Slideshow 12 top emerging technologies

  • July 20 2018, 8:00am EDT
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12 top emerging technologies

While artificial intelligence and machine learning are grabbing most of the headlines this year, these 12 technologies will demand increased attention and investments going forward, according to a new report from Forrester Research, "The Top Emerging Technologies to Watch 2018." The list has been compiled by Forrester analysts Brian Hopkins, Christian Austin, Andre Kindness, James Staten, Brandon Purcell, Nate Fleming, Frank E. Gillett, Jeffrey S. Hammond, Martha Bennett and J. P. Gownder.

Computer vision

“Thanks to the increasing availability of cloud-based computer vision platforms from major vendors and startups alike, the retail, insurance, market research and security industries are now taking advantage of the insights in video feeds, marketing content and other image data sources. These apps can identify customers’ age and gender for content targeting; analyze facial expressions to comprehend human emotion; and identify suspicious actors to reduce security risks.”

- Brandon Purcell

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Deep learning

“Deep learning creates digital neural networks that mimic the interaction of neurons in the human brain. Today, these algorithms are used to detect objects in images, analyze sound waves to convert spoken speech to text or process natural human language into a structured format for analysis.”

- Brandon Purcell

Natural language generation

“While natural language processing has existed for some time, the ability of machines to generate human-readable text (or comprehensible speech) is relatively recent. Today, many companies are investing in NLG to automate the creation of proposals, reports and other repeatable documents involving text.”

- Brandon Purcell

Businesswide networking fabrics

“The drive for digital demands virtualization, hybrid cloud and containers. It is also driving the emergence of a single businesswide fabric that extends data center networks, which have already transformed from a static tree structure to dynamic and flexible blends of network types (e.g., 4G, colocation-based LAN interconnections and subsea cables).”

- Andre Kindness

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Distributed ledger technology

“Solutions based on DLT enable multiple participants to collaborate on processes that span multiple organizations and involve shared, trusted data. Mechanisms like smart contracts automate processes in a trustworthy and transparent manner, while the tokenization of digital and physical assets provides process efficiencies and enables new business models.”

- Martha Bennett

Edge computing

“Investment in IoT is driving distributed computing out of the cloud (or data center) and into connected cars, buildings, manufacturing plants and shopping malls. Edge computing technology is converging hardware and software onto increasingly small servers and devices that can connect via more protocols and run smarter analytics in smaller memory footprints.”

- James Staten and Brian Hopkins

Quantum computing

“Quantum computers promise to solve problems that digital computers have difficulty with or can’t solve. In the near term, they will be able to assist firms in optimizing risk portfolios, setting appropriate prices, building advanced machine learning applications and discovering new materials and drugs. Eventually, they may lead to a new field of cryptography, boost information search speeds, advance general AI, enable new disease treatments and help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.”

- Brian Hopkins

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Serverless computing

Forrester defines serverless computing as “an approach to software development that abstracts developers from underlying cloud infrastructure. Serverless architecture supports the deployment of arbitrary business logic, decouples state from underlying compute, automatically scales on demand and supports event-driven communication.”

- Jeffrey S. Hammond

Additive manufacturing

Forrester defines additive manufacturing as “an industrial process that creates physical products that are digitally designed with software and fabricated by 3D-printing machines. Additive manufacturing methods create tooling, castings, and end-use parts from various materials, such as polymers, metals and composites.”

- Carlton A. Doty

Augmented, virtual and mixed reality

“AR has found a home in industrial, manufacturing and field-service-oriented verticals; in the coming years, employees in healthcare, retail, and insurance will find these technologies becoming far more common. VR remains new for corporate training, but hazardous environments, medical clinics, and complex retail and logistics settings are using it. Expect horizontal growth in all verticals where corporate training is common but particularly in those involving physical activities. MR is gaining a foothold in architecture, industrial design, and engineering but will spread to healthcare, logistics and field service.”

- J.P. Gownder

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Digital twin

“This technology represents a framework for managing connected products that will give firms greater visibility into how each of their products operates in the field. This transparency allows companies to identify new revenue opportunities like as-a-service business models or value-added services and insights based on product usage data.”

- Nate Fleming


“Nanotechnology enables radical new capabilities across a wide range of scientific and business applications, such as new antimicrobial powers, new drug delivery, new forms of semiconductors to build computers, stronger carbon fiber structures, improved displays and imaging, better solar cells and longer battery life.”

- Frank E. Gillett