Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020

Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which is rapidly growing with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years

Gartner has highlighted the top 10 strategic technology trends that it says organisations need to explore in 2020.

“People-centric smart spaces are the structure used to organise and evaluate the primary impact of the Gartner top strategic technology trends for 2020,” said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

“Putting people at the centre of your technology strategy highlights one of the most important aspects of technology – how it impacts customers, employees, business partners, society or other key constituencies. Arguably all actions of the organisation can be attributed to how it impacts these individuals and groups either directly or indirectly. This is a people-centric approach.”

“Smart spaces build on the people-centric notion. A smart space is a physical environment in which people and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems. Multiple elements – including people, processes, services and things – come together in a smart space to create a more immersive, interactive and automated experience,” said Cearley.

The top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020 are:


Hyperautomation is the combination of multiple machine learning (ML), packaged software and automation tools to deliver work.

Hyperautomation refers to all the steps of automation itself (discover, analyse, design, automate, measure, monitor and reassess). Understanding the range of automation mechanisms, how they relate to each other and how they can be coordinated is a major focus for hyperautomation.

While this trend was kicked off by robotic process automation (RPA), hyperautomation requires a combination of tools to help support replicating pieces of where the human is involved in a task.


According to Gartner, through 2028, the user experience will undergo a significant shift in how users perceive the digital world and how they interact with it. The way people interact with the digital world is changing because of conversational platforms, VR, AR and mixed reality (MR). This combined shift in both perception and interaction models will lead to a future multi-sensory and multimodal experience.

“The model will shift from one of technology-literate people to one of people-literate technology. The burden of translating intent will move from the user to the computer,” said Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. “This ability to communicate with users across many human senses will provide a richer environment for delivering nuanced information.”

Democratisation of expertise

Democratisation is all about providing people with access to technical expertise (for example, ML and application development) or business domain expertise (for example, sales process or economic analysis) via a radically simplified experience and without requiring extensive and costly training. ‘Citizen access’ (for example, citizen data scientists or citizen integrators), as well as the evolution of citizen development and no-code models, are examples of democratisation.

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Through 2023, Gartner predicts four key aspects of the democratisation trend to accelerate, including democratisation of data and analytics (tools targeting data scientists expanding to target the professional developer community), democratisation of development (AI tools to leverage in custom-developed applications), democratisation of design (expanding on the low-code, no-code phenomena with automation of additional application development functions to empower the citizen-developer) and democratisation of knowledge (non-IT professionals gaining access to tools and expert systems that empower them to exploit and apply specialised skills beyond their own expertise and training).

Human augmentation

This trend relates to how technology can be used to deliver cognitive and physical benefits to the human experience.

Gartner says physical augmentation enhances humans by changing their inherent physical capabilities, by implanting or hosting a technology element on their bodies, such as a wearable device.

Cognitive augmentation can occur through accessing information and exploiting applications on traditional computer systems and the emerging multi-experience interface in smart spaces.

According to Gartner, increasing levels of physical and cognitive human augmentation will become prevalent as individuals seek personal enhancements over the next 10 years – creating a new ‘consumerisation’ effect where employees seek to exploit their personal enhancements to improve their office environment.

Transparency and traceability

Increasing consumer concerns around the control of personal information have made organisations recognise the risk of securing and managing personal data, and governments are implementing strict legislation to ensure they do. As such, Gartner says transparency and traceability are critical elements to support these digital ethics and privacy needs.

According to Garter, this trend refer to a range of attitudes, actions and supporting technologies and practices designed to address regulatory requirements, preserve an ethical approach to use of AI and other advanced technologies, and repair the growing lack of trust in companies.

As organisations build out transparency and trust practices, Gartner says they must focus on three areas:

  • AI and ML;
  • personal data privacy, ownership and control;
  • ethically aligned design.

The empowered edge

While much of the focus on edge computing currently comes from the need for IoT systems to deliver distributed capabilities into the embedded IoT world for specific industries such as manufacturing or retail, Gartner says edge computing will become a dominant factor across virtually all industries and use cases, as the edge is empowered with increasingly more sophisticated and specialised compute resources and more data storage. Complex edge devices, including robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and operational systems will accelerate this shift.

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Distributed cloud

A distributed cloud is the distribution of public cloud services to different locations, while the originating public cloud provider assumes responsibility for the operation, governance, updates to and evolution of the services.

This signifies a dramatic shift from the centralised model of most public cloud services and, according to Gartner, will lead to a new era in cloud computing.

Autonomous things

In layman’s terms, autonomous things are physical devices that are empowered by AI to automate processes previously performed by people.

Examples of autonomous things include robots, drones, autonomous vehicles/ships and appliances. Their automation goes beyond the automation provided by rigid programming models, and they exploit AI to deliver advanced behaviours that interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people.

“As autonomous things proliferate, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things where multiple devices will work together, either independently of people or with human input,” said Burke. “For example, heterogeneous robots can operate in a coordinated assembly process. In the delivery market, the most effective solution may be to use an autonomous vehicle to move packages to the target area. Robots and drones aboard the vehicle could then affect final delivery of the package.”

Practical blockchain

While blockchain adoption remains immature due to a range of technical issues such as poor scalability and interoperability, Gartner says the significant potential for disruption and revenue generation means organisations should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don’t anticipate aggressive adoption of the technologies in the near term.

It says blockchain has the potential to reshape industries by enabling trust, providing transparency and enabling value exchange across business ecosystems, potentially lowering costs, reducing transaction settlement times and improving cash flow.

“Assets can be traced to their origin, significantly reducing the opportunities for substitutions with counterfeit goods,” said a spokesperson. “Asset tracking also has value in other areas, such as tracing food across a supply chain to more easily identify the origin of contamination or track individual parts to assist in product recalls. Another area in which blockchain has potential is identity management. Smart contracts can be programmed into the blockchain where events can trigger actions; for example, payment is released when goods are received.”

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AI security

While the continued use of AI and ML for augmenting human decision making creates great opportunities to enable hyperautomation, Gartner says it creates new challenges for security teams.

Gartner predicts a massive increase in potential points of attack with IoT, cloud computing, micro-services and highly connected systems in smart spaces.

As such, security leaders should focus on three key areas – protecting AI-powered systems, leveraging AI to enhance security defence, and anticipating nefarious use of AI by attackers.

To learn more, check out Gartner’s ‘Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020’ report in full here.

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