Technology is creating ever-changing expectations for people, and Gartner’s top predictions for 2020 reflect these new challenges.

The predictions were revealed at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2019 in Orlando, which runs through October 24. More than 9,000 IT leaders and CIO’s are in attendance at the conference.

“Technology is changing the notion of what it means to be human,” said Daryl Plummer, distinguished vice president and Gartner Fellow. “As workers and citizens see technology as an enhancement of their abilities, the human condition changes as well. CIOs in end-user organizations must understand the effects of the change and reset expectations for what technology means.”

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Augmentations, decisions, emotions and companionship are the four main aspects that are creating a new reality for how people use technology. “Beyond offering insights into some of the most critical areas of technology evolution, this year’s predictions help us move beyond thinking about mere notions of technology adoption and draw us more deeply into issues surrounding what it means to be human in the digital world,” Plummer said.

Prediction 1: By 2023, the number of people with disabilities employed will triple due to AI and emerging technologies, reducing barriers to access. 

“Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and other emerging technologies have made work more accessible for employees with disabilities. For example, select restaurants are starting to pilot AI robotics technology that enables paralyzed employees to control robotic waiters remotely. Organizations that actively employ people with disabilities will not only cultivate goodwill from their communities, but also see 89% higher retention rates, a 72% increase in employee productivity, and a 29% increase in profitability,” Plummer said.

Prediction 2: By 2024, AI identification of emotions will influence more than half of online advertisements.

Artificial emotional intelligence (AEI) is the next area for AI development, especially for companies hoping to detect emotions in order to influence buying decisions. Twenty-eight percent of marketers ranked AI and machine learning (ML) among the top three technologies that will drive future marketing impact, and 87% of marketing organizations are currently pursuing some level of personalization. Computer vision, which allows AI to identify and interpret physical environments, is one of the key technologies used for emotion recognition and has been ranked by Gartner as one of the most important technologies in the next three to five years.

Prediction 3: Through 2023, 30% of IT organizations will extend BYOD policies with “bring your own enhancement” (BYOE) to address augmented humans in the workforce. 

An augmented worker is one that uses wearable technology. Wearables are improving workplace productivity and safety across verticals such as automotive, oil and gas, retail and healthcare. 

“Enterprises need to balance the control of these devices in their enterprises while also enabling users to use them for the benefit of the organization. This means embracing and exploiting the benefits of physical human augmentation through the implementation of a BYOE strategy,” Plummer said.

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Prediction 4: By 2025, 50% of people with a smartphone but without a bank account will use a mobile-accessible cryptocurrency account. 

Major online marketplaces and social media platforms will being to support cryptocurrency payments by the end of 2020. At least half the globe’s citizens who do not use a bank account will instead use these new mobile-enabled cryptocurrency account services offered by global digital platforms by 2025. 

Prediction 5: By 2023, a self-regulating association for oversight of AI and machine learning designers will be established in at least four of the G7 countries. 

“Regulation of products as complex as AI and ML algorithms is no easy task. Consequences of algorithm failures at scale that occur within major societal functions are becoming more visible. For instance, AI-related failures in autonomous vehicles and aircraft have already killed people and attracted widespread attention in recent months,” Plummer said.

When algorithms malfunction, the public will demand protection and this will create pressure for more regulation. The immediate impact of regulation will be to increase cycle times for AI and ML algorithm development and deployment. The enterprise can expect to spend more for training and certification for practitioners and documentation of processes, as well as higher salaries for certified personnel.

Prediction 6: By 2023, 40% of professional workers will orchestrate their business application experiences and capabilities like they do their music streaming experience. 

People want to work in places that feel more like their home environment, so self-service applications will be assembled that meet job and personal requirements. The consumerization of technology and introduction of new applications have elevated the expectations of employees as to what is possible from their business applications.

“Applications used to define our jobs. Nowadays, we are seeing organizations designing application experiences around the employee. For example, mobile and cloud technologies are freeing many workers from coming into an office and instead supporting a ‘work anywhere’ environment, outpacing traditional application business models,” Plummer said. “Similar to how humans customize their streaming experience, they can increasingly customize and engage with new application experiences.”

Prediction 7: By 2023, up to 30% of world news and video content will be authenticated as real by blockchain countering deep fake technology. 

Fake news represents deliberate disinformation, such as propaganda that is presented to viewers as real news. Its rapid proliferation in recent years can be attributed to bot-controlled accounts on social media, attracting more viewers than authentic news and manipulating human intake of information.

By 2021, at least 10 major news organizations will use blockchain to track and prove the authenticity of their published content to readers and consumers. Likewise, governments, technology giants and other entities are fighting back through industry groups and proposed regulations. “The IT organization must work with content production teams to establish and track the origin of enterprise-generated content using blockchain technology,” Plummer said.

Prediction 8: Through 2021, digital transformation initiatives will take large traditional enterprises on average twice as long and cost twice as much as anticipated. 

Business leaders’ expectations for revenue growth are unlikely to be realized from digital optimization strategies, due to the cost of technology modernization and the unanticipated costs of simplifying operational interdependencies. Such operational complexity also impedes the pace of change along with the degree of innovation and adaptability required to operate as a digital business.

“In most traditional organizations, the gap between digital ambition and reality is large,” Plummer said. “We expect CIOs’ budget allocation for IT modernization to grow 7% year over year through 2021 to try to close that gap.”

Prediction 9: By 2023, individual activities will be tracked digitally by an “Internet of Behavior” to influence benefit and service eligibility for 40% of people worldwide.

Through facial recognition, location tracking and big data, organizations are starting to monitor
individual behavior and link that behavior to other digital actions, like buying a train ticket. The Internet of Things (IoT) – where physical things are directed to do a certain thing based on a set of observed operating parameters relative to a desired set of operating parameters — is now being extended to people, known as the Internet of Behavior (IoB).

“With IoB, value judgements are applied to behavioral events to create a desired state of behavior,” Plummer said. “Within Western countries, the most notable example of a usage-based and behaviorally based business model is in property and casualty insurance. Over the long term, it is likely that almost everyone living in a modern society will be exposed to some form of IoB that melds with cultural and legal norms of our existing predigital societies.”

Prediction 10: By 2024, the World Health Organization will identify online shopping as an addictive disorder, as millions abuse digital commerce and encounter financial stress. 

Consumer spending via digital commerce platforms will continue to grow over 10% year over year through 2022. The ease of online shopping will cause financial stress for millions of people, as online retailers increasingly use AI and personalization to effectively target consumers and prompt them to spend discretionary income that they do not have. The resulting debt and personal bankruptcies will cause depression and other health concerns caused by stress, which is capturing the attention of the WHO.

“The side effects of technology that promote addictive behavior are not exclusive to consumers. CIOs must also consider the possibility of lost productivity among employees who put work aside for online shopping and other digital distractions. In addition, regulations in support of responsible online retail practices might force companies to provide warnings to prospective customers who are ready to make online purchases, similar to casinos or cigarette companies,” Plummer said.

Image: Gartner