Five technologies that will change our lives in five years

A.I., augmented reality and IoT could remake the way enterprises run and people consume

Analysts say a handful of technologies are poised to change our lives by 2021.

While Forrester Research sees 15 emerging technologies that are important right now (see the full list here), five of them could shake things up in a big way for businesses and the public in general, according to Brian Hopkins, an enterprise architecture analyst with Forrester.

Those five: The Internet of Things (IoT), Intelligent agents, artificial intelligence (A.I.), augmented reality (A.R.) and hybrid wireless technology.

“The technologies we selected will have the biggest impact on your ability to win, serve and retain customers whose expectations of service through technology are only going up,” Hopkins wrote in the report. “Our list focuses on those technologies that will have the biggest business impact in the next five years."

Of Forrester’s larger list, which includes the likes of edge computing, security automation and real-time interaction management, the five that Hopkins pulled out to highlight have the greatest potential for disruption.

Hopkins said intelligent agents coupled with A.I. are becoming smart enough to understand users’ behavior, interpret needs and make decisions.

“By 2021, we think that automation, supported by intelligent software agents driven by an evolution in A.I. and cognitive technology will have eliminated a net 6% of U.S. jobs,” wrote Hopkins. “But the loss won't be uniform. There will be an 11% loss of jobs that are vulnerable and a 5% creation of jobs in industries that stand to benefit.”

Another key emerging technology is hybrid wireless technology, like interfaces and software that enable devices to use and translate between different wireless providers, protocols and frequency bands. “By 2021, a virtual network infrastructure will emerge to weave together wireless technologies that globally connect IoT and customer engagement platforms,” Hopkins said.

When it comes to augmented reality, which superimposes a computer-generated image or scene over a view of the real world, Forrester predicts “more play” for A.R. in enterprises during the next several years -- and later for consumers -- than its tech cousin virtual reality.

“By 2021, we will be fully into a transition period between separated and tightly blended physical and digital experiences in our work and lives,” said Hopkins.

As for IoT, it is expected to more fully engage consumers with their products and the companies that make them. “Theses software platforms and solutions act as a bridge between highly specialized sensor and actuator, compute and networking technology for real-world objects and related business software,” wrote Hopkins. “This technology gives firms visibility into and control of customer and operational realities.”

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, called the Forrester list of life-changing, or at least business-changing, emerging technologies pretty complete.

“Robotics could be the only hole I see,” he said. “I believe these technologies could fundamentally change the type of business people are in, change the way services are delivered and purchased, and change the ways businesses interact.”

For example, Moorhead noted that intelligent agents could change the way companies interact with customers.

“Instead of having thousands of customer service agents on the phone or over web chat, companies can have A.I.-enabled chatbots do the same thing,” he explained. “This can lower cost, and even improve customer satisfaction because there's no wait and the answers are accurate.”

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