I’ve discussed the importance of information technology (IT) to the trucking business in this space before – especially when it comes to critical issue of cyber security – and, indeed, “digitization” is only going to increase within this industry, governing everything from how parts are ordered and stored to the inner workings of today’s big rigs.
Yet there is a spate of broad strategic shifts now gaining speed that will fundamentally alter the very basic functionality of businesses large and small – both inside and outside the transportation industry, I might add.
That, at least, seems to be one of the major conclusions reached by research firm Gartner Inc., which recently compiled a “Top 10” list of what it believes will be the most important IT technologies and trends in 2013.
Gartner’s experts -- which revealed this “Top 10” list during the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo this week – went on to define a “strategic IT technology” or trend as one with the potential for “significant impact” on a company or “enterprise” (Trekkies LOVE using that word) in the next three years.
"Significant impact" in this case translates into what Gartner called a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, requiring either a “major dollar” investment or running the risk of being a “late adopter” and thus being placed at a competitive disadvantage. And truckers in particular know how hard it is to play “catch up” in the freight world.
“A strategic technology may be an existing technology that has matured and/or become suitable for a wider range of uses,” noted David Cearley (at left) a vice president and fellow with Gartner. “It may also be an emerging technology that offers an opportunity for strategic business advantage for early adopters or with potential for significant market disruption in the next five years. These technologies impact the organization's long-term plans, programs and initiatives.”
While Cearley stressed that doesn’t necessarily mean companies should dive in and adopt/invest in all of the technologies put forth in Gartner’s “Top 10” list, he does believe the list and what it contains will help firms across any number of industries engage in what he dubs “deliberate decision-making” about how IT advancements fits with their expected needs in the near future.
“These technologies are emerging amidst a nexus of converging forces: social, mobile, cloud and information,” Cearly pointed out. “Although these forces are innovative and disruptive on their own, together they are revolutionizing business and society, disrupting old business models and creating new leaders.”
With that, let’s see what technologies and IT trends are contained in Gartner’s “Top 10” list for 2013:
The mobile device battlefield: Gartner predicts that by 2013 mobile phones will overtake personal computers (PCs) as the most common Web-access device worldwide and that by 2015 over 80% of the handsets sold in mature markets will be smart phones. However, only 20% of those handsets are likely to be Windows phones. By 2015, media tablet shipments will reach around 50% of laptop shipments and Windows 8 will likely be in third place behind Google’s Android and Apple iOS operating systems. On top of that, “consumerization” will mean enterprises won't be able to force users to give up their iPads or prevent the use of Windows 8 to the extent consumers adopt consumer targeted Windows 8 devices. Enterprises will need to support a greater variety of form factors reducing the ability to standardize PC and tablet hardware. The implications for IT is that the era of PC dominance with Windows as the single platform will be replaced with a post-PC era where Windows is just one of a variety of environments IT will need to support.
Mobile applications and HTML5: The market for tools to create consumer and enterprise facing “apps” is complex with well over 100 potential tools vendors; and for the next few years, no single tool will be optimal for all types of mobile application so expect to employ several. Six mobile architectures – native, special, hybrid, HTML 5, Message and No Client will remain popular. However, there will be a long term shift away from native apps to Web apps as HTML5 becomes more capable. Nevertheless, native apps won't disappear, and will always offer the best user experiences and most sophisticated features. Developers will also need to develop new design skills to deliver touch-optimized mobile applications that operate across a range of devices in a coordinated fashion.
Personal cloud: The personal cloud will gradually replace the PC as the location where individuals keep their personal content, access their services and personal preferences and center their digital lives. It will be the glue that connects the web of devices they choose to use during different aspects of their daily lives. The personal cloud will entail the unique collection of services, Web destinations and connectivity that will become the home of their computing and communication activities. Users will see it as a portable, always-available place where they go for all their digital needs. In this world no one platform, form factor, technology or vendor will dominate and managed diversity and mobile device management will be an imperative. The personal cloud shifts the focus from the client device to cloud-based services delivered across devices.
Enterprise app stores: Enterprises face a complex app store future as some vendors will limit their stores to specific devices and types of apps forcing the enterprise to deal with multiple stores, multiple payment processes and multiple sets of licensing terms. By 2014, Gartner believes that many organizations will deliver mobile applications to workers through private application stores. With enterprise app stores the role of IT shifts from that of a centralized planner to a market manager providing governance and brokerage services to users and potentially an ecosystem to support what the firm dubs “apptrepreneurs.”
The Internet of Things: The “Internet of Things” or “IoT” is a concept that describes how the Internet will expand as physical items such as consumer devices and physical assets are connected to the Internet. Key elements of the IoT which are being embedded in a variety of mobile devices include embedded sensors, image recognition technologies and “near field communications” or “NFC” payment technology that allows for “contactless” payment transactions. As a result, “mobile” technology no longer refers only to use of cellular handsets or tablets, as cellular technology is being embedded in many new types of devices, including pharmaceutical containers and automobiles. Smart phones and other intelligent devices don't just use the cellular network, they communicate via NFC, Bluetooth, LE “digital dictation” technology and Wi-Fi to a wide range of devices and peripherals, such as wristwatch displays, healthcare sensors, smart posters, and home entertainment systems. The IoT will enable a wide range of new applications and services while raising many new challenges.
Hybrid IT and cloud computing: As staff at any numbers of companies are being asked to do more with less, IT departments must play multiple roles in coordinating IT-related activities – and cloud computing is now pushing that change to another level. A recently conducted Gartner IT services survey revealed that the internal cloud services brokerage (CSB) role is emerging as IT organizations realize that they have a responsibility to help improve the provisioning and consumption of inherently distributed, heterogeneous and often complex cloud services for their internal users and external business partners. The internal CSB role represents a means for the IT organization to retain and build influence inside its organization and to become a value center in the face of challenging new requirements relative to increasing adoption of cloud as an approach to IT consumption.
Strategic Big Data: So-called “Big Data” is moving from a focus on individual projects to an influence on enterprises’ strategic information architecture. Dealing with data volume, variety, velocity and complexity is forcing changes to many traditional approaches. This realization is leading organizations to abandon the concept of a single enterprise data warehouse containing all information needed for decisions. Instead they are moving towards multiple systems, including content management, data warehouses, data marts and specialized file systems tied together with data services and metadata, which will become the "logical" enterprise data warehouse.
Actionable analytics: Analysis is increasingly delivered to users at the point of action and in context. With the improvement of performance and costs, IT leaders can afford to perform analytics and simulation for every action taken in the business. The mobile client linked to cloud-based analytic engines and big data repositories potentially enables use of optimization and simulation everywhere and every time. This new step provides simulation, prediction, optimization and other analytics, to empower even more decision flexibility at the time and place of every business process action.
“In Memory” computing: In memory computing (IMC) can also provide transformational opportunities. The execution of certain-types of hours-long batch processes can be squeezed into minutes or even seconds allowing these processes to be provided in the form of real-time or near real-time services that can be delivered to internal or external users in the form of cloud services. Millions of events can be scanned in a matter of a few tens of millisecond to detect correlations and patterns pointing at emerging opportunities and threats "as things happen." The possibility of concurrently running transactional and analytical applications against the same dataset opens unexplored possibilities for business innovation. Numerous vendors will deliver in-memory-based solutions over the next two years driving this approach into mainstream use.
Integrated IT ecosystems: There’s a shift underway to more integrated systems and IT “ecosystems” and away from loosely-coupled technology. Driving this trend is the user desire for lower cost, simplicity, and more assured security. Driving the trend for vendors the ability to have more control of the solution stack and obtain greater margin in the sale as well as offer a complete solution stack in a controlled environment, but without the need to provide any actual hardware.
That trend will be manifested on three levels, said Gartner. Appliances combine hardware and software and software and services are packaged to address and infrastructure or application workload. Cloud-based marketplaces and brokerages facilitate purchase, consumption and/or use of capabilities from multiple vendors and may provide a foundation for independent software vendor (ISV) development and application runtime. In the mobile world, vendors including Apple, Google and Microsoft will drive varying degrees of control across and end-to-end ecosystem extending the client through the apps.
Now, if you’re like me, some of the technologies and trends on Gartner’s list may seem utterly alien concepts (IT ecosystems? In memory computing? WTH?)
Yet they are increasingly becoming linchpins in how the myriad of digital processes we access during our everyday lives actually work.
Thus truckers (as well as trade reporters!) need to gain some idea of not only how they operate but how they’ll alter technological processes in the future – even if it takes a bottle of Aspirin or two to ease the headaches created by such mental gymnastics.