In 1978, the BBC produced a ten-part television series called Connections. The premise was that science, mathematics and invention are so interconnected that one change – however small – can lead to profound and surprising transformations seemingly unrelated fields. The ideas presented by science historian and author James Burke covered such diverse developments as the Swiss pike which led from tin cans to the Apollo moon rockets, or how the Black Death in medieval Europe gave us the modern computer program.

Four-plus decades on, Burke’s storytelling still intrigues. But one thing he said at the end of the final episode resonates more strongly with the passing years: As the possible connections between technologies cause the process of innovation to rapidly accelerate, Burke asks what happens when the rate of change itself becomes too much for the average person to handle?

Considering the rate of change in current technology, it’s instructive to take a look at what disruptive new developments are on the horizon, and perhaps more edifying to gauge how the relative importance of these disrupters change over time. With that in mind, the Emerging Technology Community at CompTIA, a trade association for the global technology industry, has released its annual Top 10 Emerging Technologies list.


The list evaluates the emerging technologies that offer the most immediate prospects for near-term business and financial opportunities in the business of technology. At the top of this year’s list, for the second year in a row, is the Internet of Things. This computing concept, which Merriam-Webster defines as “the networking capability that allows information to be sent to and received from objects and devices (such as fixtures and kitchen appliances) using the Internet.” But besides a toaster that can talk to Google, what is the practical result?  

“To say it’s confusing and overwhelming is an understatement,” according to Frank Raimondi, a member of the CompTIA Emerging Technology Community leadership group who works in strategic channel and business development for Chargifi. “IoT may mean many things to many people, but it can clearly mean incremental or new business to a channel partner if they start adding relevant IoT solutions.” The real value in IoT is having the power to gather all sorts of data and leveraging it.

Which leads to the second-place finisher on the CompTIA list, artificial intelligence. Clearly AI will be a necessary tool in turning those mountains of data into actionable information. “The largest impacts across all industries – from retail to healthcare, hospitality to finance – are felt when AI improves data security, decision-making speed and accuracy, and employee output and training,” says Maddy Martin, head of growth and education for and community vice chair.“With more capable staff, better-qualified sales leads, more efficient issue resolution, and systems that feed actual data back in for future process and product improvements, companies employing AI technologies can use resources with far greater efficiency,” Martin adds.

And the List Goes On
Interestingly AI is at Number 2, up one spot from last year’s list, displacing the once-high-flying topic of Automation, which dropped out of the 2019 Top Ten altogether. That left room at Number 3 on this year’s list for 5G wireless, up from Number 5 in 2018.

As it always does when standards change, confusion reigns in the world of wireless. 5G means fifth generation wireless, up from the current fourth generation, or 4G. The new standard will likely mean a new phone in your future, but that’s not the most compelling part of the story, according to Michael Haines, director of partner incentive strategy and program design for Microsoft and chair of the Emerging Technology Community.

“The development and deployment of 5G is going to enable business impact at a level few technologies ever have, providing wireless at the speed and latency needed for complex solutions like driverless vehicles,” Haines says. “Additionally, once fully deployed geographically, 5G will help emerging markets realize the same ‘speed of business’ as their mature counterparts.” In addition to second ranked automation, another technology stalwart that dropped out of the Top Ten in 2019 is quantum computing. They’ve been replace by two new technologies, serverless computing – a cloud-based platformas-a-service scheme – at Number 4 and the more familiar robotics at Number 6.  

At Number 5 on the list is blockchain, up from Number 9 last year. That move may be due in part to the luster coming off the shiny bauble that was blockchain. “Now that the luster of novelty and furor of the masses are gone, the dynamic of work around blockchain took a complete U-turn,” says Julia Moiseeva, founder of CLaaS (C-Level as a Service) Management Solutions Ltd. and member of the community’s leadership group.

“Now we observe players in this spacebuilding blockchain-based solutions in response to real industry problems,” Moiseeva explained. “The trend of blockchainas a service is the one to watch. BaaS willbe the enabler of significant opportunitiesfor cross-industry participants, especiallythose lacking the know-how or R&D to develop their own blockchain. We are moving toward plug-and-play product suites.”

Rounding out the 2019 Top Ten Emerging Technologies are several familiar names from the previous year: Biometrics at Number 7, up one from 2018, 3D Printing at Number 8, down from Number 6, Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality which fell from Number 4 in 2018 to Number 9 this year, and Drones at Number 10, down from Number 7.

Of course, just as the list of emerging technologies changed from last year to this, the line-up will be different again next year. Some will rise, others will drop off the radar. And some will mature and connect and combine to launch an entirely new species of technology. No doubt when it happens, the connection will result in an unexpected outcome.

That is the nature of human ingenuity and the constant march of innovation. After all, as James Burke noted in his Connections series, if technology develops based only on what people know of their current circumstances, without thinking where their actions will eventually lead, then predicting the future course of technology is all conjecture.

Top 10 Emerging Technologies

1. Internet of Things
2. Artificial Intelligence
3. 5G
4. Serverless Computing
5. Blockchain
6. Robotics
7. Biometrics
8. 3D Printing
9. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
10. Drones

1. Internet of Things
2. Automation
3. Artificial Intelligence
4. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
5. 5G
6. 3D Printing
7. Drones
8. Biometrics
9. Blockchain
10. Quantum Computing