By 2029, industries will see leading companies leverage advanced analytics and supercharge their workforce with automation.
As businesses use blockchain to navigate a complex digital ecosystem of partners, these companies will maximize efficiency with sensor technology and next-generation computing to edge out the competition.
That's the reality depicted in Gartner's Hype Cycle 2019, the yearly future-gazing report from the analyst firm on what technologies will more closely impact industry.
The central element in this year's report was also top of mind in 2018: Artificial intelligence will continue to redefine how businesses operate.
"What is seeping in everything else is AI," said Brian Burke, research VP at Gartner, in an interview with CIO Dive. "We talk about AI as one trend, but it bleeds into all of the other trends."
Gartner's forward-facing report — a review of 2,000 individual technologies — identifies five key trends set to shape decision-makers priorities over the coming five to ten years.
Sensing and mobility: From 3D-sensing cameras to augmented reality displays or autonomous vehicles, sensors and AI will combine to let enterprises gain new kinds of insights.
Augmented human: Advanced algorithms will offer guidance to humans as they perform tasks, rather than remove them from decision-making processes, said Burke. Augmentation will be physical — like prosthetic limbs — but also cognitive.
Postclassical compute and communications: Low-orbit satellites and 5G networks are slated to drive economic growth in underserved regions and countries, which means new opportunities for industry growth.
Digital ecosystems: The network of vendors and partners companies have to interact with won't become any simpler. To navigate the field, companies will turn to blockchain technology for a trust-enabled solution.
Advanced AI and analytics: Democratized access to artificial intelligence platforms — under a service-based model — is slated to have a "significant" impact in the way companies operate, Burke said.
Real world trends
It's possible to draw a connecting line between most of Gartner's Hype Cycle and specific business applications, whether they exist now or in the future.
But measuring exactly how impactful advanced analytics could be proves difficult, since the technology may offer access to applications currently unheard of.
According to Burke, the use of generative adversarial networks (GANs) — the technology that also powers deepfakes — could open the door for computers to churn out entirely new products formerly only produced by humans.
"The potential opportunity is fascinating, because we've never used computers to create entirely new things before," Burke said.
In evaluating the effect of GANs for business, don't focus on doctored videos, which Burke says are just a novelty application of the technology. Instead, the impact for business lies in things like computer-generated marketing copy.
Experimental GAN applications currently offer scientists simulation scenarios for autonomous vehicles, or aid with drug discovery, but can come into play in many more fields.
An AI steward
For some companies, AI's impact is so tangible it already it warrants a nickname.
"We named it Alfred because it's like having another person on the team," said Eric Vendermause, senior global architect at Johnsonville Sausage, in reference to AI-enabled capabilities the company uses to monitor its network efficiency.
At Johnsonville Sausage, a Wisconsin-based sausage maker with 3,000 employees and some 350 devices in its network infrastructure, Cisco's AI-powered DNA Center can comb through a day's worth of network data and generate a handful of top priorities and issues to address.
Aided by Alfred — a reference to Bruce Wayne's trusty valet — Vendermause says his team can increase efficiency by quickly spotting the day's priorities.
"You'd need a much larger team to look at everything efficiently and then come up with a game plan," the exec said.
Tech hurdles ahead
Though AI's business impact seems inevitable, companies will first need to overcome hurdles to properly implement AI and enjoy its bountiful promises.
Because of the inherent complexity of the technology, successful deployments will depend on the maturity of a company's internal processes, technology landscape, and employee skills, said Soumendra Mohanty, EVP at IT firm L&T Infotech.
"For any AI solution, the key ingredients are computing power, algorithms, lots of data and skilled employees," said Mohanty. "If the enterprise is focused on a data-driven culture, it will certainly bring its ideas to life."
Another hurdle: access to enough talent to get these solutions to work. Lack of skilled personnel was listed as the top organizational barrier to AI adoption in a recent survey of 500 CEOs from EY.
The thirst for AI talent is part of a broader hurdle the industry faces. An aging workforce and the evolution of technology itself are leading to an undersupply of technologists, a trend analysts say is likely to deepen over time.