As the leaves begin to soften, the time draws nigh for year-end analysis and planning for 2015 with the research analysts at Gartner, who have released the latest annual report of the most important strategic technology trends in the year to come.
The report lays out a near-term prioritization path for organizations of all sizes pursuing tech excellence. In discussing how to leverage the annual report into an organization's strategic planning, Gartner VP and Fellow David Cearley said:
We have identified the top 10 technology trends that organizations cannot afford to ignore in their strategic planning processes. This does not necessarily mean adoption and investment in all of the trends at the same rate, but companies should look to make deliberate decisions about them during the next two years.
Cloud computing plays an outsize role, demonstrating just how the transition to the cloud has impacted all aspects of technology. And it's not just "the cloud" as a trend, but the means in which the cloud has become the underlying communication, storage and interaction infrastructure facilitating nearly all of the tech trends.
In the report, the company identifies the overarching strategic tech themes as "the merging of the real and virtual worlds, the advent of intelligence everywhere, and the technology impact of the digital business shift."
This year's trends are as follows, each of which relies in some way on cloud computing to deliver the sort of integrations necessary for success.
The ubiquity of mobile has triggered a transition to a broader "computing everywhere" approach, giving mobile users full computing access in diverse environments and with different user needs.
Phones and wearable devices are now part of an expanded computing environment that includes such things as consumer electronics and connected screens in the workplace and public space.
Increasingly, it's the overall environment that will need to adapt to the requirements of the mobile user. This will continue to raise significant management challenges for IT organizations as they lose control of user endpoint devices. It will also require increased attention to user experience design.
The Internet of Things
This technology potentially has the largest impact in hotels, as smart, connected buildings could enhance the guest experience by extending and sharing knowledge across the property while also customization of the guest experience. The rollout of iBeacons in airports also demonstrates the potential for increased information delivered by connected devices, objects, and physical locations.
From the report:
The combination of data streams and services created by digitizing everything creates four basic usage models — Manage, Monetize, Operate and Extend. These four basic models can be applied to any of the four "Internets."
Enterprises should not limit themselves to thinking that only the Internet of Things (IoT) (assets and machines) has the potential to leverage these four models. For example, the pay-per-use model can be applied to assets (such as industrial equipment), services (such as pay-as-you-drive insurance), people (such as movers), places (such as parking spots) and systems (such as cloud services). Enterprises from all industries can leverage these four models.
Even Gartner itself puts IoT productivity at 5-10 years away, so stay tuned for more to come!
3D printing continues to explode in popularity, as large brands such as HP release large-format 3D printers. Multiple industries are also beginning to explore new printing options that speed up production and reduce downtime. The report pegs shipments of 3D printers at 98% growth in 2015, driven by lower cost printers that will further entrench the technology.
In travel - and aviation specifically - there exists a potential savings by live-printing parts for aircraft repairs, or even printing toothbrushes, soap and other in-room amenities at hotels.
Advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics
Big Data has transitioned into invisible analytics, as the sheer amount of data has led to smarter solutions to sort and deliver actionable answers.
Every app now needs to be an analytic app. Organizations need to manage how best to filter the huge amounts of data coming from the IoT, social media and wearable devices, and then deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time. Analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere.
Context is essential, as it offers one of the best chances to deliver a targeted response related to specific user information. This is especially important in travel, as a passenger searching hotels during a weather event would have different expectations and needs then a leisure traveler searching a few days in advance of a trip.
Gartner states that
ubiquitous embedded intelligence combined with pervasive analytics will drive the development of systems that are alert to their surroundings and able to respond appropriately. Context-aware security is an early application of this new capability, but others will emerge. By understanding the context of a user request, applications can not only adjust their security response but also adjust how information is delivered to the user, greatly simplifying an increasingly complex computing world.
Self-driving vehicles, robots and smart personal assistants fall under smart machines, offering quite the opportunity in travel. Taxis and ground transportation could be affected by the eventual shift towards autonomous vehicles; airports may see automation in particular tasks at some point by robots (and some hotels are already trialing robots), and travel brands are already experimenting with artificial intelligence as part of the planning process.
One of the clearest benefits of cloud/client computing is the shift towards multi-device information sharing - for example, Expedia's Scratch Pad that allows searches and notes to be shared across device regardless of location. An increase in "informational interoperability" will benefit travel, and encourage users to book travel by allowing them to pick up searches on whatever device is closest.
Cloud is the new style of elastically scalable, self-service computing, and both internal applications and external applications will be built on this new style. While network and bandwidth costs may continue to favor apps that use the intelligence and storage of the client device effectively, coordination and management will be based in the cloud.
Wearables will fit in here as an added client device to add into the mix.
Software-defined applications and infrastructure
Flexibility is the keyword for development in 2015, emphasizing the ability to scale effortlessly and add emerging devices and applications at will.
The report reminds readers that "cloud services are software-configurable through API calls, and applications, too, increasingly have rich APIs to access their function and content programmatically." The static nature of applications and infrastructure has been completely replaced by a dynamic field that offers infinite flexibility.
The report defines web-scale IT as "a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting."
The idea here is that smaller organizations will begin to replicate the types of IT infrastructure created by Amazon, Google and Facebook to merge development and operations into one full-scale DevOps capability that boosts coordination between operations and development to rapidly and incrementally develop internal services. This also ties into the ability to scale up at will - the infrastructure must exist, either internally or externally, to offer that flexibility.
Risk-Based Security and Self-Protection
With the near-continuous cycle of security breaches capturing international headlines, strategic technology deployments in 2015 will be highly specialized on the security front. By segmenting risk areas and successfully securing according to specific risks - rather than a wholesale approach - organizations can be much more successful in the rapidly changing ecosystem.
Travel brands are especially vulnerable to security breaches, as most are not only the merchant of record but also targets for terrorism, fraud and other digital and physical intrusions. The volume of hard assets in travel leaves vulnerabilities across systems, as does the decentralization of many IT functions across multiple vendors. As capabilities are scattered, comprehensive security is elusive - and therefore security must be matched to specific risks.
A breakdown from TechRepublic shows how the Gartner trend predictions have flowed throughout the past 5 years. It's interesting to see certain trends move from broad to specific - for example, from "software-defined anything" to "software-defined applications/infrastructure."
Also of note is that the Internet of Things continues to be a vital trend to be considered, but has not hit the mainstream sufficiently to drop off the strategic trend list. Given the current landscape, the technology will likely be on this list for awhile, as brands begin to deploy and understand this entirely new connected ecosystem.
NB: Future glass image courtesy Shutterstock.