We look at how IT predictions have shaped up in the past three years
It’s generally accepted that dogs age the equivalent of about 7 years during a single human year. Similarly, “technology years” move at an accelerated pace compared to the normal measure of time, and the pace of technological change is only accelerating.
We thought it would be interesting to take a look at what Gartner – the leading IT research and advisory firm – predicted back in 2015. In October of that year, the company held its ITxpo in Orlando, Florida. Gartner’s experts took a stab at prognosticating the information technology trends for the coming year, defining a “trend” as something that would have a potentially significant impact on organizations in the next 3 years.
Time’s up. How did Gartner do? Here are 5 of the company’s predictions, and how they went down.
1. Fewer employees, more smart machines
Gartner predicted that nearly half of the fastest-growing companies would see a greater growth of smart machine implementation than employee growth. With speed, cost savings, and productivity as the impetus, startups and other innovative organizations will turn to smart technology for specific tasks.
The reality: Amazon may have more than half a million human employees, but the online retailing giant took a giant step forward in fulfilling this Gartner prediction with the opening of Amazon Go in mid-January. The brick-and-mortar grocery store has no checkout lines. Start the Amazon Go app when you enter the store, snag the items you want, and leave. Amazon is making use of sensors and deep learning technology to accomplish this. The irony is that the store opened to reports of—you guessed it—long lines waiting to get inside … to skip the checkout line.
2. The Internet of Things (IoT)
Move over, humans needing IT support. Gartner predicted that IT departments would find the line between things and humans needing IT support blurring. The challenge, they said, would be figuring out strategies to balance resources between what humans need, and what things need.
The reality: If you consider the explosive adoption numbers of Amazon’s Alexa and what it can control, Gartner hit this nail right on the head. If you needed any further proof, just count the number of Super Bowl commercials that made reference to Alexa.
3. Track your health or get fired
Gartner predicted that by now, 2 million employees would be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment.
The reality: This was a big miss. Gartner believed that emergency responders would be the largest group to be told to wear a health/fitness tracker, reasoning that it was for their own safety. And, back in 2015, it did look as if devices such as the Apple Watch might make this more palatable for those getting mandated monitoring. It’s yet to happen.
4. My boss is a robot
More than 3 million workers globally will be supervised by what Gartner referred to as a “robo-boss.” These non-human supervisors would make decisions previously done by human counterparts.
The reality: It’s fair to say that technology does play a greater role in certain aspects of employee management. Staff scheduling, for example, has become less of a human jigsaw puzzle with the assistance of software that determines optimal schedules based on employee skills and personal needs. This same approach helps human supervisors track and consider more data points when measuring employee performance. So, while this 3-million milestone might be up for debate, it is safe to say that many millions more of us are getting our next pay raise based on the input of software and technology.
5. Machines will author 20% of all business content
Gartner predicted that advancements in technology would allow companies to turn over the generation of not just statistic-laden things like shareholder reports and legal documents—but press releases, articles, and white papers to automated writing software tools.
The reality: Gartner was wise to preface this by labeling all this machine-generated writing as “business content.” It’s financial content meant to deliver accurate facts, so it doesn’t really need to be creative or even entertaining. You’ve probably read some of it without realizing it. Forbes’ earning reports, for example, are generated by a natural language generation (NLG) program called Quill.
As for the stuff we read on blogs or elsewhere, humans still have the upper hand. This is mainly because machine-generated content lacks emotion. We humans crave stories, which are best delivered in first-person. Human writers will still find employment until computers master this aspect.
Meanwhile, we have chat bots to amuse us. Gartner made a prediction about them, too, saying that by 2020, “autonomous software agents” outside of human control will participate in 5% of all economic transactions.
We may have only popped the cork on 3 human years, but those years can seem an eternity in the tech world. Overall, we’d say Gartner did a pretty good job with its predictions.
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