7 disruptive technologies that many CIOs aren't prepared for

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Several emerging technologies are grabbing plenty of headlines this year, but there are several “digital disruptions” that organizations may not be prepared for, and may indeed catch chief information officers off guard.

These include several categories of disruption, each of which represents a significant potential for new disruptive companies and business models to emerge, according to Daryl Plummer, vice president and research fellow at Gartner. Plummer outlined these digital disruptors at Gartner’s ITxpo conference in Orlando last week.

“The single largest challenge facing enterprises and technology providers today is digital disruption,” Plummer said. “The virtual nature of digital disruptions makes them much more difficult to deal with than past technology-triggered disruptions. CIOs must work with their business peers to pre-empt digital disruption by becoming experts at recognizing, prioritizing and responding to early indicators.”

According to Plummer, the seven digital disruptors are:

Quantum Computing

“Quantum computers have the potential to run massive amounts of calculations in parallel in seconds,” Plummer said. “This potential for compute acceleration, as well as the ability to address difficult and complex problems, is what is driving so much interest from CEOs and CIOs in a variety of industries. But we must always be conscious of the hype surrounding the quantum computing model. QC is good for a specific set of problem solutions, not all general-purpose computing.”

Real-Time Language Translation

“Real-time language translation could, in effect, fundamentally change communication across the globe.” Plummer explained. “Devices such as translation ear buds and voice and text translation services can perform translation in real-time, breaking down language barriers with friends, family, clients and colleagues. This technology could not only disrupt intercultural language barriers, but also language translators as this role may no longer be needed. To prepare for this disruption, CIOs should equip employees in international jobs with experimental real-time translators to pilot streamlined communication. This will help establish multilingual disciplines to help employees work more effectively across languages.”


“Nanotechnology is science, engineering and technology conducted at the nanoscale — 1 to 100 nanometers. The implications of this technology is that the creation of solutions involve individual atoms and molecules,” Plummer explained. “Nanotechnology is rapidly becoming as common a concept as many others, and yet still remains sparsely understood in its impact to the world at large,” said Mr. Plummer. “When we consider applications that begin to allow things like 3D printing at nanoscale, then it becomes possible to advance the cause of printed organic materials and even human tissue that is generated from individual stem cells. 3D bio printing has shown promise and nanotech is helping deliver on it.”

Swarm Intelligence

“Swarm intelligence is the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural or artificial,” Plummer explained. “A swarm consists of small computing elements (either physical entities or software agents) that follow simple rules for coordinating their activities. Such elements can be replicated quickly and inexpensively. Thus, a swarm can be scaled up and down easily as needs change. CIOs should start exploring the concept to scale management, especially in digital business scenarios.”

Human-Machine Interfaces

“Human-machine interface (HMI) offers solutions providers the opportunity to differentiate with innovative, multimodal experiences,” Plummer said. “In addition, people living with disabilities benefit from HMIs that are being adapted to their needs, including some already in use within organizations of all types. Technology will give some of these people ‘super abilities,’ spurring people without disabilities to also employ the technology to keep up.”

Software Distribution Revolution

“Software procurement and acquisition is undergoing a fundamental shift,” Plummer explained. “The way in which software is located, bought and updated is now in the province of the software distribution marketplace. With the continued growth of cloud platforms from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, IBM and others, as well as the ever-increasing introduction of cloud-oriented products and services, the role of marketplaces for selling and buying is gathering steam.”

Smartphone Disintermediation

“The use of other devices, such as virtual personal assistants (VPAs), smart watches and other wearables, may mean a shift in how people continue to use the smartphone,” Plummer said. “CIOs and IT leaders should use wearability of a technology as a guiding principle and investigate and pilot wearable solutions to improve worker effectiveness, increase safety, enhance customer experiences and improve employee satisfaction.”

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