10 Emerging Technologies You Should Be Paying More Attention ToThese trends don't always get a lot of press, but they could become really important for enterprise IT.
1. Differential Privacy
Many IT professionals heard the term "differential privacy" for the first time at least year's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, told the attendees, "Differential privacy is a research topic in the areas of statistics and data analytics that uses hashing, subsampling and noise injection to enable… crowdsourced learning while keeping the data of individual users completely private. Apple has been doing some super-important work in this area to enable differential privacy to be deployed at scale."
Since then, more firms have become interested in the technique, particularly as news about large-scale data breaches continues to grow. Differential privacy is tough to understand unless you're a statistician, but in essence, it obscures data about individual users while still ensuring that queries made against a dataset remain accurate. In other words, this technology would prevent attackers from being able to access accurate information about any individual record in a database while still allowing organizations to use their big data tools to gain insights.
2. Personal Informatics and Analytics
Just as organizations are beginning to understand the value of analyzing their big data, individuals are realizing that the various devices and services they use have a lot of data about them that they could use to make their lives better. Some of the more amusing anecdotes about this phenomenon involve people who found clever ways to analyze the data from dating websites and find their true love.
Personal informatics tools (also sometimes called personal analytics) allow people to monitor and analyze data about themselves. It's a field that is starting to take off, and organizations that get out in the front of this emerging trend by providing their customers with the tools and information they are looking for could gain a competitive advantage.
3. Serverless Computing
By now, cloud computing is nothing new. But there is a new type of cloud computing called serverless computing or function as a service that looks poised to become more popular. This technology allows developers to access cloud services without having to set up or provision instances on their own. It turns on cloud resources when an application needs them for a particular function and then turns them off again when that function is complete. It allows developers to write applications without having to think about the underlying infrastructure that will run their code.
Datamation recently published a slideshow that takes a closer look at serverless computing and the potential benefits it offers for enterprises.
4. Blockchain and Smart Contracts
If you work in the financial services industry, you've probably heard a lot about blockchain. It's the underlying technology for the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, but it could have much broader implications for enterprises and the economy as a whole. In fact, James Wester, research director at IDC Financial Insights, said that blockchain "represents a complete shift in the way electronic transactions have been handled for decades, and participants in the market should begin thinking about how they will adapt to it."
Blockchain could enable smart contracts that transfer money from one account to another as soon as certain conditions are met. For example, if your company had a smart contract with a supplier, that contract would deliver funds directly from your account to the supplier's account as soon as goods were delivered without any need to go through a bank, credit card company or other intermediary. There are lots of other potential uses for this technology as well, but enabling them will require organizations to redesign many existing systems, processes and applications.
5. Augmented Reality
Virtual reality (VR) gets a lot of attention, but many experts say that augmented reality (AR) could represent an even larger opportunity, particularly within the enterprise. In fact, Markets and Markets predicts that the augmented reality market will be worth $117.40 billion by 2022, while the virtual reality market will likely be worth just $33.90 billion then.
Augmented reality involves layering digital images or information on top of things that people are seeing in the real world. Many individuals first became aware of the technology last year with the release of Pokémon Go, and Microsoft's HoloLens device has also demonstrated impressive AR capabilities. Within the enterprise, AR offers new opportunities for product design, communication, customer service, technical support and much more.
6. Digital Twins
In its report on the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017, Gartner forecasted, "Within three to five years, billions of things will be represented by digital twins, a dynamic software model of a physical thing or system." As VR and AR mature, more people and real-world objects will have proxies in the digital world. Smart companies are planning ahead for this technology now and considering how it will change the ways that they design, test and market products. It also has interesting implications for fields like health care, scientific research and globalized customer service.
7. Micro Data Centers
As Internet of Things (IoT) deployments begin to take shape, more and more computing is being pushed out to the edge of networks. It simply takes too much time and bandwidth to transfer IoT data to centralized or cloud-based data centers for analysis. Instead, the analysis — and lots of other data processing — is being done in place or very close to where the data is collected.
In order to enable that edge computing, organizations need a new type of hardware. One of the options they are investigating is micro data centers. These are small, self-contained IT infrastructure units that are easy to deploy and maintain — even if they are deployed outside. Markets and markets predicts the micro data center market could be worth $6.3 billion by 2020.
Image Source: Schneider Electric
8. Affective Computing
When we talk about affective computing, we are talking about computer systems that have the ability to identify and respond to human emotions. Already, some tech companies are rolling out AI-based technology that has these capabilities on a limited scale, and analysts expect the technology to advance rapidly. Accenture has predicted, "By 2022, multinational organizations will introduce employee-facing technologies that are able to identify when a worker is frustrated and then alter the tone and style of feedback or guidance automatically delivered to the worker."
But affective computing technology could also have a downside. The same Accenture report forecasted that "within five years, a Global 2000 company will lose significant market share due to a behavior-manipulation scandal."
9. IoNT and Smartdust
You already know that IoT is the Internet of Things; IoNT stands for the Internet of Nano Things. These are extremely small nano-sensors the size of grains of dust that can be connected to the Internet. Some people call it smart dust. It could revolutionize fields like medicine and agriculture, and IoNT technology also has implications for manufacturers, retailers and other types of enterprises.
A 2016 World Economic Forum report said that the IoNT is one of the most important emerging technologies. It noted, "When it arrives, the IoNT could provide much more detailed, inexpensive, and up-to-date pictures of our cities, homes, factories—even our bodies."
10. Neuromorphic Computing
Today's computer systems generally have the same basic architecture where data processing and storage are each handled by distinct components. With very large systems, this design leads to bottlenecks because the computer must transfer data from the processor to the storage and back again. It also generates a lot of heat as data streams across the internal wiring.
But human brains don't work that way. In your brain, the neurons that handle logic and memory are all intermixed and interconnected in a much more sophisticated way. Now researchers are working on building neuromorphic computing systems that are designed to be more like the human brain with storage and processing intermingled. Early tests show this new type of hardware is particularly good at image recognition and other tasks traditionally associated with artificial intelligence.
If you asked a hundred enterprise IT pros about the technology trends that will be important in 2017, you'd probably hear the same few things mentioned over and over again. Topics like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cloud computing and virtual reality are at the top of everyone's mind.
Of course, all those technologies will undoubtedly be influential this year. But what about the technologies that aren't getting as much attention?
Are there any new innovations that could be really transformational in the next few years that people aren't talking about yet?
For this slideshow, we unearthed ten emerging technologies that don't seem to be getting as much attention as they deserve. Some of them have been in the news, but still are not widely understood throughout the technology industry. Others are flying underneath the radar for now but could become vital in five to ten years. All of them are interesting concepts that forward-thinking organizations should begin investigating now if they want to get a jump on the competition.