Gartner highlights top tech trends

The GartnerGroup will publish its top 10 technologies list, with high-speed Net access and "wearable" computers among the most compelling.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
4 min read
GartnerGroup tomorrow will publish its top 10 list for technologies to watch in 1999, with high-speed Internet access, natural language search techniques, and advanced "wearable" computers among the most compelling.

GartnerGroup's "10 Technologies Business Executives Should Be Watching in 1999 and Beyond" shines the spotlight on digital subscriber line (DSL), natural language retrieval, and corporate extranets.

Gartner also cites four other technology trends as "coming on strong in the next two to five years" including speech recognition, IP telephony, Internet chat, and biometrics. Gartner says these four technologies will influence areas such as the virtual corporation, online shopping, banking, and government-related industries.

Other technologies that the marketing research firm finds to be gaining in importance include wearable computers, avatars, and electronic books. These "are not influencing business operations at this time, but...should be watched closely...in such areas as manufacturing, e-commerce, and publishing in the next five to 10 years," the report said.

"Knowing when to embrace or drop a technology is like walking a tightrope, but those companies that understand technology and become early adopters of cutting-edge developments, will gain competitive advantage," said Jackie Fenn, vice president and research director at Gartner. An in-depth article will appear in GartnerGroup's online publication Business Technology Journal.

A quick look at the top technologies and what Gartner envisions:

  • xDSL (Generic Digital Subscriber Line) and Cable Modems: These are communications methods that alleviate Internet access bottlenecks, "promising speeds of up to 200 times today's conventional data communications methods." GartnerGroup says that the rollout of these technologies will be slower than customers like, but xDSL technology and cable modems will be key to expanding the "all forms of remote business communication from telecommuting to consumer use of the Web." Influence will be felt in the next two to five years.

  • Natural Language Information Retrieval: One of the most crucial upcoming search techniques. Gartner says that adding intelligence to today's relatively primitive process of matching keywords in the bodies of texts or within databases is the objective. "Strategically, companies that sell research and other forms of knowledge will be hard-pressed to operate without these tools in the future." Gartner says higher education and professional services firms will implement natural language retrieval in the next two years.

  • Extranets: Described as an intranet that may be accessed by trusted external parties such as customers. "When used to manage product flow, it can offer...reduced inventory, customized products, shorter fulfillment cycles and increased business partner loyalty." Extranets will be adopted by banking, technology, consumer packaged goods and telecommunications companies in the next two years.

  • Speech Recognition This recognizes a user's speech and translates it into commands or text. Healthcare, telecommunications, and financial services companies will be integrating speech recognition in the next two years, according to Gartner.

  • IP Telephony: IP telephony describes the use of the Internet to place phone calls. Gartner says that though companies can save money, voice quality is still a problem. "Higher education, technology, and telecommunications will adopt IP telephony in the next two years for calls where quality is not critical, particularly facsimile.

  • Internet Chat: Though popular on online services, "bundling into major groupware (such as Lotus Notes) during the next two years will drive corporations to adopt Internet chat more quickly."

  • Biometrics: This describes advanced, high-security identification techniques by reading fingerprints or the eye's iris or by voice identification. Government agencies and financial services firms will be the leading adopters of biometrics in the next two years, according to Gartner.

  • Electronic Books: Gartner describes it as a computer device roughly the size of a paperback book that can be used to download and read novels, textbooks, and other publications off the Internet or a CD-ROM. "Businesses should be prepared for the chance that consumer demand will move away from PC-based delivery and onto devices like E-books. Investors might also come to expect stock quotes and order confirmations from mass access devices like wireless PDAs (personal digital assistants), or conventional newspapers may be replaced by Web-based versions accessible via PDA or other devices."

  • Wearable Computers: A belt computer with a wrist-based keyboard or a microphone to input commands, with a head-mounted display. "Wearable computers will be monitored closely by the manufacturing industry in the next two years."

  • Avatars: Avatars are popular today in 3-D chat rooms where participants can select a persona to represent them as they walk the room and interact with other avatars. "Commercial development appears to be years away, but vendors are currently developing applications for avatars for online sales and customer service."