CHARLOTTE – Trends barreling down the digital highway fall into three main areas, Garner Executive Partner David Hamilton Ulmer told NC Tech’s 2018 Outlook for Tech crowd Friday in Charlotte. “These things are emerging and disruptive right now,” he said.

“These are the things you should be thinking about. Whether it makes business sense for you to use them right now or not, you should at least be aware of them.”

Ulmer, who was a CIO with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Deputy State CIO, and a vice president with Bank of America before joining Gartner, is a global technology operations executive with the firm.

His talk, “Strategic Technology Trends & Skills Needed to Be Successful,” based on Garner’s “Top Ten Startegic Technology Trends for 2018” report,  focused on three main areas:

  • Intelligence built into everything: AI is seeping into virtually every technology. That includes intelligent apps and analytics and intelligent things.
  • Digital: digital twins, the cloud, conversational platforms, and immersive experiences.
  • The Digital Mesh that connects it all. Gartner calls the entwining of people, devices, content and services the intelligent digital mesh. It’s enabled by digital models, business platforms and an intelligent set of services to support digital business, such as Blockchain.

“Prepare yourself to see a lot more intelligent things,” Ulmer said. “Robots, consumer things, flying things (such as drones), autonomous things (cars, trucks, tractors). The first generation of our ability to have a conversation with something is about to go crazy.”

An explosion of AI coming

He described a Japanese “test bed” hotel in which robots greet guests, check them in, and take their bags to their room. Soon, he suggested, when you go to a Lowes or a Walmart, a robot may ask where you want to go and take you there quickly.

He pointed out that while many people think AI is a new thing, it has actually been around since the 1960s and became data-centric in the 1980s. The difference now? “We have much, much larger access to data, sophistication in the science to use that data, and a big rise in computing power that was previously expensive,” Ulmer said.

A lot of what we are seeing now is “narrow AI, such as driverless cars,” so we don’t see the type of AI masters of the “Terminator” movies showing up. But the explosion of narrow AI will “Impact user experiences, processes, analytics, everything,” he said.

“Most folks will get it through packaged software. Companies will build a lot of intellectual property devising algorithms and models. There will be lots of opportunity on the services side for people to come in and help you with that,” he said.

Swarming, intelligent things and digital twins

We’ll see an acceleration of augmented data discovery and analysis and machine learning. “Data scientists have been going through it manually. We’re going to see more and more automatic analysis. That will free data scientists to do other things.”

“We may eventually have swarming, cooperating intelligent things,” Ulmer said.

The Gartner report elaborates that means “A shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things. In this model, multiple devices will work together, either independently or with human input. The leading edge of this area is being used by the military, which is studying the use of drone swarms to attack or defend military targets.”

Ulmer cited Honda’s work on giving vehicles the ability to be aware of each other to provide smoother merging of on and off lanes in traffic. “They’re working hard on that, he said.

Intelligent digital mesh will save trillions

“By 2022,” Ulmer said, “the intelligent digital mesh will save consumers and businesses $1 trillion a year in maintenance services.”

Event-driven monitoring will allow businesses to detect situations that require action when those “business moments” occur. “Those of you who are not looking at it should be,” said Ulmer.

The Gartner report explains:

“By 2020, event-sourced, real-time situational awareness will be a required characteristic for 80 percent of digital business solutions, and 80 percent of new business ecosystems will require support for event processing.”

Adopting Continuous adaptive risk and trust assessment (CARTA) allows for real-time, risk and trust-based decision making with adaptive responses to security-enable digital business. By 2020, Ulmer said, “25 percent of new business initiatives will adopt a CARTA strategic approach.”

Digital twins are, Ulmer said, “a digital representation of something you want to keep track of.” For instance, you might monitor a digital twin of a jet engine while it’s in flight. “It let’s them know right about now they should bring in the engine, but you don’t bring it in until it needs it.”

Also, Ulmer noted, “There are digital twins of us, models of who we are and things we like to talk about.”

Development and innovation in conversational systems is exploding, Ulmer said. The ability of computers to interface with humans conversationally is moving toward natural language processing in which digital devices understand ordinary speech.

Also on the horizon: augumented virtual reality that includes sensory mechanisms such as touch, taste and smell. It could allow surgeons to perform remote operations with robotic assistance.

“People are not prepared for this, but that’s what’s coming toward us pretty quickly.”