Get ready for the ‘fourth platform’

IDC unveils the next big tech trends — including augmented humanity — that will drive the IT industry over the coming years. Here’s how to get ready for the big changes ahead.

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Behold, the fourth platform is upon us.

It’s not another sci-fi thriller like the Fifth Element or the Sixth Sense. (Or the Seventh Seal, but let’s not bring any Bergman films into this.) According to global research giant IDC, the fourth platform is poised to be The Next Big Tech Trend.

For the past few years, IDC has been talking up its concept of a so-called third platform for digital transformation (DX) consisting of mobile, social, analytics and cloud. During its recent webcast of tech predictions for 2017, the firm unveiled its vision for a fourth platform — and it may just blow your mind, literally.

IDC has christened the fourth platform ‘augmented humanity.’ As described by IDC’s senior VP and chief analyst Frank Gens, augmented humanity blends technology with biology to extend the physical and mental capacities of the human body. He’s talking about technology working at “cellular and sub-cellular levels” of our anatomy.

“The fourth platform will be the penetration of the human body and the integration of technologies with human biosystems,” Gens said. “This means the fourth platform is us.”

Whoa. Sounds a little Johnny Mnemonic to us, and it kind of is. In one example cited by Gens, the U.S. military is already developing brain implants to treat memory loss and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Still, it’s a little early to completely wrap your own brain around the enterprise potential of augmented humanity; Gens said the fourth platform will hit an early adopters phase around 2021 and achieve “early mainstream” adoption in 2026.

Until then, IDC has provided us with other meaty stuff to chew on. Here’s a look at some of its key predictions for the nearer future and their potential impact on IT managers and network administrators.

Cloud complexity

“The cloud will become more intelligent, industry specialized and channel mediated,” Gens said. Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, blockchain, threat analytics and encryption are all coming to the cloud in a much bigger way. That will lead enterprise to view the cloud as a ‘smarter’ place to be, where trust and compliance can unfold quickly and securely.

Businesses will also shift from merely consuming cloud services to becoming suppliers of cloud-based services and products to their own customers. Gens said businesses must therefore “become heavily cloud-centric, not just in cloud adoption but in cloud-based skills.”

Artificial intelligence

By 2018, 75 per cent of developer teams will likely include AI/cognitive computing functionality in one or more of the applications and services they create, predicts IDC. And by 2019, 40 per cent of all DX initiatives and 100 per cent of Internet of Things initiatives will be supported by AI/cognitive computing capabilities.

Mobile augmented reality

IDC believes the monthly active user base for mobile augmented reality apps will top 400 million worldwide in 2018, thanks to a big boost from social media platforms like Facebook.


IDC expects enterprises pursuing DX strategies will double or triple the current size of their developer teams by 2018.

Changing the channel

Due to the game-changing proliferation of the cloud, “the traditional IT channel is going to transform,” said Gens. Rather than killing off the channel, cloud is creating demand for integrators, SAAS providers and vertical industry specialists within the IT distribution chain.

IDC estimates that by 2018, major IT distributors will have transitioned at least one-third of their businesses from hardware sales to cloud services and sales/brokering.

What does it all mean for IT and network managers?

Well, adding AI, AR and VR to the mix will undoubtedly put new demands on enterprise network capacity and performance, so planning for that will be crucial over the next few years.

And it’s not enough to brush up on skills like cloud and mobile anymore. AI, AR and VR are here and you need to know how they can serve your customers better and run your operations more efficiently.

You need to school your existing developers in these technologies and hire or outsource other talent to quickly add to your organization’s knowledge pool. But don’t look for a cloud specialist; look for a cloud specialist who really ‘gets’ your particular industry vertical.

We know — these skills and people are tough to come by. But with augmented humanity, will implanting knowledge into the brains of existing IT staff ease the need for training and hiring? We shall see, IDC.

Image: iStock

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