Personal technologies have impacted enterprise IT departments even before the 1990s, when personal computing became more common, Werner Goertz, research director at Gartner, said during a recent session at the 2018 Gartner Symposium/ITxPo in Orlando.
"Personal devices and services have come into your enterprise domain, and they challenge you on a daily basis in terms of data security, manageability, and more," Goertz said.
The change and disruption brought about by these devices and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), in general, can be chaotic. However, CIOs and other IT leaders can embrace these disruptions and mitigate potential disasters, Goertz said.
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Here are the top five personal devices and technologies that will disrupt digital business.
1. Virtual personal assistants and bots
When we talk about virtual personal assistants and bots, we aren't talking about the embodiments we've seen in movies, like R2D2 or HAL 9000, Goertz said. Instead, these assistants and bots are made up of cloud-based services, knowledge graphs, and carefully handcrafted programming and interest mapping, he added.
By 2020, more than 500 million consumers will use voice-enabled, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) to make purchases on digital commerce platforms, up from 160 million who do so today, Gartner predicts.
Enterprise adoption of these platforms is also rolling out, Goertz said. Professionals are using voice AI for simple office interactions. And the cognitive load for use is diminishing, as users become more familiar with the skills or actions needed to use devices like the Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
"We don't have to think hard about it anymore—it's coming more and more naturally as we bring these experiences from the consumer domain into the enterprise domain," Goertz said.
The issue is that these devices must be managed centrally by IT, Goertz said. "We will have to learn to purchase, deploy, and manage these devices," Goertz said. "These are communal devices, typically set up in conference rooms where multiple users have access to them. You will have to define the rules and regulations for their use in these communal contexts."
2. Personal IoT sensors
Personal IoT sensors are used by individuals everywhere, from home to work and in between, Goertz said. And they are spreading rapidly: In 2021, 3 million new IoT devices will be purchased every hour of every day, Gartner predicts. Adoption today is driven by more mature technologies, but after 2020, new opportunities will emerge, and business and consumer use will continue to grow, Goertz said.
The personalized data from these devices creates oceans of unstructured data that may flood enterprise systems, Goertz said. "You will have to try to extract relevance and structure from these data trails," he added. "Then data will have to be put to good use and monetized in some shape or form."
Additionally, by 2020, IoT tech will be embedded in 90% of computer-enabled product designs, Gartner predicts. This means enterprises must build intelligent and predictive capabilities into systems to extract the relevant data patterns, and develop then monetizable models from that, Goertz said.
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After an initial cycle of hype, wearables are now here to stay, and are another source of disruption brought on by personal technologies, Goertz said. Wearables can expand the body's potential in business, he added. Head-mounted displays, body cameras, activity trackers, smart badges, and smart watches are all already fairly mainstream. Enterprise-capable wearables will become mainstream by 2020, Gartner predicts, with the biggest areas being bluetooth headsets and smartwatches.
To reach this point, wearables will need to become more inconspicuous, and apps must go from integrated to interoperable, Goertz said. Data collected from wearables will also need to be compliant with legislative mandates, Goertz said.
4. Augmented and virtual realities (AR and VR)
The world is still about three to five years away from full deployment or mass engagement with truly immersive AR/VR experiences, Goertz said. However, enterprises should take this evolution into account anyway, as companies begin to experiment with these technologies in the form of smart mirrors, magic windows, and VR displays, he added.
"VR opens the door to behavioral change," Goertz said. For example, field engineers will be able to use this technology to capture images from the field and transmit them to central offices, where supervisors can provide expert guidance, he added.
Goertz recommended setting up an AR/VR lab to execute internal pilots and proofs of concept, and test out immersive solutions for the workforce.
5. Advanced camera and vision technologies
New camera technology offers better value from imagery, Goertz said. We have the ability to capture 360-degree images, and create shared virtual services and immersive meetings. This can expand workplace spaces and barriers, Goertz added.
Machine learning architectures are also moving to the edge, democratizing AI, Goertz said.
Goertz recommends setting up a process for evaluating personal technologies, and identifying opportunities to improve workplaces processes and actions. After 90 days, businesses should pilot initial concepts, measure results, and gain feedback, he said. After a year, they should move to full implementation, monitor technology churn, and iterate to be more effective.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.