IT research firm Gartner has released its annual list of most strategic technologies for the upcoming year. Gartner defines a strategic technology as ‘one with the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years.’ Additionally, the firm identifies contributing factors belying significant impact to include a high potential for disruption to IT or to business, the need for a significant investment, or the competitive risk of being late to address the technology. In short, be it an emerging technology or an evolved, improved technology, these represent highly scalable and potentially game-changing opportunities for the next 5 years.
We’ve focused on 5 of these 10 technologies as those representing the strongest potential for commercial application, for more immediate discussion and digestion. As an evolution of this conversation, we’d like to identify what companies or organizations may already be employing these technologies–and which are demonstrating the most significant growth and commercial success.
- Media Tablets and mobile computing: In short, no one platform or form factor will prevail–a company must be prepared to address and design for multiple use forms across their customer and employee base. Additionally, companies should plan for a Business to Employee (B2E) strategy, as well as their Business to Consumer and/or Business (B2C and B2B) strategy. We’ve observed that the need for a B2E strategy is one most companies have overlooked and de-prioritized in light of revenue pressure, yet is one that may help it recruit and empower its most talented, productive and demanding employees. It’s quickly becoming an employee expectation that may make the difference between talent selecting you or your competitor.
- Mobile-centric applications and interfaces: Consequently, the implications of an increasingly mobile user base and ecosystem bears a few implications for business: first, plan for increasingly touch, voice and gesture-initiated interfaces and identify the platform tools that will help streamline and ease how you build for an increasingly fragmented base of mobile device platforms. To this end, HTML5 will be extremely valuable in addressing cross-platform issues. With this increasing development of mobile web technologies and solutions, we can expect that more applications will be written and delivered as web-based–vs. native apps–within the next 3 years.
- Next generation analytics: First, analytics will continue to evolve from offline to in-line embedded (and real-time). Second, their focus is moving from historical to predictive of future performance. Third, with the increasing volume and complexity of available data, analytics will evolve from structured data analyzed by individuals to multi-source and type (video, text, imagery, etc.) analyzed by multiple systems and sources supporting a collaborative decision process. The process of analysis will also need to include a few new decisions (if it doesn’t already): collaboration, simulation, prediction, optimization and actionable decision-making based on said analysis – not just information. At the highest level, data analysis must be used to answer the question ‘how can I conduct my business differently to better serve my customer base, and our collective future?’
- Internet of Things: Yes, this has been optimistically discussed (and demonstrated) for some time. But in 2012 and beyond, it’s expected to approach a more scalable tipping point. Some of the key technologies that will fuel the growth of connected objects include a) sensors embedded in devices, places and objects to detect and communicate changes in various conditions b) image recognition to identify objects, people, buildings, places logos, and anything with meaning c) Near Field Communication (NFC) payment facilitated between phone and reader to improve speed of service, and understanding of customer’s preferences and behavior.
- Contextual and social user experience: User interactions and experiences with a brand or business–from mobile to keyboard and from social to commerce–will continue to be increasingly informed by context: the environment, activities, connections and preferences affecting said user. Through 2013, we can expect to see context aware applications across areas such as location-based services, augmented reality on mobile devices, and mobile commerce. Additionally, a user’s social graph will continue to be leveraged to inform and refine search results, product/shopping recommendations, and the operation of applications (i.e., Ticketmaster/Facebook integration to select seating next to each other, or AirBnB/Facebook integration to identify any known references on a property).