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Tech Trends: Rise of the Robots

Gartner has released its top 10 strategic predictions for 2016 through the end of the decade. This year's list highlights "smart" technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and the relationships of humans to machines.

"The 'robo' trend, the emerging practicality of artificial intelligence, and the fact that enterprises and consumers are now embracing the advancement of these technologies is driving change," said Daryl Plummer, vice president, distinguished analyst and Gartner fellow, in a prepared statement. "Gartner's Top Predictions begin to separate us from the mere notion of technology adoption and to draw us more deeply into issues surrounding what it means to be human in a digital world."

Machine-Authored Content
Automated composition engines will increasingly create data-based and analytical communications using natural language, accounting for about one-fifth of business communications by 2018. "Business content, such as shareholder reports, legal documents, market reports, press releases, articles and white papers, are all candidates for automated writing tools," according to the company.

Internet of Things Will Demand IT Support
Also by 2018, the number of Internet-connected devices will swell to approximately 6 billion. Thone newly online devices will generate support requests, requiring IT organizations to develop new strategies dealing specifically with solving their problems.

Autonomous Software Agents Will Make Economic Transactions
By the end of the decade, one in 20 economic transactions will include at least one "algorithmically driven agent" that will "hold value" itself, according to Gartner. "We will see algorithms," according to a news release, "often developed in a transparent, open-source fashion and set free on the blockchain, capable of banking, insurance, markets, exchanges, crowdfunding — and virtually all other types of financial instruments."

Rise of the Robo-Bosses
Approximately 3 million workers globally will be supervised by some kind of machine manager making decisions based on performance measurements. Such decisions will include issues like staffing requirements and management incentives.

Digital Vandalism
By the end of 2018 one in five smart buildings will have experienced some kind of digital vandalism. "With exploits ranging from defacing digital signage to plunging whole buildings into prolonged darkness, digital vandalism is a nuisance, rather than a threat," according to a news release. "There are, nonetheless, economic, health and safety, and security consequences. The severity of these consequences depend on the target. Smart building components cannot be considered independently, but must be viewed as part of the larger organizational security process. Products must be built to offer acceptable levels of protection and hooks for integration into security monitoring and management systems."

Rise of the Robo-Workers
By 2018 nearly half, 45 percent, of the fastest-growing companies will have more smart machines than human employees. Startups and other new companies will be the first to leverage smart machines effectively and quickly, according to Gartner. "The speed, cost savings, productivity improvements and ability to scale of smart technology for specific tasks offer dramatic advantages over the recruiting, hiring, training and growth demands of human labor," according to information released by the company. Examples provided by Gartner include drone-only surveillance services and fully automated grocery stores.

Digital Assistants
Digital assistants capable of recognizing individuals by face or voice recognition will mimic human conversation to provide customer support. These assistants will be able to listen, speak, maintain a sense of history and context and use timing and tone to interact with customers.

Employee Health Tracking
By 2018 approximately 2 million employees will be required to wear a health or fitness tracking device globally. "Emergency responders, such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics, will likely comprise the largest group of employees required to monitor their health or fitness with wearables," according to a news release. "The primary reason for wearing them is for their own safety."

Smart Agents
By the end of the decade smart agents, such as virtual personal assistants, will combine user content and behavior with cloud-based neural networks to build models that will predict user needs, eventually acting on the user's behalf.

Customer Security Failures
Through the end of the decade, nearly all cloud security incidents, 95 percent, will be the fault of customers and not the result of vulnerabilities.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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