ORLANDO, Fla.—Each year at its annual symposium, Gartner analysts pick the top 10 technologies that should change the enterprise and consumer world over the coming years. This year’s list was presented by Daryl Plummer, Gartner’s managing vice president. Here is his list and my ratings on a 1 (no way in the world) to 5 (in the bag) scale.
1. By 2016, 3D printing of tissues and organs (bioprinting) will cause a global debate about regulating the technology or banning it for both human and nonhuman use. My ranking: 2. The Gartner analysts have latched onto 3D printing in a big way. I’m a fan, but I think Gartner’s analysts have gotten ahead of themselves on this one. Gartner hedged its bets on this call by saying bioprinting will cause a global debate. There is no question that there will be relentless debate and research on this technology. However, taking the giant leap from the sheer capability to print human organs to actually getting regulatory approval and doing it on a regular basis is in the 2020 time frame at best.
2. By 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in intellectual property globally. My ranking: 3. Counterfeit goods have existed as long as goods have been produced. The rise of 3D printing (like I said Gartner is a real fan) can exacerbate the problem, but I’m also betting that crowd-sourced discovery and reward for informing on counterfeiters along with the ability to embed unique sensors in goods will temper a wide open counterfeit business.
3. By 2017, over half of consumer goods manufacturers will achieve 75 percent of their consumer innovation and R&D capabilities via crowd-sourcing. My ranking: a gift 3. Is a focus group a crowd-sourced solution? If so, then that 75 percent is solid. If the idea is marketing organizations will have customer sentiment analysis systems in place and convince CEOs to create products based on those results, I don’t see half of the consumer goods manufacturers achieving this goal by 2017.
4. By 2017, 80 percent of consumers will collect, track and barter their personal data for cost savings, convenience and customization. My ranking: 2. There are two big pieces missing from the sell-your-personal-data loop. First, while consumers might embrace the idea of selling their data, there are no mechanisms in place to provide payments and if there was a payment system in place people would start gaming the system immediately. Second, sorry consumers, but big data engines are making it easier and easier to track your web habits even if you block cookies and stick to mobile devices.
5. By 2020, enterprises and governments will fail to protect 75 percent of sensitive data, and declassify and grant broad/public access to it. My ranking: 4. Protecting sensitive data is a difficult task—particularly when it is very easy to classify data as sensitive.
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I think the Gartner analysts are close on this one. Enterprises and governments are going to realize that much of the data classified as sensitive is incorrectly categorized and will free the data into the digital wild.
6. By 2020, the labor-reduction effect of digitization will cause social unrest and a quest for new economic models in mature economies. My ranking: 4. There is always unrest in the labor force and there is always a quest for new economic models. The effects of labor reduction will be felt most in large companies while smaller companies (local breweries versus big automated brands) and new employment categories requiring labor (installing solar panels on roofs comes to mind) will push the labor numbers into new categories.
7. By 2024, at least 10 percent of activities that are potentially injurious to human life will require mandatory use of a “smart system” that can’t be overridden. My ranking: 4. Non-overridable systems have been around for a long time (this is why we don’t cringe in fear on the elevator). The rise of digital non-overrides is intriguing. While drivers might like the idea of anti-lock brakes and collision avoidance systems, how would they feel about a system which directs your auto to the side of the road if you start to text?
8. By 2020, most knowledge workers’ career paths will be disrupted by smart machines in positive and negative ways. My ranking: 5. Well yeah, everything changes us in positive and negative ways. There is no stasis except in the cold, cold ground.
9. By 2017, 10 percent of computers will be learning, rather than processing. My ranking: 4. This is one of the more interesting areas of computer design. Despite past failure (remember artificial intelligence?), systems which collect and act on data to improve a condition are one of the next big things in computer design.
10. By 2020, consumer data collected from wearable devices will drive 5 percent of sales from the Global 1000. My ranking: 3. Wearables will be a big deal and consumers sharing wearable data represent one of those unfolding retail opportunities. By 2020, wearables will be everywhere and will be signaling that your running shoes are wearing out before you know it.
There you go. The predictions ranged from stating the obvious to taking some chances and that is what predictions are supposed to accomplish.
Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008 authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.