5 emerging tech terms you should know from Gartner's 25th Hype Cycle report

COVID-19 is putting citizen twins on the fast track, the composable enterprise is the key to digital transformation, and AI is everywhere.

Gartner's 25th Hype Cycle report shows the influence of the coronavirus pandemic

Health Passports are shifting digital twin tech to humans and the composable enterprise is making it possible for business to stay nimble during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 influenced many of the 30 technologies in Gartner's 25th Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report.

Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner, said that this was the first time in the history of the report that a new piece of technology reached 20% market penetration in less than a year. China and India are using Health Passport mobile apps to indicate the level of infection risk of the holder. Red is a confirmed case of COVID-19; yellow means the person should be in quarantine; and green means free to travel. 

"Because of the population in those countries, this is the first time that we've had a technology that is less than six months old and already has 20% market penetration," he said.

SEE: 5 Internet of Things (IoT) innovations (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Health Passports are part of the larger citizen twin/digital me trend. Gartner identified five overall trends for this hype cycle report, but the interesting bits are in the details. The five terms you should know from the report are:

  1. Citizen twins
  2. Composable enterprise
  3. Low-cost single board computer at the edge
  4. Secure access service edge
  5. Authenticated provenance

Here is a look at the benefits of these technologies as well as where they fit in the hype cycle.

Citizen twins 

Burke said that COVID-19 has created real-world use cases for digital representations of a human's physical being. Burke used the example of Health Passports that China and India are using to control the spread of COVID-19. 

"A Health Passport is basically a QR code that you need to go shopping, ride public transport, and even get into your building," he said. 

Social distancing and contact tracing apps are also part of this trend. Burke said that the most obvious data points to recreate in a digital version are biometric measurements, such as heart rate and glucose levels, but that the overall trend is much bigger than that.

"You could monitor anything about that person and the digital representation could represent you in the digital world," he said.

Burke said that ownership of digital twin data is a huge question that is largely unregulated, whether the information comes from a machine or a human..

"If you buy a turbine engine from GE, who owns the data, the buyer or GE?" he said. "GE can use the data for optimizing their designs, and right now, most customers are happy to give the data to GE, but ownership will become more important in the future."

Composable enterprise

This emerging technology also has been influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, as business resilience went from "nice to have" to "vital for survival" overnight. Gartner predicts that this new requirement will push a steady but fast adoption of the core principles of composable enterprise.

This model of application design imagines applications as experiences assembled by or for its users from vendor products and custom built modules. Another hype cycle technology—packaged business capabilities—fits into this larger trend that Burke described as Lego-like building blocks: chunks of functionality that can be snapped together to build a service. 

Gartner analysts Yefim Natis, Dennis Gaughan, and Gene Alvarez write in this section that composable architecture gives companies one model for accomplishing long-standing goals of modularity, efficiency, continuous improvement, and adaptive innovation. They describe the biggest barrier to this as a cultural change that requires moving from the rigidity of the familiar enterprise structures to the elasticity of active continuous change.

The report authors recommend that application development leaders take these steps to support this digital transformation trend:

  • Use composable enterprise thinking to innovate faster and safer, to reduce costs, and to lay the foundation for business-IT partnerships.
  • Prioritize formation of business-IT fusion teams to facilitate faster, smarter and safer decisions in navigating the business through current and future disruptions.

Low-cost single board computers at the edge

Gartner analyst Tony Harvey describes these computers as general-purpose systems that perform functions such as filtering data like anomaly detection or AI inferencing like image recognition at the edge. These devices are based on a system-on-chip solution and designed with the minimum capability to perform the tasks required.The operating environment will be based around a micro OS, virtual machines, and containers to allow quick delivery of updates.

Harvey writes that the market has expanded beyond the Raspberry Pi to include open-source microcontroller-based systems like Arduino, and AI inferencing systems such as the Texas Instruments BeagleBone AI, and the NVIDIA Jetson Nano.

These computers are a good fit for edge projects that require a large number of low-cost devices to provide data processing, image recognition, voice recognition, or AI inferencing capabilities. Harvey predicts that the market will evolve rapidly over the next few years with improved performance and new capabilities being rolled out quickly. IT managers should look for single-board edge servers that can be rolled out rapidly and be managed and updated in the field without skilled staff on-site. Security should be built into the system across all areas including, physical, data storage, communications, management, and updates.

Secure access service edge

This trend is the only one on this short list that Gartner puts in the "at the peak" phase of the hype cycle. 

Secure access service edge architecture (SASE) delivers multiple security capabilities including software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN), secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB), next-generation firewall (NGFW), and zero trust network access (ZTNA).

SASE is delivered as a service and supports office and remote workers. It is based on the identity of the device or user and combined with real-time context and security policies. 

Gartner predicts that by 2023, 20% of enterprises will have adopted SWG, CASB, ZTNA and branch Firewall as a Service capabilities from the same vendor, up from less than 5% in 2019. Analysts Joe Skorupa and Neil MacDonald, who wrote this section of the report, warn IT managers to be on the watch for "slideware and marketecture, especially from incumbents that are ill-prepared for the cloud-based delivery as a service model and the investments required for distributed PoPs." 

Skorupa and MacDonald offer this advice for evaluating vendor proposals:

  • Strive for not more than two vendors to deliver all core services.
  • Combine branch office and secure remote access in a single implementation, even if the transition will occur over an extended period.
  • Avoid vendors that propose to deliver the broad set of services by linking a large number of products via virtual machine service chaining.

The report lists these sample vendors of SASE solutions: Akamai; Cato Networks; Cisco; Citrix; iboss; Netskope; Open Systems; Palo Alto Networks; VMware; and Zscaler. 

Authenticated provenance

Despite all its problem-solving promise, blockchain still doesn't have an answer to this question:  "How do you know what you are tracking on the blockchain is real to begin with"? As Gartner analysts Avivah Litan and Svetlana Sicular write in this section of the report, "The problem is made worse because on the blockchain, garbage in means garbage forever, since it can never be modified or deleted due to the immutable ledger." This challenge has to be solved before blockchain can be used to track food or drugs. 

Gartner predicts that provenance authentication solutions will be in more demand in the coming years, as companies who adopt blockchain for provenance applications see the need to digitally certify the onboarding of the goods or content being tracked on the blockchain. Currently, that  certification relies on manual audits or human trust, neither of which are scalable.

The analysts recommend that companies and other organizations work with peers and industry groups to build collective solutions to combat fake goods and content. This technology is in the embryonic stage and two sample vendors are IBM and ThinkIQ.

AI is everywhere

Every flavor of artificial intelligence showed up in this report, including composite, generative, responsible, embedded, and explainable. 

Burke said that he is most interested in new developments in AI that allow algorithms to create original songs, writing, and art. He wrote the section of the Hype Cycle report about generative adversarial networks that can do this. Two neural network models, a generator and a discriminator work together to create videos, images, music and text  GANs also can be used to build models of new drug compounds or new materials with certain properties. 

"Computers haven't even been able to truly generate a random number until now, so the possibilities are endless when you think about all of the things that could be created by an algorithm," he said.

Also see

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Image: Gartner

By Veronica Combs

Veronica is an independent journalist and communications strategist. For more than 10 years, she has covered health and healthcare with a focus on innovation and patient engagement. She led AIR Louisville, a three-year digital health project focused ...