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The familiar holiday season may be fast upon us, but technology innovations that promise to disrupt time-honored traditions have been top of mind for me. We pretty much know what to expect in the next four weeks. Retailers will scramble to generate as much as half their annual revenues. Customers will search for the best deals on the best gifts. Far more exciting is a glimpse into the technology trends coming to stores near all of us in the not-so-distant future. I’ve written about the internet of things before. Now let’s talk about what happens to holiday shopping with the advent of the internet of everything.

Smart shelves will soon custom-tailor offerings to us as we browse the aisle. Programmable robots will carry out (almost) any task you can train them for—maybe even making that frenetic last trip to the mall. If you’re searching for the ideal restaurant for a holiday celebration, you may never have to wade through another undecipherable Yelp review; self-learning machines will spit out succinct critiques on command. And that pizza you ordered when you didn’t have time to cook dinner? Drones could be the next delivery person on your doorstep.

Like all innovations, the possibilities are at once exhilarating and terrifying. Sixty percent of CEOs recently surveyed by Gartner Research insisted that the emergence of smart machines capable of absorbing millions of middle-class jobs within 15 years is a “futurist fantasy.” But there’s no mistaking the trends. My company, SAP, showcased a smart vending machine recently at TechEd in Las Vegas and Amsterdam that uses predictive analytics to connect with consumers. This goes far beyond putting a bill into the payment slot. Or, as blogger Andrew Shriner describes it:

“Consumers can identify themselves with their smartphones, build profiles, connect to their friends, play social games, and receive promotions and offers tailored specifically to them—transforming the vending machine into an immersive retail experience.”

Right now, we have more trust in humans for certain tasks. Who’s to say which ones will prove more efficient and effective when completed by machines?  According to Gartner Research, over 30 billion connected devices will be in use by 2020, and the internet of things will create $1.9 trillion of economic value add. At the dawn of any new era it’s impossible to know every new opportunity on the horizon. Meantime, I’m planning to write more about what these innovations have in store for us as the seasons unfold—hopefully before I’m replaced with a blogging robot.

Follow me @smgaler

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