Gartner Says 3D Printing and Smart Machines Are Among the Major Technology Disruptions on Tap for 2014

October 09, 2013
By: Laura Stotler

It’s all about disruption when it comes to Gartner’s (News - Alert) predictions for what’s hot in IT for 2014. The research firm has announced its forecast for IT users and organizations for next year, and a number of sectors are set to shake up the tech world.

Among the top disruptive movements in technology is what Gartner is calling the “Digital Industrial Revolution (News - Alert),” which largely has to do with the evolution of 3D printing. The firm has also flagged digital business, smart machines and the “Internet of Things” as the major disruptors we can look forward to.

Gartner predicts that by 2018, 3D printing -- the ability to scan, model and print physical goods -- will cause a loss of $100 billion per year in intellectual property throughout the world. Plummeting costs of 3D equipment will make the technology accessible to would-be criminals, but will also enable major breakthroughs like bioprinting. Gartner says that by 2016, the ability to print tissues and organs will cause a global debate about the use of the technology.

On the digital business front, which Gartner defines as business created using digital assets or capabilities, major growth is afoot. The firm believes digital business will cause labor reductions and that by 2017, more than half of consumer goods manufacturers will receive 75 percent of their consumer innovation and R&D from crowdsourced solutions. By aggressively engaging crowds as part of the think tank process, crowdsourced solutions will see a 1- percent revenue boost over non-crowdsourced solutions by 2015.

Unfortunately, Gartner also predicts that the ultimate labor reduction will cause social unrest by 2020, sparking a search for new and better economic models. The company also forecasts that by 2017 a whopping 80 percent of consumers will collect, track and barter their personal data in exchange for cost savings and customization.

Smart machines will be another major disruptor in the tech world, creating both opportunities and fear as better machines remove the need for humans in process and decision making. While smarter machines can deliver efficiencies, there will need to be a careful balance with active human workforces.

Perhaps the most shocking prediction relating to smart machines is that by 2024, at least 10 percent of activities that could potentially injure humans will require mandatory use of a smart system of some sort. Similarly, by 2020 a majority of knowledge worker career paths are expected to be disrupted by smart machines. This will both benefit IT professionals, who can become more competitive with the aid of smart machines, and hurt those who will be replaced outright. Gartner also predicts that by 2017, 10 percent of computers will be learning instead of processing, perfecting deep neural network algorithms for use in applications like speech and object recognition.

Finally, Gartner describes the “Internet of Things” as a way of cementing the connection among machines, people and business interactions. The firm believes using those connections to build applications and services will become a valuable asset in the tech future. By 2020, Gartner predicts consumer data collected from wearable devices will drive five percent of sales from Global 1000 companies.

"While some of these disruptive topics might seem as if they do not have a direct impact on the IT function, we must embrace the notion that IT is now a part of everything," said Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and analyst at Gartner. "As the structure of businesses and industries change, the IT systems that support them will change and so will the skills, processes and controls needed to keep them functioning. The day when 3D-printed computer architecture exists is upon us, and the days when the digital business, smart machines or the Internet of Things change what computers are may not be far off."




Edited by Rachel Ramsey