A Look at Today’s Most Important Emerging Technologies

In today’s rapidly shifting digital landscape, it’s more important than ever for companies to stay on top of emerging technology trends. To help businesses keep pace with the latest technological changes, Forrester recently published a new report on “The Top Emerging Technologies for Digital Predators,” which includes a wealth of information relevant to companies regardless of where they sit on the digital transformation spectrum. Read on for a closer look at some key takeaways from the report.

What is a digital predator?

According to Forrester analyst and report co-author Nigel Fenwick, today’s companies tend to fall into one of three categories:

Digital dinosaurs—These incumbents struggle to shed their old business models and reinvent themselves for the digital economy. Their slow rate of change results from a number of different factors, including the power many feel from holding a near monopoly position, the need to defend large P&Ls (profit and loss), or simply a failure to see either the opportunity or the threat that digitization represents. Many retailers as well as manufacturing and construction firms belong to this group.

businessDigital transformers—These traditional businesses have successfully evolved to take advantage of emerging technologies; for the most part, they are creating new sources of value for their customers and are implementing competitive strategies that may take them beyond conventional industry boundaries. Companies like Burberry, L’Oréal, and Ford are good examples of digital transformers.

Digital predators—The third category of businesses is startup territory. These digital predators successfully leverage emerging digital technologies to challenge traditional incumbent companies for market share, frequently displacing them in the process. The names of some of the biggest digital predators won’t surprise anyone: Amazon, Airbnb, and Netflix, for starters.

What emerging technologies are having a significant business impact?

Fenwick argues that, regardless of whether a company is a digital dinosaur, transformer, or predator, every company needs to understand how emerging technologies are impacting the business landscape and, consequently, what role they might have to play in the company’s own digital transformation. This understanding can help executives like CIOs, CTOs, and CDOs ensure that their technology portfolios blend mature technologies that support current operations with emerging technologies that will help to serve future customers.

According to the Forrester report, some of the most critical emerging technologies that companies need to know about—that is, those technologies that have the highest potential to bring a competitive advantage, influence markets, or shift the business landscape altogether—include:

Intelligent agents—These are artificial intelligence solutions that have the capacity to not only interact with their users, but to learn their behavior and understand their needs, and eventually even to make decisions on their behalf through predictive analytics. The idea behind intelligent agents is to improve productivity, optimize a variety of business activities, and reduce costs. Equally important is the goal to increase customer loyalty by offering a personalized, high-quality experience. Some of the best-known intelligent agents at present include prototypes like Apple’s Siri or Google Now, but more chatbots, virtual agents, and robotic process automation services are being added to the landscape every day.

virtual realityAugmented and virtual reality—Augmented reality (AR) is a process by which digital information and experiences are layered on top of the physical world, while virtual reality (VR) goes one step further, creating a completely new, interactive digital environment. AR in particular has strong potential to dramatically alter the customer experience, especially in retail environments. For example, the home improvement retail chain Lowe’s recently released an AR “mapping” app that helps customers search for products, add them to a shopping list, and then easily navigate their way through the store to find and collect the items.

Internet of Things solutions—Smart devices and sensors connected to the Internet are providing companies with a new level of insight into how customers are using their products and how their systems are operating. The Forrester report makes the case that using a digital model to map the physical world will become a defining feature of business over the next decade, and that the Internet of Things (IoT) will simply become the business standard for companies dealing with physical assets.

Cognitive technology—Advanced machine learning has the power to mimic natural human cognitive functions, thus opening up the possibility for new data insights and suggested actions. Emerging technologies in this category include developments like natural language processing, which can personalize and differentiate the customer experience, as well as dramatically improve internal processes.

Hybrid wireless technologies—A new communications infrastructure could be on the rise given the advances in interfaces and software that allow devices to use and to translate between at least two different wireless providers, protocols, and frequency bands (such as radio, cellular, and Wi-Fi). These developments are likely to drive new applications that anticipate and meet customer demands in a whole new way.

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