Sensor networks. These networks will provide new ways to measure and monitor physical environments in minute detail, with almost no human effort. Everything will be connected and its location known. "We will use sensor networks to increase efficiency, reduce costs and have better insights into the immediate future of our businesses," Gartner wrote in a statement. "Technology advances will give [radio frequency identification (RFID)] devices the path to evolve into sensors."
Always-on technologies Devices that will include these technologies include PDAs, smart phones, Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) watches that display customized information broadcast over wireless networks, Bluetooth headsets and MP3 players, coupled with wireless communications technologies.
Data storage and access. Storage will improve so rapidly that the cost of keeping everything will be cheaper than the cost of deciding what to keep. This will result in a phenomenon called "perfect recall," digital trails that capture people's every move and that can be reclaimed when needed.
Real-time infrastructure. These will use sensor network management technology and event-driven architecture to build "tera-architectures" capable of capturing, storing and analyzing trillions of transactions. "This is how we will understand and use the data from connected devices," Gartner wrote.
"Sensor networks will be common in five years and everywhere by 10 years," said Martin Reynolds, a vice president and research fellow at Gartner. "A hospital could track every patient and every pill in the building. Airlines could track every passenger and every bag. The challenge will be to develop an IT infrastructure that can make sense of the tidal wave of information."
Gartner said the underlying technology "mega-trends" of a connected, "always-on" society, in which people have easy access to wireless bandwidth and personal wearable devices, are combining with the trends of globalization and the need for greater transparency and accountability. This will force enterprises to transform their business to respond more effectively to time-based competition. Gartner terms this a "real-time enterprise."
The key to this transformation, alongside changes in business processes and personnel attitudes, is a more agile or "real-time infrastructure" (RTI).
"The falling cost of computing power and network bandwidth will make it possible, if not mandatory, to connect almost anything from refrigerators and elevators in 'smart buildings,' to personal devices and wearable computers," said Reynolds. "We are on the path to so much connected 'stuff' that we'll have to stop managing it. RTI is a three- to 10-year vision and a first step to zero-management systems that will allow scalability without cost."
Gartner said over the next decade, whether we like it or not, technology is going to become very intimate. The future, the consultancy predicts, holds a world where everything is connected to everything always watching, recording and transmitting information about people and machines all around.
"The opportunity for enterprises is a new world where digital trails lead to 'perfect recall' of new types of information about customer behavior," said Nick Jones, vice president and research fellow at Gartner. "For the individual this means that privacy has changed. The battle is no longer about who collects your data, but who gets to use it."