Want to know how to survive and thrive in the digital economy over the next five to 10 years?

Gartner has just published its Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017 and identified three “megatrends” you need to be aware of:

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) everywhere
  2. transparently immersive experiences
  3. digital platforms.

I’m going to guide you through them. This is going to be a long read because I’m sure, like me, you’re reading about these topics.

As professional communicators we need to understand these areas to know what to implement for our organisations and clients.

It’s important to me to provide clarity through my blog, so I’m going to jargon bust as we go. Refer to this article when you get stuck and do let me know any additions for my glossary.

Full of possibilities

From quantum computing to digital twin and Smart Robots, the future of work is full of new possibilities and ways to communicate.

“Enterprise architects who are focused on technology innovation must evaluate these high-level trends and the featured technologies, as well as the potential impact on their businesses,” says Mike J. Walker, research director at Gartner.

“In addition to the potential impact on businesses, these trends provide a significant opportunity for enterprise architecture leaders to help senior business and IT leaders respond to digital business opportunities and threats by creating signature-ready actionable and diagnostic deliverables that guide investment decisions.”

Enterprise Architecture (EA): Enterprise architecture (EA) is a conceptual blueprint that defines the structure and operation of an organisation. The intent of an enterprise architecture is to determine how an organisation can most effectively achieve its current and future objectives.

Digital Economy: The economic activity that results from billions of everyday online connections among people, businesses, devices, data, and processes. The backbone of the digital economy is hyperconnectivity which means growing interconnectedness of people, organisations, and machines that results from the Internet, mobile technology and the internet of things (IoT). (Source: Deloitte).

Internet of Things (IoT): Connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to humans, applications, and each other.

How good is your understanding of the areas listed below? I’m doing a lot of reading at the moment. If you’d like me to share what I find with readers of the All Things IC blog, do let me know by commenting below or Tweeting me @AllthingsIC.

Emerging technologies

According to Gartner Inc, the emerging technologies on their Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017 are the trends that will “provide unrivaled intelligence, create profoundly new experiences and offer platforms that allow organisations to connect with new business ecosystems.”

What is the future of work?

I’m fascinated by the future of work. I’m finding many of the predictions from the past few years are already in place, but there are many more exciting stages to go, as you can see from the Hype Cycle above.

What is a Hype Cycle?

Gartner say Hype Cycles separate hype from the real drivers of a technology’s commercial promise. They reduce the risk of your technology investment decisions and compare your understanding of a technology’s business value with the objectivity of experienced IT analysts.

Each Hype Cycle examines five key phases of a technology’s life cycle:

  • Innovation Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
  • Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
  • Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallise and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
  • Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.

I’m sure you can think of workplace technology in your own company and can plot where you are in that cycle.

Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies

The Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report is the longest-running annual Gartner Hype Cycle, providing a cross-industry perspective on the technologies and trends that business strategists, chief innovation officers, R&D leaders, entrepreneurs, global market developers and emerging-technology teams should consider in developing emerging-technology portfolios.

It’s unique among most Gartner Hype Cycles because it garners insights from more than 2,000 technologies into a succinct set of compelling emerging technologies and trends.

This one specifically focuses on the set of technologies that is showing promise in delivering a high degree of competitive advantage over the next five to 10 years.

It’s the coupling of people, technology and culture that interests me – how can we equip and empower our employees to make the most of new developments? How can we wade through the choices and make the right ones for our organisations?

How will embedding new systems and processes change employee experience and how can we ensure our organisations are responsive and able to adapt to change? What will organisational communication look like in the future?

So many questions! You can probably tell it gets my brain buzzing.

The future of workplace communication

My daughter is five-years-old and my twin sons are two-years-old. I’d love to know how my children will experience workplace communication and what their generation, and those who follow, will expect as the norm.

Is the adoption leap lower for my children’s generation, as they cannot imagine growing up without technology?

I don’t know. However I do know my daughter is incredulous that I used to wait a week between TV shows and if I missed it, had no way of watching it. It’s unthinkable to her to not access information on-demand.

I know how hard it is to keep up-to-date, so here’s a look at Gartner’s latest work.

As promised, I’m jargon busting as you read. I’ve also updated my glossary to help you understand these terms.

Further reading: The All Things IC glossary.

Further reading: What Facebook is plotting with its Enterprise Social Network

Let’s examine each of the three “megatrends” (Not sure how I feel about that term. “Megacomms” anyone?! Yuck).

1) Artificial Intelligence everywhere

Gartner state: “Artificial intelligence technologies will be the most disruptive class of technologies over the next 10 years due to radical computational power, near-endless amounts of data, and unprecedented advances in deep neural networks; these will enable organisations with AI technologies to harness data in order to adapt to new situations and solve problems that no one has ever encountered previously.”

I find this exciting, so what do you need to do to make the most of AI? Let’s define it first…

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Technology that appears to emulate human performance typically by learning, coming to its own conclusions, appearing to understand complex content, engaging in natural dialogues with people, enhancing human cognitive performance (also known as cognitive computing) or replacing people on execution of nonroutine tasks.

Applications include autonomous vehicles, automatic speech recognition and generation and detecting novel concepts and abstractions (useful for detecting potential new risks and aiding humans quickly understand very large bodies of ever-changing information).

Gartner say you need to consider the following technologies: Deep Learning, Deep Reinforcement Learning, Artificial General Intelligence, Autonomous Vehicles, Cognitive Computing, Commercial UAVs (Drones), Conversational User Interfaces, Enterprise Taxonomy and Ontology Management, Machine Learning, Smart Dust, Smart Robots and Smart Workspace.

Lots to jargon bust there!

Here you go, these are definitions you’ll find online:

  • Deep Learning: Also known as deep structured learning or hierarchical learning) is part of a broader family of machine learning methods based on learning data representations, as opposed to task-specific algorithms.
  • Deep Reinforcement Learning(RL) An area of machine learning inspired by behaviourist psychology, concerned with how software agents ought to take actions in an environment so as to maximise some notion of cumulative reward.
  • Artificial General Intelligence(AGI) is the intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can. It is a primary goal of some artificial intelligence research and a common topic in science fiction and future studies.
  • Autonomous Vehicles: An autonomous car is a vehicle that can guide itself without human conduction. This kind of vehicle has become a concrete reality and may pave the way for future systems where computers take over the art of driving. An autonomous car is also known as a driverless car, robot car, self-driving car or autonomous vehicle. Read more.
  • Cognitive Computing: The simulation of human thought processes in a computerised model. Cognitive computing involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works.
  • Commercial UAVs (Drones): An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS); which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two.,
  • CUI: Conversational User Interface.
  • Enterprise Taxonomy and Ontology Management: A taxonomy is a knowledge tree, a logical structure that uses hierarchies to classify documents, concepts, etc. An ontology is a representation of knowledge that defines the meaning of concepts and the relationships among different concepts (it can include several taxonomies).
  • Machine Learning: An application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and use it learn for themselves. Read more.
  • Smart dust: In nanotechnology, smart dust is an ad hoc network of tiny devices equipped with wireless micro-electromechanical sensors (MEMS). Smart dust is also called smart matter.
  • Smart Robots: An artificial intelligence (AI) system that can learn from its environment and its experience and build on its capabilities based on that knowledge. Smart robots can collaborate with humans, working along-side them and learning from their behaviour.
  • Smart Workspace: The smart workplace will aim to improve effectiveness of employees and enable them to contextually interact with connected “things.” Initial focus for IoT implementations in the business environment will be on information sharing, communication and asset management, as well as access control, security and privacy.

Are you starting to think about any of these in your organisation? I’d love to share your stories if you are, do read my guidelines and get in touch to share your experience with fellow communication practitioners.

Further reading: Bust more jargon via the All Things IC glossary.

How to learn more about these topics:

Here are some articles and ideas to help you learn more about artificial intelligence. I recommend reading Gloria Lombardi’s excellent Marginalia magazine for more examples.

Article: Artificial Intelligence: economic gains, ethics and workforce wellbeing.

Article: To prepare for the future, invest in people, workspaces and technology.

Article: NWG innovation festival looks into tomorrow’s AI world of work.

Article: Artificial intelligence and the future of work.

Article: How Google uses neural networks to translate without transcribing

Article: Playing tic-tac-toe with a drone.

2) Transparently Immersive Experiences

Gartner state: “Technology will continue to become more human-centric to the point where it will introduce transparency between people, businesses and things. This relationship will become much more entwined as the evolution of technology becomes more adaptive, contextual and fluid within the workplace, at home, and in interacting with businesses and other people.”

They have a long list of technologies to consider under immersive experiences, including: 4D Printing, Augmented Reality (AR), Computer-Brain InterfaceConnected HomeHuman AugmentationNanotube Electronics, Virtual Reality (VR) and Volumetric Displays.

My home is connected and my children seamlessly interact with its technology e.g. using watches to turn music on, asking Siri to change the colour and strength of lights in rooms, and voice search to get to their programme of choice.

I’m constantly struck by their ability to learn. My husband and I often don’t have to teach them, they figure it out and come to us for help when they get stuck.

It feels immersive and as the years go by and we’ve introduced more features. For example, it’s now normal for me to look on my phone to see if there’s a car parking space outside my house so I can plan getting the children safely back in. I can also talk directly to delivery people if I’m out and can see they’re standing on my doorstep, or adjust the heating or nursery cameras in my home remotely.

Thinking about the future of technology and what the next five to ten years brings fascinates me. What will their households be like? How will they use technology in their homes when they’re my age?

Are you starting to think about any of these immersive experiences in your workplace? What’s working well for you?

I’m particularly interested in virtual reality (VR). This provides a computer-generated 3D environment that surrounds a user and responds to that individual’s actions in a natural way, usually through immersive head-mounted displays and head tracking.

Gloves providing hand tracking and haptic (touch sensitive) feedback may be used as well. Room-based systems provide a 3D experience for multiple participants; however, they are more limited in their interaction capabilities.

If you want to learn more about these topics, I recommend reading Gloria Lombardi’s fantastic Marginalia magazine.

Article: Expedia report: Augmented reality and VR – is this the future of travel?

Article: The power of VR helps cure kids hydrophobia.

As ever, if you have a story to share with fellow readers of the All Things IC blog, do check out my guidelines and please get in touch with your idea/s.

Upcoming event: CIPR Inside has an Ask the Guru event on The Future of Work. It’s on 28 September 2017 from 6-8pm on London.

3) Digital Platforms

Gartner state emerging technologies require “revolutionising the enabling foundations that provide the volume of data needed, advanced compute power, and ubiquity-enabling ecosystems. The shift from compartmentalised technical infrastructure to ecosystem-enabling platforms is laying the foundations for entirely new business models that are forming the bridge between humans and technology.”

In other words, what’s underpinning technology is changing to take into account the way humans and machines can work together.

Key platform-enabling technologies to track include: 5GDigital Twin,, BlockchainIoT Platform, Neuromorphic Hardware, Quantum Computing and Software-Defined Security.

“When we view these themes together, we can see how the human-centric enabling technologies within transparently immersive experiences — such as smart workspace, connected home, augmented reality, virtual reality and the growing brain-computer interface — are becoming the edge technologies that are pulling the other trends along the Hype Cycle,” said Mr. Walker.

“AI Everywhere emerging technologies are moving rapidly through the Hype Cycle. Technologies such as deep learning, autonomous learning and cognitive computing are just crossing the peak, which shows that they are key enablers of technologies that create transparent and immersive experiences.”

Finally, digital platforms are rapidly moving up the Hype Cycle, illustrating the new IT realities that are possible by providing the underlining platforms that will fuel the future. Technologies such as Quantum Computing (climbing the Innovation Trigger) and Blockchain (having passed the peak) are poised to create the most transformative and dramatic impacts in the next five to 10 years.

“These megatrends illustrate that the more organizations are able to make technology an integral part of employees’, partners’ and customers’ experiences, the more they will be able to connect their ecosystems to platforms in new and dynamic ways,” said Mr. Walker.

Further reading

Mapping the employee experience in the digital workplace

Phew! Think that’s the longest article on my blog in eight years and 1100+ posts! I hope it’s helpful. Do let me know what you think – you’re welcome to comment below or find me on Twitter @AllthingsIC.

Are you starting to think about any of these areas in your organisation? I’d love to share your stories if you are, do read my guidelines and get in touch to share your experience with fellow communication practitioners.

Further reading:

Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel.

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 22 August 2017.