For astronauts on the International Space Station, needing a tool meant waiting months to piggyback on a scheduled supply run. But with the advent of 3D printers, the astronauts are able to on-demand print, for example, a racketing socket wrench with blueprints emailed from NASA. The impact for aerospace is big, but 3D printing also provides the ability for rapid prototyping for many businesses to reduce cycle times and create specialized one-off personal products for medical implants.
International Space Station over the planet Earth. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. (Shutterstock)
Businesses today operate in an intelligent, digital world of continuous connection between apps, information, services and people. More than ever, technology leaders need to keep an eye on innovation in the personal technology space so they can support digital business outcomes for the future.
Gartner identified the top 10 personal technologies based on adoption scope, project effectiveness and user impact that technology leaders should begin to incorporate into their strategies in the next two to three years.
- Machine Learning/Artificial IntelligenceAlthough ML and AI are still evolving, both technologies have viable applications. These technologies will support business ranging from digitization, including automation that replaces difficult-to-find skill sets; to internal business function optimization, including fraud detection and predictive maintenance; and external business function optimization, such as detecting customer behavior patterns.
- Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA)VPAs are based on AI and voice interactions that enable users to organize meetings, plan routes or complete a specific task, such as turning on a light. Awareness of this technology, which includes Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana and others, continues to grow. VPAs perform a variety of tasks across business and consumer needs, but also include very real technical and security concerns.
- Immersive Technology (AR/VR)
Immersive technology, still in the beginning development stages, will undergo a lot of innovation in the next few years. Using a mixture of real and digital worlds, potential uses for this technology include employee training and maintenance and repair across a variety of industries, such as design and healthcare. But enterprises should beware of the hype that surrounds this technology.
- 3D Printing
3D uses additive manufacturing to create physical objects from digital models. The variety of print technologies and materials currently available means that 3D printers can produce a nearly infinite array of physical objects. Organizations will be able to reduce product cycle times and create one-off products, such as medical implants. Although some discussion revolves around trade secrets and intellectual properties, the 3D market continues to evolve.
- Location Sensing/Tracking (of Things and People)
Location sensing/tracking technologies link digital objects to the physical world by tracking the position of people or things using business applications. Enterprises interested in this technology for applications such as location-aware car insurance or tracking medical machinery in a hospital will have a wide variety of quality and price point choices.
- 3D Cameras
3D cameras allow users to capture depth in images. For businesses, this means potential applications in logistical planning and gesture and facial recognition. With the increasing availability of this technology, businesses should look to use it to not only improve the customer experience, but also to streamline business processes.
- Biometrics Authentication
This technology utilizes unique biological features such as facial or iris recognition. It is able to offer more security than passwords or PINs. Depending on the biometrics authentication type, this technology, which includes fingerprint and voice authentication, can be quite mature, though less-mature options exist. Overall, this technology offers faster, safer authentication.
This technology includes a wide variety of technologies, from wristbands to VR headsets, with business applications in almost all industries, from medical to mobile. This means enterprises will have to think carefully about how a wearable fits into the strategy and what type would be the most effective.
Chatbots can be used to replace human service assistants in call centers and internally for scheduling and simple tasks. While they are available in a wide range of options, enterprises should be wary of the lack of standardization and think of this more as a strategy that may pivot in the future.
- Wireless Power
Two technologies dominate the wireless power field. One, power harvesting, gathers power from environmental sources such as light or heat. The second is wireless charging, which is designed for larger devices such as smartphones. Most consumer devices don’t support this type of charging, but it can improve certain vertical industries, such as electric car charging.
Annette Jump is a research director on the Worldwide Personal Technologies Team at Gartner, Inc.