The democratisation of artificial intelligence (AI), an explosion of smart technology and a blurring of the lines between biology and technology are three of the tech trends Gartner is betting on to flourish over the coming years.
In the analyst's Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle, which tracks blossoming technology, Gartner claims that the mass adoption of various tech will have a huge impact on businesses and consumers.
Speaking to CRN, Gartner research VP Mike Walker explained the five top trends that the channel should look out for.
Walker (pictured) claimed that while AI is currently a technology for experts in the field, it is on the verge of filtering into the mainstream and becoming more accessible.
He highlighted initiatives such as open source as key factors in this shift, adding that market-leading vendors including Microsoft are actively encouraging others to start developing their own capabilities on top of AI.
"The big vendors have an incentive to make it easy for people to get locked into their platforms," he said. "These technologies are being highly democratised and getting in the hands of everyone, making it easy and successful to get to them - it makes the learning curve for organisations much lower.
"We also see it from an open source perspective in that we see this 'maker' mentality around AI. There are no longer restrictions around who has access to this or needing a PhD in data science to understand it.
"The overall trend is that these algorithms are readily available, there is tooling to make it easy to do and often you can get it for free."
The analyst also explained that innovative changes from vendors will have an effect on channel partners.
"There will be an enormous wave of innovation that will come from the vendor community which will establish some key capabilities that channel partners can adopt and start to build on," Walker said.
Everything will get smarter
We've already seen everything from smart fridges to smart cities, but Walker said this trend is showing no signs of slowing down.
He explained that it isn't being driven by any one vendor, with the usual suspects including Google, Apple and Samsung the driving force behind it. He claimed the tech will seep into workplaces and vehicles, while Internet of Things (IoT) devices will become embedded in more environments.
"Technology is going to continue to be more transparent in our environment. We might not even realise that things are listening, watching, collecting data," he said. "They will be tied to services that we use on a daily basis to help us in some way."
The likes of Uber and Airbnb have long been considered pioneers of platform-based businesses - connecting buyers with sellers.
Walker said he expects the number of businesses using this model to increase, driven by four technologies: blockchain (a public digital ledger which records transactions made in cryptocurrencies); digital twin (a virtual model of a process, product or service); IoT; and Knowledge Graph (used by Google to gather information from a number of sources for its search engine results).
"From a business value and business model perspective we are seeing a shift to an ecosystem model; the as-a-service model is fuelling the need for these ecosystems," the analyst explained.
"Just like with AI, most of these technologies are being offered as-a-service in a cloud-based offering.
"We are seeing the adoption rates and maturity of these technologies increasing, because now we don't need to deploy them to individual datacentres and get people to install them, etc.
"The release cycles are now more rapid because it is handled by a Microsoft or a Google which can provide that rapid turnaround time."
Gartner predicts that humanity will enter a "transhuman" era, where biology can be hacked.
Fears of this are already circulating as devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators, which rely on software or wireless communications, can become the target of hackers.
However, there are positives to this, according to Walker, as patients will no longer need to rely wholly on doctors.
"These technologies are becoming rapidly accessible to people - where they can make the decision [based on data gathered from the technology]," he said.
"They don't have to go to a doctor and have some elective surgery to have this happen."
One example of such technology on the cycle is brain-computer interface, which allows the user to generate distinct brain patterns that are incorporated by the computer as commands to control the application or device. This can be done non-invasively using a cap or helmet.
The ubiquity of cloud-based AI technologies will mean people will constantly be "on", whether on devices or through smart products.
5G, which is expected to enter the mainstream within two to five years, is fuelling the rapid rate of development of this trend.
"Sixty per cent of all new cloud apps designed will include these AI and data analytics services, so we are seeing this platform-as-a-service model emerge," Walker explained.
"These leading cloud platform providers are going to focus predominantly on delivering these capabilities as a service rather than individual product sets and that is driving the AI-as-a-platform service model."
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