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What emergent technology made the 2017 IT watch list?

No matter how uncertain the times ahead might be, IT leaders can bank on this: the new year brings with it a fresh batch of emergent technology that holds the promise of making businesses run smarter, better and faster. Which ones should you be paying attention to in 2017?

At the recent Gartner Symposium in Orlando, SearchCIO spoke to IT executives to find out which emergent technology is on their radar for next year, and their responses ran the gamut -- everything from machine learning and conversational UIs to containers, IoT and APIs. You'll hear about their plans in this video interview.

Machine learning

Abbas Haider Ali, CTO, xMatters: AI [is] probably one that's top-of-mind for a lot of people, and not in the sense of machines that will become our best friends and replace human interaction, but more in the sense of really practical applications for machine learning.  

[We] used to benefit [from] analyzing data in more of a statistical sense [and now] that's really being replaced by much more contemporary mechanisms of analyzing data through machine learning. And that's really a very interesting space that we watch closely as both the provider of SAS products that, of course, generate their own data, but also in looking for ways to help customers and steering them in the right direction in terms of recognizing value from those sorts of technologies as well.

John Viglione, CTO, Vertex Inc.:  What we are paying attention to -- which is very typical of most corporations -- is the whole machine learning trend and pattern. We believe that our solutions have been and are early generations of the concept of what machine learning can evolve into. We are making the early stage investments to understand how machine learning can support our solutions, can disrupt our solutions, can offer new ways for us to do business internally within the company, and also offer new commercial offerings.

Conversational user experiences

Don Schuerman, CTO, Pegasystems: I think there's been a lot of discussion at the conference around this concept of conversational UIs, conversational user experiences. I really do think that that represents a pretty significant shift. We've gone from application-based UIs to browser-based UIs, to mobile apps. This represents a real shift away from even form-based UIs to something where I'm interacting with a chatbot, or I'm conversing with a virtual system like Siri or Cortana or Alexa. That conversational user experience I think is going to change how we use a lot of our apps.    

So I think businesses [need to] understand both how to put themselves into that conversation, onto these various channels that customers are going to be in, but also how you actually build applications that leverage this new way of engaging. I think it's going to be an interesting journey for IT folks, for software designers, for UX experts, to really engage with over the next couple of years. 

APIs, “augmented intelligence” and more

Neil Gomes, VP for Technology Innovation and Consumer Experience, Thomas Jefferson University: I prefer to think of [the question] as what emerging problems are on our radar. Technology's an enabler to solving problems, but we first want to focus on the problem.    

On the healthcare side, the API space is very important because healthcare has always been about interfaces, developing customer interfaces with this, customer interfaces with that, and then you suddenly have this spaghetti diagram of all these connections, from one system to another and nobody knows how to decipher it. Instead, you put an API management layer in between and we channel data through that, and we utilize things that we've already developed, and then, finally, in the last step, enable people to create their own connections in the governing kind of manner. That is fantastic, right? So APIs is [one].

Technology's an enabler to solving problems, but we first want to focus on the problem.
Neil GomesVP for Technology Innovation and Consumer Experience, Thomas Jefferson University

IoT is another because most hospital systems and most education systems are well-connected on building automation. They did it for other reasons.    

Now, you can purchase web services and APIs on these very centralized systems like Siemens and Johnson Controls. You can start doing stuff that you couldn't do before, like a project that we did on IBM's IoT platform and the Cognitive IoT platform with Watson. We can control temperature inside a room -- the patient can -- just by speaking to the room. It understands what they're asking for, making a call to the building automation platform, and changing the temperature almost in real time. You couldn't that before.

Then it's machine learning and augmented intelligence that we're interested in. Virtual reality and augmented reality are big in the education space, especially with all the new developments that have come about, with HoloLens and an immersive environment like Gear and Oculus and all of those.

Containerization

Otto Berkes, CTO, CA Technologies: I'm really excited about the continued acceleration of the adoption of containers and containerization technology, and there are so many good reasons for it. It reduces fragility in development, deployment and maintenance of code and ultimately increases the velocity of development to deployment.

For more on emergent technology, check out our emerging tech Essential guide and this exploration of why companies will get serious about AI in 2017.

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