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From Buzzword TO a New World of Computing

Somewhere in the not-too-distant future one of today's hottest buzzwords -- AI, big data, or even analytics -- will be absorbed by another.

James M. Connolly

January 18, 2018

4 Min Read
<p>(Image: Shutterstock)</p>

Face facts, buzzwords fade away, so which term will be the first to go? Artificial intelligence? Internet of Things? Even "analytics"?

In the moment, it sounds absurd to think that we would retire any of those hot themes. In the tech sector we love our buzzwords. Yet, there comes a time when every technology concept matures and moves from being new, exciting, and the sweetheart of marketers into a new phase called: Just a way that we do things.

In reality, none of those concepts or the technologies that form their foundations are going away. If anything, all three are still on incredible growth paths in terms of how we do computing and use information.

Yet, the history of computing shows that shiny new concepts and their cute buzzwords eventually step into the background where they simply do what they were designed for: Work!

For decades we monitored the developments in "networking" and IT managers stressed over which topology, Ethernet or Token Ring, they should go with. Well, Ethernet sent Token Ring into the eternal dirt nap, but we don't even think in terms of Ethernet any more until those rare occasions when it goes down. It's just there, feeding us ESPN highlights of last night's game.

Client/server was another true buzzword for what seems a moment. You could run the core application on a server while the "client" handled presentation. When is the last time you thought, "Gee, my phone (desktop, notebook, or tablet) handles presentation nicely while the server in Omaha is working on the database and logic"? You probably have no clue what is being done where, and you don't care. It just works. "Client/server" disappeared into the fog that is an amalgam of computing.

What term will disappear next?

Sorry, marketers but, yes, there will come a time when we stop focusing on AI. Maybe it will be when your company actually does start selling that "AI-based toaster."

We've been talking about the dawn of AI since I got into the tech business back in the first Reagan Administration. In those days we didn't realize that AI never was going to be a product that you could buy off the shelf. AI is taking off today because it has found it's place as just an element -- a capability -- within other applications. AI in an Alexa speaker doesn't "play" that Jason Aldean song. AI is how Alexa recognizes your voice and parses your command, "Alexa, play Jason Aldean."

The IoT isn't exactly new. It's essentially machine-to-machine networking taken to a new platform and extended to thousands of new applications and types of devices. It's also in our faces rather than buried behind factory walls as M2M was, and we are finding new ways to analyze and act on the data that IoT carries.

Analytics aren't new, either, just dramatically advancing in their capabilities, and they aren't going away, although it seems that "analytics" and "big data" have somehow become interchangeable. I certainly hope the term "analytics" doesn't go away any time soon. That would mean changing the name of this site, and I'd have to pay Instaprint another $12 for business cards.

The thing that we have to recognize and remember is that the labels mean little. This tech world that we call "computing" is marked by buzzwords that represent tightly interconnected tech concepts. Analytics are evolving into AI as a very advanced delivery mechanism. IoT obviously will be a source for the data that analytics need, while AI and machine learning deliver those analytics results back to the IoT in the form of calls for action. We don't even have clear definitions for the boundaries, where analytics end and AI begins or where the IoT network shifts into analytics.

Those interconnections will only become tighter. Today and in the future, you can take these three core concepts, jumble them up, add in a few doses of "mobile" and "cloud" and you will come up with a brand new entity. That new concept probably emerges within a year or two. The only question is about what we call this new environment. Hmmm, I'll bet some bright marketer can come with a name.

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About the Author(s)

James M. Connolly

Contributing Editor and Writer

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced freelance technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than three decades. He was previously editorial director of InformationWeek and Network Computing, where he oversaw the day-to-day planning and editing on the sites. He has written about enterprise computing, data analytics, the PC revolution, the evolution of the Internet, networking, IT management, and the ongoing shift to cloud-based services and mobility. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. He has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through such publications as Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups at MassHighTech.

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