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The machines are coming: Top 10 tech predictions for 2015 and beyond

In a few years time life expectancy will increase thanks to health monitoring technologies. Refrigerators will deliver groceries and drones our clean laundry. These are just some of the predictions Gartner has revealed at the annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo that could take shape in the very near future.

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“For some time now, there has been an ongoing shift in the roles machines play in our everyday lives,” said Daryl Plummer, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

“Computer-based machines are now being used to create an ever expanding variety of experiences that extend human endeavours. Machines are taking on more human characteristics in order to affect a more personalised relationship with human beings and we find ourselves contemplating a near-term future of a world in which machines and humans are co-workers, and possibly even co-dependents.”

1. Digital environment will drastically change the way we do business

Gartner found that by 2018, digital business will require 50% less business process workers and 500% more key digital business jobs, compared with traditional models.

Near-Term Flag: By year-end 2016, 50% of digital transformation initiatives will be unmanageable due to lack of portfolio management skills, leading to a measurable negative lost market share.

The rapid evolution of social media and mobile technologies is driving consumer behaviour. The findings further argues that these behaviour trends and supporting technologies will significantly change how we live and go about our daily lives. Cue refrigerators delivering groceries eliminating grocery clerks and drones replacing drivers. We’re looking at you Amazon and Google.

This new digital business environment will profoundly change business processes along with the employment demographics and the need for higher competencies both for the consumer and the providers across all industries.

2. The biggest disruptions will come from algorithms

Google was born out of its ground-breaking algorithm, so will the next best thing, according to Gartner. By 2017, a significant disruptive digital business is predicted to be launched that was conceived by a computer algorithm.

Near-Term Flag: Through 2015, the most highly valued initial public offerings is expected involve companies that combine digital markets with physical logistics to challenge pure physical legacy business ecosystems.

The findings look at how the world economy has become ripe for digital disruption with global marketplace companies such as Uber and Airbnb disrupting ground transportation and hotels flying the banners high.

Gartner says that the wealth creation upside of success in such models — valuations in the tens to hundreds of billions for companies less than five years old — represents an irresistible attraction for capital investment.

3. Owning a business will be cheaper!

Armed with only a measly internet connection, some wit and determination, people today have the ability to create an entire website. Gartner says that this trend won’t slow down. By 2018, the total cost of ownership for business operations will be reduced by 30% through smart machines and industrialised services.

Near-Term Flag: By 2015, there will be more than 40 vendors with commercially available managed services offerings leveraging smart machines and industrialized services.

If you thought our modern fast-paced lifestyle is getting tough, prepare yourself. Gartner says it’s only getting started.

The research company found that consumers’ need to get faster, cheaper, better products and services in a mode that supports any time, any place and any channel is fueling the digital business revolution. Business processes and the entire value chain of business operations will shift from a labour-driven and technology-enabled paradigm to a digital-driven and human-enabled model.

4. Some of us will live longer

Though it’s limited to those who can afford it, prolonged time on Earth is expected for humans in the future. By 2020, developed world life expectancy is predicted to increase by half a year due to widespread adoption of wireless health monitoring technology.

Near-Term Flag: By 2017, costs for diabetic care are reduced by 10% through the use of smartphones.

Wearable health monitoring is the future, Gartner believes. While we rely on monitoring wristbands to track our sleep and fitness today, transmission through wireless technologies is straightforward. Data can be correlated against large cloud-based information repositories for sanctioned actions and through social networks for anecdotal advice. Gartner expects data from remote monitoring devices to provide continued access from patients to medical practitioners.

5. Ecommerce will become more and more mobile

By year-end 2016, more than US$2-billion in online shopping will be performed exclusively by mobile digital assistants.

Near-Term Flag: By year-end 2015, mobile digital assistants is expected to have taken on tactical mundane processes such as filling out names, addresses and credit card information.

Fixed events such as grocery replenishment will be common and will build trust for these types of assistants to take on more. The findings further suggest that yearly autonomous mobile assistant purchasing will reach US$2-billion annually, representing about 2.5% of mobile users trusting assistants with US$50 a year.

6. Mobile engagement for the United States will drive revenue

By 2017, US customers’ mobile engagement behavior will drive mobile commerce revenue in to 50% of the country’s digital commerce revenue.

Near-Term Flag: A renewed interest in mobile payment will arise in 2015, together with a significant increase in mobile commerce (due in part to the introduction of Apple Pay and similar efforts by competitors, such as Google increasing efforts to drive adoption of its NFC-enabled Google Wallet and perhaps Facebook).

Increasingly powerful smartphones and tablets, and the correspondingly rich and powerful applications available for each, enable consumers and business customers to interact seamlessly with companies, content and commerce experiences at virtually all stages of the purchase process.

As device manufacturers and application developers improve usability and functionality and address users’ security concerns, devices will become even more of an essential tool for customers. This is particularly true of the younger demographics. Generation-Y who were born and grew up utilising the internet as a communications, information and transaction platform, and tethered to their mobile devices, will demand that service providers and retailers deliver on the expectation of connected and channel-agnostic commerce experiences.

7. Business models will become deliberately unstable

By 2017, 70% of successful digital business models will rely on deliberately unstable processes designed to shift as customer needs shift.

Near-Term Flag: By the end of 2015, 5% of global organisations will design “supermaneuverable” processes that provide competitive advantage.

As a result of business model innovation, some business processes must now be “deliberately unstable”. These are processes designed for change and can dynamically adjust according to customer needs. They are vital because they are agile, adaptable and “supermaneuverable” — to use Gartner’s term — in relation to shifts in customer needs.

8. Customers will become more loyal to their brands

The year 2017 we will start seeing 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations.

Near-Term Flag: By 2015, more than half of traditional consumer products will have native digital extensions.

In many industries, hyper-competition has eroded traditional product and service advantages, making customer experience the new competitive battlefield. This is no truer than in consumer products markets, which face disproportionate commodity pressure as consumer access to pricing and product information through search and social channels undermine brand loyalty.

The reality is that focusing innovation on new products — and even new business models — is subject to shrinking periods of competitive advantage. Competitors and alternatives abound and product innovation is subject to accelerating commoditisation. Customer experience innovation remains the secret to lasting brand loyalty.

9. Online shopping sites will use 3D printing to personalise products

By 2017, Gartner expects, nearly 20% of durable goods etailers will use 3D printing to create personalised product offerings.

Near-Term Flag: By 2015, more than 90% of durable goods etailers will actively seek external partnerships to support the new “personalised” product business models.

3D printing is already having a profound impact allowing startups to reduce infrastructure costs, compared with existing traditional manufacturing processes. As consumers increasingly show an appetite to control more product features and capabilities, etailers are recognising the business potential of moving from “configurable” products to “personalised” made-to-order products enabled by 3D printing.

10. Digital marketing will become more locationally aware

By 2020, retail businesses that utilise targeted messaging in combination with internal positioning systems (IPS) will see a 5% increase in sales.

Near-Term Flag: By 2016, there will be an increase in the number of offers from retailers focused on customer location and the length of time in store.

Digital marketers are increasingly focusing on mobile advertising and advanced analytics to take advantage of the rich opportunities presented by the growth of mobile device usage. Context is playing an increasingly central role in these efforts, enabling highly targeted ads based on recent purchases, buying habits, city of residence and interests. But amid all of this data, a customer’s current location is among the most important of contextual cues available.

Mapping is being exploited by digital marketers, but is still used in relatively simple ways. Recently, however, indoor positioning systems have become increasingly viable. Rather than using satellites, these systems use low-energy Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi access points to pinpoint a mobile device’s location inside a building, with accuracies in the centimeter range. Support within newer mobile devices for IPS will enable location cues for targeted ads and messages, and real-time mapping to lead customers not only to store locations, but to specific products themselves.

Image: drainrat via Flickr.

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