If you’re curious about the top tech trends to watch in 2019, you’ve come to the perfect place! Back in October, Gartner released a research paper that predicted the ten biggest strategic tech trends for next year. Their paper showed how these trends will help drive new business models and disruption over the next five years.

According to Gartner's VP and Fellow David Cearley, the top ten strategic technologies identified in the paper will help deliver opportunities for almost every industry and business in 2019 and beyond. Cearley, who helped author the paper, described a future where an increasing number of smart devices will deliver an ever-expanding range of digital services, creating an “intelligent digital mesh”.

The report identified two overarching trends: Quantum Computing and Digital Privacy and Ethics.

The remaining eight trends were then subcategorized into three areas: ‘Mesh’, ‘Digital’ and ‘Intelligent’.

  • Mesh: The ‘digital mesh’ referred to by Cearley will be created by two main trends: ‘smart spaces’ and blockchain technology. These trends will help to find connections between ever-increasing numbers of people, sets of data, businesses, and technologies.
  • Digital: Digital technology is creating an increasingly immersive world by blurring the lines between the physical world and digital environments. According to Gartner, this is helping to drive three trends: ‘Immersive experience’, ‘Empowered Edge’ and ‘Digital Twin’.
  • Intelligent: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is impacting almost every industry and is driving three main trends: ‘AI-Driven Development’, ‘Augmented Analytics’ and ‘Autonomous Things’.

Here, based on Gartner's research paper, are the top ten strategic tech trends for 2019 that you should know about.

Trend #1: Quantum computing
The first overarching trend is quantum computing, a type of non-classical computing based on the quantum state of subatomic particles. By representing information as quantum bits or ‘qubits’, quantum computers are theoretically able to perform millions of calculations simultaneously.

Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize all industries, from medicine to banking and particularly cybersecurity. The race is on to develop a working quantum computer that could lead to the discovery of new materials or near-perfect encryption.

According to Gartner’s research, although quantum computing technology is currently in an emerging state with no commercial availability, advances in this sector will impact businesses significantly over the next five years. Gartner predicts that most enterprises will begin to explore this technology and increase their understanding of its potential applications.

Trend #2: Digital Ethics and Privacy
The second overarching trend is digital ethics and privacy. Consumers are increasingly aware that their personal data has financial value and this has led to concerns over the ways that businesses are storing and handling this data. Gartner’s report warns of major consumer backlashes against businesses that neglect this area.

Consumers are actively guarding and even removing their own data from the servers of companies that they no longer trust. Governments are planning or passing new data protection regulations that companies must comply with. According to Gartner’s paper, businesses must move away from merely complying with current laws and regulations regarding data privacy. They must move towards a future that is grounded in ethics and trust.

For consumers to view businesses as trustworthy, companies must maintain openness and transparency with their customers. Businesses that do the “right thing”, instead of merely the “bare minimum”, will thrive, Gartner predicts.

Trend #3: Smart Spaces
Gartner’s paper points to examples of existing smart spaces such as smart cities, where intelligently designed ecosystem frameworks help to combine residential communities with business and industrial infrastructure. Smart spaces are one of the top strategic tech trends that Gartner expects to see driving disruption and new business models in 2019.

The paper identifies five key ways in which smart spaces are developing: scope, intelligence, coordination, connectedness, and openness. Advancements in technology, particularly AI, mean that residents and tourists will increasingly use AI assistants for a range of tasks including finding restrooms, parking, and other important information.

Gartner predicts that over 20 percent of citizens in developed nations will be using AI assistants on a daily basis by 2022, making this one of the biggest tech trends to watch. Gartner points to the success of the AI-powered chatbot ‘WienBot’ in Vienna as an example of how governments can use AI to developed smart spaces. We can expect to see greater collaboration and interactions between technology and humans over the coming five years.

Trend #4 Blockchain technology
Gartner’s report estimates that blockchain technology will help to create more than £3.1 Trillion in business value by 2030 and predicts that blockchain will be one of the major strategic tech trends for 2019. As blockchain creates an immutable record of cryptographically signed transactions, Gartner believes it has potential to reduce business friction, lower costs, reduce transaction settlement times and improve cash flow, particularly in finance, government, healthcare, manufacturing, supply chains, and other sectors.

Gartner believes that businesses will continue to evaluate blockchain technology over the coming year and develop technology that uses some elements of blockchain.

Trend #5: Immersive technologies
Gartner estimates that by 2022, over 25 percent of enterprises will have deployed immersive technologies for consumer and enterprise use, and over 75 percent of companies will be actively experimenting in this area. Immersive technologies, including virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR), help to create immersive experiences for consumers. These technologies show potential for helping people become more productive and efficient.

Gartner predicts that chatbots, personal assistants and other AI-fueled solutions will become more conversational over the next five years. Expanded sensory channels will allow machines to detect human emotions and facial expressions. This will connect people with a wide range of devices, from personal computers to cars.

Trend #6: Empowered edge
The sixth tech trend identified by Gartner’s report was the move of computing power towards the endpoint devices, known as ‘edge’ devices. Edge computing is a topology where content and information processing and delivery are placed closer to the user or the source of the information. For example, when you upload a video to YouTube, the rendering takes place on servers that are owned or controlled by Google. In the future, an edge device such as a mobile phone will hand some or all of this processing. This will keep data traffic local and help to reduce latency.

Gartner predicts that by 2028, edge devices will have advanced AI capabilities in terms of how they compute, sense and store data. Intelligence will move towards the edge and people will interact with hundreds of edge devices on a daily basis, a trend that Gartner called the ‘Empowered Edge’. This trend will help facilitate the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) by reducing high WAN costs and lowering latency.

Trend #7: Digital twins
Gartner’s report notes that while the concept of digital twins isn’t new, the digital twins of today differ significantly from the digital twins of yesteryear that were merely digital representations of objects, processes or systems such as power plants.

Modern digital twins differ in the following four ways:

  • They incorporate AI and advanced big data analytics.
  • They have a real-time link to the real world for control and monitoring.
  • They can be used to evaluate hypothetical scenarios, such as ‘What happens if there’s a power cut?’
  • They can support business outcomes and drive business opportunities.

Gartner’s report focused on digital twins in the IoT, and how they could be used to improve reliability, reduce maintenance and help a product perform more effectively. Gartner sees this trend expanding to the point where more organizations create digital twins of themselves to increase efficiencies and drive process effectiveness via real-time monitoring.

Trend #8: AI-driven development
AI-driven development studies tools, technologies and best practices for creating applications that incorporate AI. It also looks at the development process and finds ways to create AI-powered tools. At present, such tools (AI platforms and AI frameworks) primarily target data scientists, but Gartner predicts that this will expand to target developers with AI services and AI platforms.

This trend will enable developers to create AI-powered apps without the need for data scientists and this should decrease development time significantly. The developers of tomorrow will have access to a range of automated code generation and testing solutions that will vastly increase their productiveness.

Gartner predicts that the market for AI-enabled tools will shift towards developers and eventually lead to more mainstream adoption of the technology. Apps of the future will increasingly be created by “citizen app developers,” according to Gartner.

Trend #9: Augmented analytics
Gartner’s report estimates that over 40 percent of data science tasks will be automated by 2020, making augmented analytics one of the biggest tech trends for 2019 and beyond. Just as machine learning (ML) has transformed how businesses use and handle data, augmented analytics will offer automated algorithms that will vastly simplify the process of preparing, analyzing and grouping data.

Gartner’s paper indicates that businesses, analysts, operational workers, and decision makers will have much greater access to data insights thanks to augmented analytics. The number of citizens using data handling tools will increase five times faster than the number of professional data scientists. These citizens will use augmented analytics tools to identify data sets and patterns in the data, leading to data becoming more plentiful and accessible.

Trend #10: Autonomous things
The final strategic tech trends identified by Gartner was ‘autonomous things’ such as robots, cars, or agricultural products that use AI to perform human tasks. The paper identified five types of things: robotics, vehicles, drones, apps, and agents and showed that they occupy four environments: land, sea, air and digital. These autonomous things will be crucial in terms of developing the ‘Smart Spaces’ of tomorrow.

For example, autonomous self-driving tractors are already a reality and can plow fields with no human intervention, freeing up farmers and other workers to engage in more productive tasks. However, Gartner’s report notes that current AI lacks the same decision making and general-purpose learning capabilities as humans. Gartner predicts that autonomous things will be augmented by human actions. For example, self-driving tractors could be fed data from human-operated drones that would let them operate more efficiently.

Overall, Gartner’s informative paper addressed the current challenges that citizens and consumers face and predicted ways that technology will develop to provide solutions. The ten strategic tech trends for 2019 and beyond will help enrich people’s lives and develop a more connected, sustainable future.