As 2016 inches closer, we can't help but wonder: what trends and technologies will disrupt contemporary business models and threaten organisations that are slow to adapt, paving the way for the next generation of leaders and innovators?

You won’t have any trouble finding analysts and industry experts for answers, but we think Gartner provides a particularly good report on future strategic technologies, which you can access by clicking here. For your convenience, we’ve put together a quick summary of the top 9 predicted trends and technologies for 2016.

1. Internet of Things

According to Gartner, 25 billion devices will be generating data about almost everything imaginable by 2020. This information goes beyond textual, audio and video information to include sensory and contextual information.

“Information of everything addresses this influx with strategies and technologies to link data from all these different data sources,” say analysts at IT research company Gartner, “Information has always existed everywhere but has often been isolated, incomplete, unavailable or unintelligible. Advances in semantic tools such as graph databases as well as other emerging data classification and information analysis techniques will bring meaning to the often chaotic deluge of information.”

The dramatic shift in the volume, variety and speed of data being produced, together with new techniques for storage, access and analysis, is what defines Big Data. As we transition into a data-driven society, we have the capability of using big data to be more fair, stable and efficient. But will we primarily use big data for mass surveillance and as a tool for commodification instead?

2. Device mesh

Device mesh refers to our ability to access information and applications from a growing number of devices - phones, watches, wearables, smart TVs, sensors in homes, the dashboard in a car - wherever you are.

Mike Crooks, Head of Innovation at Mubaloo Innovation Lab, says, “The device mesh is the trend of moving to the interconnected ideal of the Internet of Things.” Devices are increasingly connected to back-end systems through various networks but they usually operate independently and in isolation. As the device mesh evolves, we should see an increasing number of connection models with more synergistic interaction between devices.

3. 3D Printing

3D printing isn’t a new trend, but it is still a significant growth area with huge potential. As advances in 3D printing have enabled an increasing range of materials to be produced, so do the practical applications for 3D printers into more and more sectors, including aerospace, automotive, medical, energy and the military. In the near future we will also see refined applications of 3D printing technology to biological material and food, according to Gartner.

These advances will require a reassessment of the assembly line and supply chain processes to take full advantage of 3D printing. 

"3D printing will see a steady expansion over the next 20 years of the materials that can be printed, improvement in the speed with which items can be printed and emergence of new models to print and assemble composite parts," said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow

4. Ambient user experiences

The device mesh opens up the possibility for a future with completely immersive environments using augmented and virtual reality, but right now the focus is maintaining continuity between devices and location.

Hyper-location technologies and slippy UX are two key areas to delivering an ambient user experience. Slippy UX, a term apparently coined by Jake Zukowski at Frog Design, refers to design that enables fast task-based user requirements or the “glance-ability” of the information displayed. For example, wearable devices such as the Apple Watch use slippy UX to present data to the user quickly and clearly.

slippy ux
Image source: InspiredMag

Ambient user experiences utilise context so that the device can pre-emptively provide information based on the users behaviours and preferences. It's possible that devices and sensors will become so intelligent that they will be able to organize our lives without us even noticing.

5. Advanced Machine Learning

Machine learning is not a distinct technology or technique but rather a field of computational science that combines key areas such as modern mathematics, probability theory, various statistical techniques such as clustering trees, dynamic systems, and deep learning.

In advanced machine learning, deep neural nets (DNNs) move beyond classic computing and information management to create systems that allow software to self-evolve and identify opportunities for innovation. It also allows software to stay up to date without relying on manual updates. Advanced machine learning is an area that’s rapidly evolving, and businesses must discover how they can apply these technologies to gain competitive advantage.

6. Virtual Assistants

The future faces of technology will be self-driving vehicles, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors. Siri, Cortana, Google Now and Alexa are only the beginning.

"Over the next five years we will evolve to a post-app world with intelligent agents delivering dynamic and contextual actions and interfaces," says David Cearley. "IT leaders should explore how they can use autonomous things and agents to augment human activity and free people for work that only people can do. However, they must recognise that smart agents and things are a long-term phenomenon that will continually evolve and expand their uses for the next 20 years."

7. Adaptive Security Architecture

adaptive security architecture

According to Gartner, “All organisations should now assume that they are in a state of continuous compromise.” To address this, security professionals must reimagine their approach to security and create an adaptive architecture that protects against advanced attacks. Their must take a “continuous response” mindset, invest across all phases of the security life cycle and consider venders who provide integrated prediction, prevention, detection and response capabilities.

"Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behaviour analytics, will help fulfil the adaptive security architecture," says Gartner.

8. Autonomous Agents and Things

autonomous agents

The potential for robots to learn tasks and leapfrog human ability is increasing rapidly. The most prominent example is the self-driving car, which uses learnings from autonomous vehicles that have been used within controlled environments for several years. Moving beyond controlled environments into non-controlled environments will require further advances – but Gartner foresees these coming soon.

9. Blockchain

Blockchain illustration

The blockchain is like a distributed consensus system where no single person controls all the data. It’s power lies in enabling people to participate in “trustless” transactions, therefore eliminating the need for an intermediary between buyers and sellers. 

Blockchain is known today as the technology behind bitcoin, but it’s clear that Blockstream has bigger plans for the future. They recently launched their first prototype “sidechain,” which functions as a separate ledger with its own code and enables easier authentication. The sidechain projects that will follow will help transform blockchain into a universal platform that could be used for any transaction that requires a signature or authentication. When this happens, blockchain will disrupt entire industries.

"They're a whole new kind of distributed database with high integrity guarantees, designed to run in untrusted environments," says Dave Hrycyszyn, Director of Strategy and Technology at digital agency Head. "That means they could transform any industry that deals with history, data, and trust – really important sectors like finance, medicine, supply chains and auditing."

2015 was a particularly exciting and transformative year for the tech world, but with these emerging technologies and trends we can't wait for the New Year and the challenges and opportunities it will bring to organisations, technologists and consumers. 


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