CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
Technology
December 17, 2018
Forward Thinking

Gartner flags 10 strategic tech trends for 2019

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Convergence of emerging technologies will create disruption and spawn new business models, firm says.

Supply chain operators may have to get up to speed on a new range of cutting-edge technologies to keep up with the currents of change, according to a recent industry report. The report by market research firm Gartner Inc. finds that disruption and new business models in 2019 will be driven by 10 powerful technology trends, including some familiar concepts like autonomous vehicles and blockchain, as well as some more esoteric concepts such as augmented analytics and quantum computing.

While most shippers, brokers, carriers, vendors, and warehouse operators will agree that the logistics industry is awash in emerging technologies, Gartner said its study focuses only on those trends that have substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and could reach a tipping point over the next five years.

Viewed through that prism, Gartner says the ten strategic technology trends that organizations need to explore in 2019 are:

  • Autonomous things (robots, drones, and autonomous vehicles will increasingly exhibit advanced behaviors that interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people)
  • Augmented analytics (an area of augmented intelligence using machine learning (ML) instead of data scientists to automate the process of data preparation, insight generation, and insight visualization)
  • AI-driven development (creating AI-enhanced solutions using predefined models delivered as a service, and assigning AI co-developers to help humans with application development projects)
  • Digital twins (digital representations of real-world entities or systems that can help users apply analytics and rules to respond to business objectives)* Empowered edge (the collection and processing of data directly at the endpoint devices used by people or embedded in the world around us, instead of at centralized servers)
  • Immersive experience (how conversational platforms such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) can change the way people perceive the digital world)
  • Blockchain (a distributed ledger that can enable trust, provide transparency, and reduce friction across business ecosystems)
  • Smart spaces (physical or digital environments in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ways)
  • Digital ethics and privacy (how peoples' personal information is being used by organizations in both the public and private sectors)
  • Quantum computing (a type of nonclassical computing that operates on the quantum state of subatomic particles and can handle problems too complex for traditional approaches or algorithms)

While Gartner identified these trends as general, industry-wide themes, each one could apply specifically to logistics in a range of ways, the firm said.

In one example, robotic applications could soon evolve far beyond their current use in discrete tasks, and begin to cooperate within a broader network. "As autonomous things proliferate, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things, with multiple devices working together, either independently of people or with human input," David Cearley, a vice president and Gartner Fellow, said in a release.

"For example, if a drone examined a large field and found that it was ready for harvesting, it could dispatch an 'autonomous harvester'," Cearley said. "Or in the delivery market, the most effective solution may be to use an autonomous vehicle to move packages to the target area. Robots and drones on board the vehicle could then ensure final delivery of the package."

Despite this great potential for change, some of the strategic technologies flagged for 2019—such as blockchain—still require significant development before they can perform reliably in a business environment, Gartner said.

"Current blockchain technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood, and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations. This is particularly so with the complex elements that support more sophisticated scenarios," Cearley said. "Despite the challenges, the significant potential for disruption means CIOs and IT leaders should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don't aggressively adopt the technologies in the next few years."

For more details on these mega-trends, readers can order the Gartner Special Report "Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019" or watch the firm's YouTube video.

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