Many of the emerging technologies that will be entering the market in
2033 are already known in some form in 2008, according to Gartner, Inc.
Many of the innovations that will unfold during the next 25 years can
be found today in research papers, patents, or are in a prototype in
These long-term innovations, taking place in 5-20 years, go beyond the
range of the typical IT project portfolio planning cycle. These
innovations are classified as “IT Grand Challenges”.
Gartner defines an IT Grand Challenge as a fundamental issue to be
overcome within the field of IT whose resolutions will have broad and
extremely beneficial economic, scientific or societal effects on all
aspects of our lives.
Gartner analysts are to examine these Grand Challenges at the Gartner
Emerging Trends Symposium/ITxpo 2008, taking place here through 10
April. Analysts said IT leaders must be more active in researching and
identifying emerging technologies that will bring about benefits not
“IT leaders should always be looking ahead for the emerging
technologies that will have a dramatic impact on their business, and
information on many of these future innovations are already in some
public domain,” said Ken McGee, vice president and Gartner
Fellow. “Today, CIOs should identify which Gartner IT Grand
Challenges will be most meaningful for their organisations. Then within
the next 12 months, review patents for additional IT Grand Challenge
candidates. Apply logical conclusions to Gartner emerging technologies,
business and societal trends research to identify IT Grand Challenges.
Lastly, identify preferred sites to monitor developing academic,
government or corporate research on chosen Grand Challenges. There are
technologies on the horizon that will completely transform your
Gartner has identified seven IT Grand Challenges. They include:
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- Never having to manually recharge devices:
the ubiquity of portable computing and communications devices powered
by battery means that many people would find it highly desirable to
either have their batteries charged remotely or their devices powered
by a remote source, bypassing the use of batteries altogether.
Despite more than 100 years of research since the invention of the
Tesla Coil in the late nineteenth century, the most notable progress to
date was achieved by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in
July 2007 in their experiment to transfer nonradiative power. By this
measure, any commercial application of wireless powering still seems a
long way off.
- Parallel Programming:
simply creating faster single-core processors to perform tasks
serially, another way to meet the constant demand for faster processor
speed is to develop multiple, slower speed processors that perform
tasks serially. Simulations, modelling, entertainment and massive data
mining would all benefit from advances in parallel computing. However,
a challenge with parallel computing is to create applications that
fully exploit a “multi-core” architecture by dividing a
problem into smaller individual problems addressed by individual
processors. To overcome this, key issues will need to be addressed,
including effectively breaking up processes into specific
sub-processes, determining which tasks can be handled simultaneously by
multiple processes, scheduling tasks to be processed simultaneously and
designing the architecture of the parallel processing environment.
- Non Tactile, Natural Computing Interface:
The idea of interacting with computers without any mechanical interface
has long been a desirable goal in computing. Some of the many
challenges that remain in this area include the ability to detect
gestures, developing a gesture dictionary and the need for real-time
processing. Another set of challenges relate to natural language
processing, which include speech synthesis, speech recognition, natural
language understanding, natural language generation, machine
translation and translating one natural language into another.
- Automated Speech Translation:
Once the many hurdles of natural language processing are overcome to
yield human-to-computer communications in one language, the complexity
extends further when translation and output is required to a target
language that is understandable to a human. Some rudimentary systems
have already been created to accomplish basic speech translation, such
as one-way and two-way translations.
- Persistent and Reliable Long-Term Storage:
Current technologies are hard-pressed to perfectly preserve Dr.
Francine Berman’s 2006 estimate of 161 Exabytes (x10 to the 18th
power) of digital information on digital media for more than 20 years.
The barriers to long-term archiving (in excess of 100 years) that must
be overcome include format, hardware, software, metadata, information
retrieval, just to mention a few.
- Increase Programmer Productivity 100-fold:
As business and society's demand for software development increases,
and the apparent decline of students pursuing software engineering and
computer science degrees intensifies, removing uncertainty from meeting
future demands will have to be met by increasing the output, or
productivity, per programmer. While the exploration and development of
tools to enhance productivity continues to capture attention, it would
appear that effectively and efficiently exploiting reusable code is one
of the most encouraging rays of hope to yield more output per
programmer. But many challenges exist there as well. Minimising the
time required to find the perfect software module and avoiding the need
to modify reusable software are among the many challenges.
- Identifying the Financial Consequences of IT Investing:
One of the most perplexing challenges faced by IT leaders has been to
convey the business value of IT in terms readily understandable by
business executives. As a discipline that conveys the business
performance and results to internal executives and personnel only,
management accounting could offer business advice and recommendations
that would quantify the consequences of a particular IT deployment.
Unlike financial accounting measurements which are standard across
public companies, the particular management accounting metrics could be
different for each company. This Grand Challenge would be considered
conquered when a request for an IT project was argued with the
following certainty: "If you invest in our IT proposal, you will see an
additional $0.03 earnings per share directly attributable to this
project by the third quarter of next year."
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