As the pace of technological change accelerates, organisations that are adaptable will be better positioned to leverage emerging technologies for future success
A Forrester report on the top 10 emerging technologies of 2023 lists generative AI, autonomous workplace assistants, and conversational AI as the top three technologies that are poised to deliver a return on investment in less than two years. The benefits of using these technologies include improved digital experiences, faster content generation, and improved content quality. The risks include poorly designed chatbots providing poor customer experience and eroding trust. Other emerging technologies in the top 10 include decentralised digital identity, edge intelligence, explainable AI, TuringBot, extended reality, Web3, and zero-trust edge. Forrester advises tech executives to pilot these technologies and then commercialise them.
- Generative AI: Forrester defines generative AI as a set of technologies and techniques that leverage massive amounts of data to generate new content such as text, video, images, audio and code in response to natural language prompts or other non-code and non-traditional inputs.
Benefits of using generative AI include improved digital experiences via natural language interactions, rapid knowledge retrieval, faster content generation and improved content quality, according to the report. Yet, there are risks to be aware of as well. Generative AI is prone to “… coherent nonsense, security threats, and harmful generation,” and “… firms aren’t able to quickly vet the rapidly increasing quantity of new capabilities,” the report said.
“It will take several years to resolve governance, trust, and IP issues in customer-facing or safety-related uses,” the report warns, although generative AI will reap benefits in less than two years.
- Autonomous workplace assistants: Forrester defines autonomous workplace assistants as “… software that can make decisions, act without approval, and perform a service based on environment, context, user input, and learning in support of workplace goals.”
Forrester Vice President of Emerging Technologies Brian Hopkins explained that, compared to intelligent agents, with AWAs, “… we’re seeing blending of RPA (robotic process automation) and digital process tools” and the ability “… to create a software agent that is capable of learning as it goes and answering more complex queries and acting in a non-deterministic way.”
Benefits of AWAs include reduced cost of answering questions, reduced process inefficiency and improved customer service, the report said. The risks, which will challenge enterprise skill levels, include the need to integrate key automation building blocks such as RPA, conversation and decision management. Hopkins is clear that this year we’ve hit an inflection point, and chatbots and AWAs will “explode.”
- Conversational AI: Conversational AI tools aren’t new, though they haven’t worked well in the past, according to the report. The technology placed third on the list because a combination of advancements and a reduction in licensing costs “… make this technology capable of delivering ROI in the near term, while there is still a lot of room for future advancements and innovations,” the report noted.
Benefits of conversational AI include increased sales, automated customer service, employee self-service and frictionless buying experiences. The risks include poorly designed chatbots providing poor customer experience and eroding trust, as well as inflexible platforms that cannot evolve quickly to keep up with the pace of innovation.
- Decentralised digital identity: This is a solution and identity network that provides decentralised, distributed, verifiable and revocable credentials and claims based on trust between issuers, verifiers and users. Forrester predicts it will deliver significant benefits in two to five years.
- Edge intelligence: This includes streaming analytics, edge machine learning, federated machine learning and real-time data management on intelligent devices and edge servers. Forrester predicts it will deliver significant benefits in two to five years.
- Explainable AI: These are techniques and software capabilities for ensuring that people understand how AI systems arrive at their outputs. Forrester predicts it will deliver significant benefits in two to five years.
- TuringBot: It is an AI-powered software that augments the intelligence and ability of developers and their teams to design, build, change, test and refactor software code and applications in automatic and autonomous ways. Forrester predicts it will deliver significant benefits in two to five years.
- Extended reality: This is a technology that overlays computer imagery on a user’s field of vision, with augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality technologies that are supported by the same developer tools, sensors and cameras, and simulation engines. Forrester predicts it will be five years or more until extended reality delivers its expected value.
- Web3: It is a concept that promises a World Wide Web that isn’t dominated by big tech or other established firms like banks. Forrester predicts it will be five years or more until Web3 delivers its expected value.
- Zero-trust edge: This is a solution that securely connects and transports digital information using zero-trust access principles in and out of remote sites using mostly Cloud-based security and networking services. Forrester predicts it will be five years or more until zero-trust edge delivers its expected value.
Staying alert on emerging technologies
For organisations that are just starting to look at these emerging technologies, Hopkins advised they develop a framework for rapidly experimenting so they can understand what it can do for their business and to weigh the risks versus the rewards.
Forrester advises tech executives “… with modern tech management strategies …” to “pilot” generative AI, AWAs and conversational AI and then commercialise them. “Mainstream firms should begin to invest or continue investing in them with reasonable expectations for measurable benefits quickly,” the report said.
Even though extended reality, Web3, and zero-trust edge will take at least five more years to live up to their potential, the report advises organisations to put them on the watchlist, but need to set expectations with more enthusiastic advocates in your business. Zero-trust edge combines zero-trust security with different kinds of networks depending on what applications are running, Hopkins said.
These technologies are expected to deliver a return on investment in less than two years, offering benefits such as improved digital experiences, faster content generation, and improved content quality. However, they also come with risks, including the potential for poorly designed chatbots to erode customer trust. As the pace of technological change accelerates, organisations that are prepared and adaptable will be better positioned to leverage these emerging technologies for future success.
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