Kathy Gibson reports from Gartner Symposium in Cape Town – In 2030 the world will look very different to the way it looks now; and technology will be a lot more pervasive. But technology directions shouldn’t be a total surprise, as the roots of what will develop in the future are in existence already.

It could be argued that trying to predict where technology will be in 2030 is a complete waste of time, says Gartner analyst Mark Raskino.

“On the other hand, we could look back to where we were 15 years ago and what the world was like then. Yes, there were things that didn’t exist at all, like Facebook and electronic cigarettes, so we would have been unable to predict them because they didn’t exist.

“But there were things that did exist, and they were the precursors to the products we see today.”

In the same way, the future is probably already here,” Raskino says: it’s probably just poorly distributed. “So we can plan forward, even at this range.”

For the organisation, it’s important to have some idea about where technology and business are going in order to make the right decisions today, that will be sympathetic to what will happen in the future.

Organisations that do long-term planning tend to outperform their peers, so long-range predictions are vital for companies that plan to succeed in the future.

“As CIOs we should be talking to the people in our companies who do the long-range planning.”

There are a number of external forces that will shape demand in the future, Raskino adds. These are rapid urbanisation; demographics and longevity; the south/east drift with cultural differences; and the fact that more people than ever before are climbing out of poverty. Societally, geographic and economic force will create a changing demand for services, products, technology and resources which collectively influence the emerging business and technology landscape in the coming decades.

The key technology trends that will emerge include: ambient computing; smart(er) devices; information and analytics; cybersecurity and ethics. Effectively unlimited computing power (and the communication infrastructure with which to access it) will drive increasingly smart systems with drive the information agora and give rise to growing ethical concerns and cybersecurity issues.

“Technology trends and societal demands will combine to create fundamental changes,” Raskino says.

The first trend will see a shift from the global to the personal – economies of scale are no longer a barrier to entry, so we will see trends including:

  • Digital makes the world smaller
  • People (and things) as enterprises
  • The dis-economies of scale like Internet, 3D printing
  • Personalised products and services (like C2M)
  • Robotics, swarms, virtualised systems.

Systems will move to hierarchical to mesh structures, at the intersection of technology, business and security. This will lead to:

  • The rise of peer to peer everything
  • Rigid relationships to fluid markets
  • Connections to collaboration – or collusion
  • Social networks, peer to peer trading collectives, mutual, smart cities, parallel Internets, crowd-based movements, self-regulation, distribution.

Meanwhile, fixed assets with shift to fungible (replaceable ) assets, which will drive a change in the very nature of assets. For instance services will move from a train ride to car share; from a local restaurant to dozens of takeaways; from trust and reputation to social reputation and reputation score; from knowledge to cloud-based virtual assistant; from production line to local 3D printing services; from taxi and delivery to Uber car and driver; from capital to crowdfunding; from experience to community. “This will make us all think really hard about what we actually do,” Raskino says.

Technology itself with move to devices to connected humans (and things) – making technology work in support of human requirements. This will include:

  • Handhelds to wearables to embedded technology
  • The information agora where everybody and everything is connected to the cloud
  • Personal assistants deliver contextually sensitive decision support
  • Smart things are challenging the legal framework of liability and responsibility.

The whole concept of big data will move to algorithmic business, he adds, digitalising, enumerating and acting on the physical world. This will lead to the creation of:

  • Sensor networks, virtual networks, quantified self and advanced analytics
  • Creating a global corpus of knowledge and experience
  • Fact-based risk evaluation and decisions
  • Access to competitive information and IP
  • Surveillance, privacy concerns and ethical issues from data collection and analytics
  • A “wikileaks” world.

Resources will shift to smart materials and we will see the intersection of technology, biology and material science. Materials that will be available to use include genetic and bioengineering materials, memory materials, graphene, nano composites, polymers, smart fabrics and smart fabrication technology.

“With all of this how do we reimagine the business landscape that will emerge?” Raskino asks.

He predicts a world where things will be everywhere. “This is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to sense or interact with their internal state of external environment.”

There will be more than 26-billion connected devices by 2020; and around 150 new devices will come on to the network every second. IBM suggests there will be more than 100-billion devices by 2050. Raskino says organisations will be looking for ways to manage, monetise, operate, extend and experience these devices.

“In 2030, the product cloud will be more valuable than the actual product,” he adds. “Every product, service, process and device will be digital, with its own product cloud or meta-product.

“And we are beginning to see these things – the future is already here.”

By 2030, he says that new industries will oust the old. “Look for adjacent industries where your capabilities are complementary and ask how digital will impact you both. An unknown competitor is already doing just that.”

By 2030, competitors will challenge boundaries. The basics of success include: make sure there is superior customer benefit and experience; use customer feedback to drive quality; treat health and safety laws different to legacy law; make sure there are no surprises and unintended consequences; ironically, be prepared to go conservative once you are successful.

“And, by 2030 new business models will replace traditional models,” Raskino says. “For instance, the aggregated virtual asset model is where information becomes the proxy for the physical deliverables.”

To succeed in the next 15 years, he says organisations need to reimagine the world, and also reimagine the workforce.

“The most successful organisations will optimise the usage of all their resources, both human and machine for competitive advantage. This will mean new challenges for HR, and it will be an area of exploration for organisations.”

Customers and manufacturer will change going forward. “In the digital world, technology disrupts the traditional roles and allow customers to be manufacturers, designers, distributors and even financiers. Your customer may even be an algorithm.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is still an unknown factor. Will it still not be delivering in 2030?” asks Raskino. “Smart machines are not humans, they are not alive, they are not intelligent and they don’t have feelings – although they may display the appearance of all of the above. But they will be part of your workforce. There is a resurgence in AI but we shouldn’t get too excited about it.”

With all the changes coming, Raskino believes that ethics will be critical to risk management; and that organisations need to start having hard conversations around ethics.