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Emerging technologies are poised to break out and disrupt business models with unprecedented connectivity between a plethora of devices tapping intelligence from smart machines to produce dazzling user experiences. According to David W. Cearley, Vice President and Gartner Fellow, the shift to digital business is the fundamental theme behind next year’s top technology trends. During a recent Gartner webinar, he identified three overarching topics within the top 10 trends supporting this move: the physical and virtual worlds merge, intelligence everywhere, and all applications become cloud-centric.

“Digital business is evolving to become algorithmic business, which focuses on action,” said Cearley. “We’re encapsulating data from activities into algorithms, creating more smart and intelligent systems as part of the entire digital business.”

These are Gartner's top 10 trends for 2016:

  • Device mesh is the expanding, pervasive technology underpinning that delivers frictionless, fluid, dynamic connections involving people, things and businesses whether you’re with a customer, working in a warehouse or an oil field, shopping in a retail store, eating at a restaurant, watching the game or driving in your car. “Smart watches are the tip of the iceberg,” said Cearley. “Many of these technologies are very targeted so you need to think about certain opportunities like notifications, micro-interactions, and different levels of control or context that’s provided to the user such as employee productivity with authentication mechanisms or hands-free production.” As one example of the growth of augmented and virtual reality, Gartner predicted head-mounted displays will dramatically increase from 260,000 unit shipments in 2015 to two million units next year and 25 million units by 2019.

  • Ambient user experience seamlessly blends the physical and virtual, adapting contextual information including user actions, environmental sensors on available devices, historical data and capabilities from applications. Cearley said this will evolve to a unified multi-sensory experience. “Application design has to think outside-in starting with the user. You’re designing for the personal cloud that exists for the user – their devices and scenarios that change throughout the day.”

  • 3D printing using advanced, multiple materials will create high-value innovation opportunities in industries like pharmaceuticals, life science (prosthetics and skin), electronics, food and industrial manufacturing.

  • Information of everything will begin to make data meaningful to create smart machines that store, collect and share valuable, actionable knowledge sources across the business ecosystem.

  • Advanced machine learning uses new types of models to infuse greater intelligence into systems. This is the next step in analytics, functioning as the “brain” of autonomous, smart machines able to learn, act and adapt behavior.

  • Autonomous agents and things are on the rise creating new business opportunities. This includes robots, drones, driverless vehicles, virtual customer and personal assistants, smart appliances and tools, smart security and operations, and smart enterprise apps.

  • Adaptive security architecture goes beyond blocking the company’s virtual perimeter to building risk mitigation into the system on a continuous basis using advanced behavioral and entity analytics that predict, prevent, investigate, contain and remediate incidents.

  • Advanced systems architecture supports smart machines, in which specialized appliances can dramatically scale connections, turbo-charging innovations like facial recognition and cognitive learning.

  • Mesh app and service architecture emerges as a unified model to build microservices linked together into applications delivered across devices in the digital mesh. “There’s a significant learning curve and discipline required for this,” cautioned Cearley. “It’s not for everyone today but is one of the hottest topics.”

  • Internet of things architecture and platform has to be built so all the components are linked together including analytics, orchestration, data, an integration layer, and aggregated device management, and gateways and the user interface.

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