers powered by AI, smart assistants will become the norm in workplaces and even the workplaces themselves will exist outside the traditional office environments using cloud communities and open applications.
“To do all this, extreme digital dexterity will be the modus operandi for how employees will work in 2027. This personal digital dexterity will enable employees to leap over technical literacy for corporate applications, and move swiftly toward the deftness and imagination required to bring new media, information, devices and resources to bear on solving complex problems,” the Gartner report suggests.
The greater support offered by technology will lead to a cultural shift in which people will increasingly work for purpose and passion not just for money. Social enterprises will blossom as social media evolves into a portal for communities to come together in much more collaborative ways than they do today. Companies themselves will seek to make themselves more attractive by offering employees an opportunity to have socially meaningful impact through work.
Empowered by these technologies the workplace will take on new shapes and meanings that will benefit both the enterprise and the employees, by promoting productivity as well as the health and wellbeing of workers. The very concept of “workplace” will no longer denote a physical space but a virtual one in which people come together to work for a common goal. Memoori research in this area culminated in our recent report entitled ‘The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the IoT Era’ offering a comprehensive exploration of the ongoing evolution of work.