Smart products, machine-to-machine networks, advanced analytics and software-defined infrastructure are among the top 15 emerging business technology trends to watch, from now through to 2018, according to analyst firm Forrester.
According to analyst Brian Hopkins, the hot technology trends of today - such as mobile, big data and cloud computing - are likely to be run-of-the-mill by 2015. "If you are only looking at these emerging technologies now, you are likely to get smacked in the face when you blink," he wrote in a blog post.
Hopkins divides the technologies that will catalyse business change and innovation over the next five years into four groups - end-user computing, sensors and remote computing, process data management, and infrastructure and application platforms.
Within the end-user computing category, Forrester groups next-generation devices, advanced collaboration and communication technologies, and "systems of engagement," which enable companies to blend contextual data with digital intelligence.
Forrester predicts that, by 2018, the tablet will be the most important computing device for most users. Laptops and desktops will complement the tablet for more intensive creation tasks, while smartphones will remain the compact, multipurpose voice and small-screen device.
Advanced collaboration and communication will become the embedded infrastructure accessed via social applications for business. They will enable organisations and employees to participate in a "marketplace of ideas" from both internal and external sources.
Meanwhile, mobile devices will have highly customised interfaces based on who the user is, what their current situation is, and what the service provider knows about them. These "systems of engagement" will drastically simplifying the customised architectures that were cobbled together in 2012, according to Forrester.
Within the sensors and remote computing category, Forrester points to smart products with built-in technology that allows them to sense, react, and communicate using context-aware computing and analytic data services. In-location positioning and machine-to-machine networks are also highlighted as key technology trends.
By 2018, the analyst firm predicts that the convergence of smart products, analytics, and cloud will increasingly provide real-time, two-way communication between businesses and their customers, products, and services.
This will be supported by high-precision automatic location, which will be embedded in virtually any device that includes a wireless connection, and M2M technologies, which will be the catalyst for realising a range of potential revenue opportunities from the Internet of Things.
Within process data management, Forrester highlights smart process applications - which are designed to support processes that are people-intensive, highly variable, loosely structured, and subject to frequent change - as well as advanced analytics, pervasive BI and process and data cloud services as emerging technology trends.
Firms will use artificial intelligence and cognitive computing to automate the development of predictive models and advanced analytics on big data platforms, and a new class of BI solutions will emerge, capable of running on operational data in real-time and combining it with petascale unstructured data for deep analytics.
Finally, infrastructure and application platforms, including big data platforms, breakthrough storage and compute, Software-defined infrastructure, cloud application frameworks and new identity and trust models, will all be key components of the data centre of the future.
Big data platforms will replace enterprise data warehouses built on relational databases as the heart of analytic and BI technology platforms, data centres will be designed around cooling systems that use ambient air, and OpenFlow will evolve to enable flexible orchestration across the network.
Meanwhile, the private cloud "pipe dream" will fade as firms realise that it's simply not economical and public cloud is a reality they have to face. Hybrids will be the norm for large enterprises, and enterprise applications running on pure public cloud will not be uncommon.
"Emerging digital technologies are a primary driver of business evolution and disruption. Firms are grappling with an accelerating pace of business change while also trying to make IT simpler and more cost effective," said Hopkins in his report.
"Amid these forces, savvy enterprise architects, IT strategists, and business technology leaders are constantly peering into the future to recognise the next big technology thing in time to make good investment decisions."
Forrester's full report, The Top Emerging Technologies To Watch: Now Through 2018, is available here.