Gartner loses plot, predicts Kickstarter will provide 1/3 of all R&D

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Analysts at Gartner have just released a set of technology predictions for the future, and it makes for some interesting reading. There’s no talk of server consolidation or Bring-Your-Own-Devicing this time round, it’s all cutting edge stuff like crowdsourcing and DIY manufacturing on 3D printers. According to the report, the ‘digital industrial revolution’ is upon us, and the ‘savvy CEO’ needs to get bandwagon jumpiong now.

Big headlines from the report are that Gartner believes crowdfunding will account for a massive 75% of development work on 50% of consumer products by 2017. That’s a whopping 37.5% of all consumer product research funding coming from places like Kickstarter within four years.

In addition, the report says, $100bn of intellectual property value will be lost to the 3D printing revolution by 2018.

Now I love 3D printers and Kickstarter a lot more than the next guy, but even I think some of these are hopelessly optimistic/pessimistic about the tech.For example, Kickstarter has raised $820m to date. Samsung alone spent more than $10bn on R&D in 2012. That’s some exponential growth in the former that Gartner is expecting.

As far as 3D printing goes, this is the same argument that says intellectual property loss is destroying the music industry, right? Except figures from the Washington Post today say that the music industry is doing just fine, thanks, and growing right on long term trend paths.

Gartner is the first organisation I’ve seen to start equating 3D printing with criminal activity, too.

The plummeting costs of 3D printers, scanners and 3D modelling technology, combined with improving capabilities, makes the technology for IP theft more accessible to would-be criminals. Importantly, 3D printers do not have to produce a finished good in order to enable IP theft. The ability to make a wax mould from a scanned object, for instance, can enable the thief to produce large quantities of items that exactly replicate the original.

The report also says that there’s likely to be more social unrest due to loss of jobs, caused by digitisation. It cites Occupy Wall Street as a primary example of this, although if I recall OWS was more about seeking justice for the unpunished crimes of fraudulent bankers who undermined the US housing market with dodgy securities and sent the world economy into tailspin than it was about computers stealing our jobs.

Or did I get that wrong?

Down in the saner part of the report, the analysts also reckon that attempts to secure personal data will prove futile, and that there’s one more big Wikileaks or Snowden moment to come in terms of a data-related scandal in which the wrong people have been reading your mail. Interestingly, Gartner’s response is a ‘you can’t beat them’ one.

The amount of data stored and used by businesses and governments is growing exponentially, such that any attempt to protect it all is unrealistic. Instead of facing an unfathomable task of protecting all data, organisations and governments will focus on protecting only a small part of it, but protecting it well. Wider society will also gain from this approach, enabling it to establish better control over government and business, preventing abuses of power and engendering greater trust.

Likewise the report also flags up the fact that it would be sensible to start having debates about the ethics around 3D printing human organs now, and that computer learning will be big.

I usually enjoy these prediction reports from Gartner and they often confirm or spot important trends early in the way they should. But these figures released today seem way out of kilter with what’s actually happening in the world, and businesses who pay a lot of money for these things to help with decision making should be shocked. Or am I just not ‘with it’ any more? Is the world really changing this fast and I’m not keeping up?

Adam Oxford

Adam Oxford

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.

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