The biggest technology trends emerging this year
For organisations of all shapes and sizes, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the latest digital and technological advances. To help you do this, we’ve looked ahead at those trends that will have a major impact in 2017 - and beyond…
2016 saw significant technological advances in a number of different areas (as we discussed in a post on the Box UK blog towards the end of last year). It doesn’t look like this rapid rate of change will slow anytime soon - so what will everyone be talking about in this year? Here are some of the trends we expect to see dominate:
Addressing one of the most talked-about trends in recent years, digital transformation may be fast becoming an overused and increasingly vague term - but with four generations now in the workplace and collaborating across all sorts of projects, digital is more than ever about people working together in new ways. Only when organisations can capture the imagination of their people to encourage them to think digitally - and collaborate and innovate to drive a digital agenda - will they be able to truly operate at the speed of digital.
Last year saw a number of security incidents - this infographic shows the scale of the problem - and the impact of these is likely to increase still further in 2017. With thousands if not millions of homes using the same hardware and software solutions, providers of these products will be seen as excellent ‘hacker targets’ - and this problem will only grow as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to invade our homes. Speaking of which...
The Internet of Things
While still at the early stages of IoT development, we’re set to to see a number of real-world applications become commercially available during 2017, with developments in healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture looking to be particularly exciting. This new approach promises to provide unparalleled levels of connectivity, automation and information-sharing, all while reducing energy demands through ultra-efficient micro integrated circuits. It’s true that the challenge of data/device security is still yet to be resolved, but with so many positive benefits it is difficult to see this trend slowing.
The growing prevalence of IoT in B2C and B2B environments will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect on the (big) data capture of both structured and unstructured data, and it’s likely that we’ll see significant growth in this area. Alongside capturing this data, too, the ability to analyse, interpret and act upon data-driven requirements will also become a priority in B2B, having been led by the transactional nature of B2C. Consuming all this new data will require organisations to think differently - they will need to remove silos and take a more holistic and wide-ranging view, making the data available across the organisation in order to best exploit it. This may necessitate significant process change internally.
Beyond big data growth, the huge increase in the availability of real-time data will also require major developments in the field of data analysis and predictive analysis to leverage true value. The application of telematics is already impacting dynamic pricing models; particularly in insurance verticals, where vehicle and personal tracking provides real-time and on-going data to inform (and even help lower) premiums. The application of telematics data to sporting and fitness-related fields can also be seen in the performance analytics used everywhere from the rugby field to the velodrome, where athlete data is used to inform real-time adjustments to personalised training plans.
The technology challenge now is how to make the data more accurate. Wearing a belt or having a box fitted to your car, for example, may be much more cumbersome than just using your mobile phone, but it is also much more accurate. Additionally, the provision of all this information is going to create a data explosion; as a result data models will need to become more sophisticated, using only critical data for key analytics to drive dynamic, real-time, personalised decision-making.
The on-going drive towards automation has been discussed for many years now, and continues to remain an incredibly hot topic. While offshore models have typically been used to reduce costs, as the global cost of living inevitably increases this is becoming a less attractive offer than it once was, and many organisations are therefore looking to the ‘next phase’ in their journey. As one way of driving lower costs is to remove headcount altogether, increased automation and subsequently machine-based learning (discussed further below) will become prevalent in 2017, as robots learn to interact and make decisions in specific circumstances.
In terms of automation within the home, with the increased availability of ultra low-power, connected micro computers the potential to manage most if not all essential home services is now a real possibility. 2016 saw tech giant buyouts of a number of market leaders in this field, paving the way for app-controlled homes in the near future; for example, functions from lighting, heating and electrical outlet control to door locks, CCTV and movement detection can all be set up, monitored and maintained through simple applications.
As mentioned above, machine-based learning is becoming an increasingly popular area for exploration to achieve cost savings and other efficiencies, and is in turn driving advances in the field of artificial intelligence; led by the requirements of different industries such as the automotive market (think of the buzz around self-driving cars). Organisations that would previously have been limited by a lack of testing capacity or user feedback will suddenly have access to vast amounts of data - Tesla cars, for example, have now driven over a billion miles.
And when combined with the growth in the Internet of Things, AI is also helping realise a new breed of intelligent home automation systems. These systems collate, process and analyse vast sums of data from connected home devices and predictively select patterns that the system thinks will best suit the user/s in the room/home. This application of technology is attracting a lot of interest in the construction industry, particular among suppliers of new-build homes.
Virtual Reality (VR) - once seen as a fad - is rapidly becoming mainstream, and looks set to grow significantly in 2017. With the ‘big three’ (Oculus, HTC and Sony) all having released their Head-Mounted Displays (HMD) and Google now entering the mobile VR field with their phone-based Daydream HMD, it’s getting easier and easier for people to try VR for themselves and see what the fuss it all about. We’re also hoping to see more in the field of Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) in 2017, with Microsoft’s Hololens leading the way in blurring the lines between the virtual and the real.
And it’s not just the gaming industry that’s seen its potential, following the astronomic popularity of applications such as Pokémon Go. We’re already seeing experimental talk shows in VR, where game makers are interviewed inside their creations, and the viewers can be right there with them. Surgeons and architects are able to visualise the finished result before a single incision is made, or a single brick laid. The Dutch police are trialling AR to help them fight crime; theatre companies are using it in their shows; and the military are using AR glasses in combat. Even IKEA has been experimenting with a virtual kitchen where the user is able to move around and change the style and colour of units.
Additionally, while the development of VR applications is still the reserve of digital agencies, anyone can produce their own VR-enabled 360° photos and movies with one of a number of increasingly affordable cameras. With Facebook and YouTube ready to host your 360°-format media for you, and more and more people ‘getting it’, the audience, technology and publishing platforms are all in alignment - so expect lots more immersive video content on business websites.
With IoT, AI and VR/AR/MR all moving from niche early-adopter status into mainstream use this year, and organisations’ User Experience (UX) budgets continuing to grow, we’ll also likely see more ‘conversational’ UX in 2017. This approach uses information about a user’s prior behaviour and actions to automate the experience, and with consumers already used to the experience that ‘OK Google’ and Siri provide, it’s little surprise that a hands-on, always-on version in the home is being very well received. For example, Amazon’s Echo device made a big UK splash in Autumn 2016 (heavily discounted to get into UK homes) and a similar device from Google, Google Home, is hot on its heels with a UK release slated for early this year.
In a related move, it looks like the chatbot trend will continue to converge with voice user interfaces to provide apps for the home that you can initiate and navigate vocally; indeed, you can already order takeaways and taxis in this way from JustEat and Uber (via the Amazon Echo device), as well as control your lights, play music and more.
The exciting thing about this market is how fresh the landscape is, and how many unknowns there are around UX and user interaction. Early apps can be clunky, but the potential is massive. Think of the early iPhone App Store days - lots of samey apps, but a brave new world of opportunity, complete with its own gold rush phase. Certainly, there are exciting opportunities for businesses of all sizes.
With many organisations facing a great deal of uncertainty right now, opportunities to minimise risk and reduce waste are becoming a priority. A key example of this is modular design, which uses content and display patterns based on reusable components (rather than traditional templates) to make the design/build process much leaner and faster. This also provides the flexibility to allow products to evolve after the initial work is complete - an important capability in a fast-moving digital landscape.
We’ll also see a lot more designers using software such as InVision, Marvel and UXPin. These ‘hotspot’ tools are really simple to use and help create a navigable journey from static designs. This allows both designers and clients to get a feel for what the final product might look and feel like in a really short space of time.
At the same time as these emerging tools are growing in popularity though, loyalty to some of the giants in this space may be in doubt. For example, many designers are Apple advocates, but is the brand losing its edge? With other organisations launching truly innovative products such as Microsoft’s new Surface Studio, designers may be tempted to make the switch. Also, while Adobe has traditionally had the monopoly on design software this too is starting to change, with the rising popularity of low-cost software such as Sketch, Affinity and Principle.
Over to you
So, those our top predictions of the tech we’ll be talking about in 2017 and beyond. Have we got it right? Let us know in the comments below, and send us your suggestions of trends and advances we might have missed. You can also see how accurate our 2016 predictions were by checking out our review of the year on the Box UK website.