Empowered Edge Included in Gartner Top 10 Technology Trends for 2019

Our team was in attendance at the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2018. The agenda was packed with insights across 16 different areas of tech - from Application Modernization to Work, People & Culture. One of the highlights of the annual event is hearing what the Gartner experts have identified as the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for the coming year. This influential list highlights the key “changing or not yet widely recognized trends that will impact and transform industries through 2023”. Not surprisingly, this year’s list includes the Edge.

“The future will be characterized by smart devices delivering increasingly insightful digital services everywhere,” said David Cearley, Gartner Vice President and Fellow, at Gartner 2018 Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Florida. “We call this the intelligent digital mesh.”

“Intelligent” because AI sits within almost every category and equally is continually defining new categories. “Digital” refers to the blend of the digital and physical worlds “to create an immersive world” and “mesh” to the expanding connections between different sets of people, businesses, devices, content and services.

Trend No. 5: Empowered Edge

The trend that especially captured our interest is the ‘Empowered Edge’, coming in at No. 5. As we discussed recently in another post, the edge is currently dominating many conversations across the tech landscape. Cearley described the trend as “a topology where information processing and content collection and delivery are placed closer to the sources of the information, with the idea that keeping traffic local will reduce latency”.

It was clear from the Symposium and the top 10 list that there are overlaps within various trends, for instance IoT combines with AI, and augmented analytics overlaps with edge compute.

Interestingly, Gartner said too much of the current focus of edge compute was on the need to enable IoT systems to deliver “disconnected or distributed capabilities” into the embedded IoT world, and that industry focus on it should widen. We elaborated on this same topic in a recent blog post. Its ability to address a wide range of challenges, from high WAN costs to unacceptable latency levels, was highlighted.

Gartner identified three critical elements within the Empowered Edge:

  • Cloud to the Edge - Using cloud architectures to deliver and manage capabilities out to the Edge; seeing cloud as a supporting force rather than a competitive one.
  • Leveling up devices - Empowering Edge devices with more resources, such as AI chips, more compute capabilities, advanced processing, more storage, etc.
  • Communicating to the Edge - Other developments that will drive the Edge forward, such as the release of 5G. We’ve discussed this aspect of the trend recently here.

Through 2028, Gartner said it expects to see “a steady increase in the embedding of sensor, storage, compute and advanced AI capabilities in edge devices”.

Here is an overview of the other nine trends that make up the list:

  1. Autonomous Things: Gartner groups things that use AI to perform tasks normally done by humans into five types: robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, appliances and agents. “As autonomous things proliferate, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things, with multiple devices working together, either independently of people or with human input.” Cearley said.

  2. Augmented Analytics: This trend represents a third major wave for data and analytics capabilities. For Gartner, it is focused on a particular area of augmented intelligence - using machine learning (ML) to explore more hypotheses and eventually to build automated insights into enterprise applications to optimize decision-making across all departments.

  3. AI-Driven Development: This trend looks at tools, technologies and best practices for ways of embedding AI into applications and deploying AI to create AI-powered tools for the development process. Gartner imagines application developers working alone (as opposed to with professional data scientists) to develop most AI-enhanced solutions using predefined models delivered as a service. It also looks at the trend for AI being applied to the development process to automate aspects of data science, application development and testing functions.

  4. Digital Twins: The expression refers to the digital representation of a real-world entity or system. Gartner predicts there will be over 20 billion connected sensors and endpoints by 2020, and accordingly, the existence of digital twins for billions of things. Organizations will initially implement digital twins simply and they will develop them over time as they improve their ability to collect and visualize the right data, apply the correct analytics and rules, and respond usefully to business goals.

  5. As discussed above, the Empowered Edge comes in at No. 5.

  6. Immersive Experience: Gartner points out the way in which conversational platforms - virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (XR) are altering the way in which people interact with and perceive the digital world. “Over time, we will shift from thinking about individual devices and fragmented user interface technologies to a multichannel and multimodal experience.” Cearley said.

  7. Blockchain: Gartner predicts that blockchain has the potential to transform entire industries by enabling trust, offering transparency and easing collaboration, potentially lowering costs, lessening transaction-settlement times and bettering cash flow. By removing the need for central authorities to arbitrate transactions, blockchain offers an alternative trust mode and way of doing business.

  8. Smart Spaces: A smart space is “a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems”. Multiple components, including people, processes, services and things, align in a smart space. The most extensive and integrated example is smart cities, in which digital and real-world business, residential and industrial communities interact in their very design.

  9. Digital Ethics and Privacy: This area is a growing concern for individuals, organizations and governments alike. As people become increasingly concerned about how their personal information is being used and stored online, the risk of “consumer backlash will only increase”. Cearly highlights, “Conversations regarding privacy must be grounded in ethics and trust. The conversation should move from ‘Are we compliant?’ toward ‘Are we doing the right thing?'”

  10. Quantum Computing (QC): Gartner says QC is a longer-term trend that organizations shouldn’t expect to be able to exploit until post 2022 at the earliest, but that it is worth the investment of time to understand its potential applications and consider security issues. Gartner highlights the potential of QC for parallel execution of tasks and its exponential scalability, which means “quantum computers are able to theoretically work on millions of computations at once”.

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