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2019 tech trends: From digital ethics to the rise of citizen scientists

CIOs should pay even closer attention to blockchain in 2019 says the analyst

Trends listed could reach a tipping point in the next few years
Trends listed could reach a tipping point in the next few years

Analyst Gartner’s 2019 tech trends to watch have clear implications for smart cities with digital ethics, smart spaces and the rise of citizen scientists and developers among those making the list.


Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with “substantial disruptive potential” that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or trends which could reach a tipping point in the next few years.


Do the right thing


We’ve seen more than ever this year that digital ethics and privacy are a growing concern for individuals, organisations and governments. People are increasingly concerned about how their personal information is being used by organisations in both the public and private sector, and the backlash is only likely to increase for organisations that are not proactively addressing these concerns. 


“Any discussion on privacy must be grounded in the broader topic of digital ethics and the trust of your customers, constituents and employees,” said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow. “While privacy and security are foundational components in building trust, trust is actually about more than just these components. Trust is the acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation.


“Ultimately an organisation’s position on privacy must be driven by its broader position on ethics and trust. Shifting from privacy to ethics moves the conversation beyond ‘are we compliant’ toward ‘are we doing the right thing.’”


Rise of citizen scientists and developers


Gartner predicts that the mainstream adoption of augmented analytics and AI will lead to a rise in citizen data scientists and developers.


Augmented analytics focuses on a specific area of augmented intelligence, using machine learning (ML) to transform how analytics content is developed, consumed and shared. Gartner expects augmented analytics capabilities to advance rapidly to mainstream adoption increasingly automating the process of data preparation, and insight generation and visualisation.


“This will lead to citizen data science, an emerging set of capabilities and practices that enables users whose main job is outside the field of statistics and analytics to extract predictive and prescriptive insights from data,” said Cearley. “Through 2020, the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than the number of expert data scientists. Organisations can use citizen data scientists to fill the data science and machine learning talent gap caused by the shortage and high cost of data scientists.”

“Ultimately an organisation’s position on privacy must be driven by its broader position on ethics and trust"

Further, as AI increasingly automates the functional and non-functional aspects of applications, we’ll see a new age of the ‘citizen application developer’ too, Gartner predicts.


Cearley says: “Non-professionals will be able to use AI-driven tools to automatically generate new solutions. Tools that enable non-professionals to generate applications without coding are not new, but we expect that AI-powered systems will drive a new level of flexibility.”


Smart spaces


Gartner defines a smart space as “a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems.”


Cearley commented: “This trend has been coalescing for some time around elements such as smart cities, digital workplaces, smart homes and connected factories. We believe the market is entering a period of accelerated delivery of robust smart spaces with technology becoming an integral part of our daily lives, whether as employees, customers, consumers, community members or citizens.”




CIOs should pay even closer attention to blockchain in 2019, according to Gartner.

”Current blockchain technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations. This is particularly so with the complex elements that support more sophisticated scenarios,” says Cearley. “Despite the challenges, the significant potential for disruption means CIOs and IT leaders should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don’t aggressively adopt the technologies in the next few years.”


However, the analysis notes: “Many blockchain initiatives today do not implement all of the attributes of blockchain — for example, a highly distributed database. These blockchain-inspired solutions are positioned as a means to achieve operational efficiency by automating business processes, or by digitising records. They have the potential to enhance sharing of information among known entities, as well as improving opportunities for tracking and tracing physical and digital assets. However, these approaches miss the value of true blockchain disruption and may increase vendor lock-in.

“Non-professionals will be able to use AI-driven tools to automatically generate new solutions"

Organisations choosing this option should understand the limitations and be prepared to move to complete blockchain solutions over time and that the same outcomes may be achieved with more efficient and tuned use of existing non-blockchain technologies.”


Going up

Other technology trends tipped in the top ten include:

  • As AI-driven autonomous things, such as robots, drones and autonomous vehicles proliferate, there will be 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
  • Garner expects an increased in the use of digital twins -- the digital representation of physical entity or system. By 2020, Gartner estimates there will be more than 20 billion connected sensors and endpoints and digital twins will exist for potentially billions of things. One aspect of the digital twin evolution that moves beyond IoT will be enterprises implementing digital twins of their organizations (DTOs)
  • The evolution of edge computing as 5G matures and specialised AI chips, along with greater processing power, storage and other advanced capabilities, are added to a wider array of edge devices
  • A shift from thinking about individual devices and fragmented user interface (UI) technologies for augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality to multichannel and multimodal immersive experiences, “which connect people with the digital world across hundreds of edge devices that surround them, including traditional computing devices, wearables, automobiles, environmental sensors and consumer appliances"
  • Gartner urges CIOs to start looking at quantum computing (QC). At this stage, the analysts say IT leaders should focus on understanding QC how it can apply to real-world business problems. However, Gartner warns: “Don’t believe the hype that it will revolutionise things in the next few years” -- implementation isn’t likely until around 2023.


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