Another year is upon us and another year of trends are soon to unfold. In 2016 we saw the proliferation of wearable technology, “Smart” homes, cyber attacks and 3-D printing. What will hit it big in 2017?
This year appears to be the year that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning hit their full stride, moving past the prototype phase and beginning to appear in consumer technology. Another massive trend to expect is increased focus on cybersecurity, both for private firms and for government institutions. After the Russian hacking scandal involving the Democratic National Convention, the general population is now aware of the risks cybersecurity aims to curtail.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 trends that I’ve picked to take over in 2017:
- Block chain
One technology that has really started coming into its own is the development of blockchain. Blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of ordered records, called blocks. It was initially described in the early 1990s but only first came to use in 2008, as the database behind bitcoin, an online cryptocurrency. The distributed ledger records transactions publicly and the most attractive facet of blockchain is that records are maintained automatically with no trusted administrator needed.Why are blockchains trending this year? Companies are beginning to see the value that the database can provide, keeping paper trails of all transactions. Whether financially related or not, blockchain has a lot of value in today’s increasingly digital world. There are 3 main reasons why blockchain is a valuable database with potential for widespread use:
- The first benefit of blockchain is that any type of asset can be transferred using the database. It is not limited to financial transactions (as it is currently used for with Bitcoin) so it is a valuable tool for trade.
- The second benefit of blockchain is its use as a “truth-machine”. The database itself is quite complicated and difficult to explain. It’s more of a thesis paper than a blog post, but the automated method in which transactions are recorded using “nodes” has a high level of reliability and openness. Companies add additional information to a blockchain transaction, embedding that information in the ledger. Once a block is updated, it can’t be changed; creating a permanent, unalterable record. This application of the database could be used as a registry of anything needing to be tracked such as land titles, luxury goods or any good the user wishes to track.
- The third main benefit to companies using blockchain, and the third reason why it will be a trend in 2017 is the most ambitious application with the most potential upside. The third potential benefit is using blockchain as a database to execute “smart contracts”, programming conditions into the blockchain (which is already done by Bitcoin) that will execute transactions automatically given certain conditions. This would have many uses, both in financial services and in other industries, such as delaying payment until services are rendered, recording and automatically transferring funds and managing partner relationships.
While these applications of blockchain would operate slightly differently from Bitcoin, the general use would be the same, an automated secure ledger. Banks and technology companies across many industries are exploring potential uses for blockchain such as issuing credits or tokens as part of a customer reward program, automatically transferring capital between funds given certain conditions or simply as a smart-ledger that can issue payments to accounts automatically.
While traditional financial institutions may not be able to adopt the technology into their service offerings this year, 2017 will be a year when blockchain is investigated and developed for use by those institutions in the future. In 2017 expect to see financial service and technology start-ups begin to fully utilize blockchain, using it to capture market share in both developing markets and in established sectors of the FinServ industry.
- Artificial Intelligence
It seems nearly everything can be made to be “smart” these days; from the development of autonomous vehicles, to digital assistants giving near human-like answers, to fridges that know how cold they should be. Every product under the sun is being developed with an internet connection so it can collect data to help make better choices.This data clearly needs to be analyzed before decisions can be made and people don’t want to access logs and spreadsheets to do that. In some applications, that isn’t even possible. That is where AI technology comes into place. 2016 saw some fantastic developments in this field and 2017 should expect the same.Machine learning and artificial intelligence will revolutionize the way connected objects can communicate and make decisions with no human input. In order for the technologies on the cusp of existence to come into fruition, AI technology will need to improve. Cars will need to make their own decisions in real time, toilets will need to know when to flush, chat-bots and robo-advisors will need to be able to understand what you are asking them and how they can reply in a realistic way, without a major delay.Artificial Intelligence lies at the heart of each of those situations. Devices, systems and objects are being designed that can process information, deal with new information and actually learn. AI can become integrated into every part of life. Major companies like Google, Tesla, Apple, Samsung, major automakers, banks and insurance brokers all rely on improvements to AI in order to make their next big innovation.2017 will be the year of AI; helping our smart-products communicate with each other to achieve the efficiency we first imagined when the IoT was first theorized. To take our next major steps we will need intelligent machines to lower wait times, increase energy and cost efficiencies, and make their own decisions to maintain our safety.Discussions about how AI will affect the economy, both short-term (as systems begin using AI) and long-term (due to automation and phasing out jobs) will also become common this year as lawmakers, and individuals fully realize the new reality of where businesses want to go next. People will have to fight back their Terminator flashbacks and realize that AI can be a great thing if we use it right and prepare for it.
The “As-a-service” revenue model will heavily increase in popularity in 2017. Currently it is mainly used in two situations, when providing actual services (maintenance, etc) or when selling software. The model has benefits for both parties of the transaction. We will explain why using software as an example.The party providing the software benefits because they have a long-term revenue stream and can build a lasting customer relationship. If they sold the software as a product instead of a service they would get a one-time influx of cash and nothing after that until the customer decides to purchase another program (if they come to you at all). The party purchasing the software benefits from lower up-front costs, potential savings from eliminating elements of the software that aren’t needed or won’t work with that party’s system and some assurance of long-term maintenance and updating of the software.In 2017 “as-a-service” or subscription revenue models will become common across industries. Cadillac just announced the “Cadillac Book”, a new ownership model that will charge a monthly fee to provide on-demand-delivery of a Cadillac with a variety of booking options that can be done through a smartphone. The service they plan to provide (which has not been rolled out yet) is very similar to Zipcar but with a higher service level (delivery instead of pick-up).Cadillac is not the only automaker that has considered alternative ownership models. Other industries that provide high-value/high-cost products may begin to move towards the “as-a-service” or subscription based revenue model. 2017 is a time of mass personalization. Customers want every action to feel personal. They want to be in complete control of the purchase decision at all times and they do not want to be tied down with no flexibility, exactly what subscription or “as-a-service” provides. These alternative ownership models can help the spread of a product, both when dealing with consumers or selling products between businesses. The fact that the initial cost of a product is vastly reduced when sold as a service can motivate purchases. In 2017, companies will begin to sell everything from cars, to machinery, to technology as a service, giving the customer the ability to manage their needs and pay a monthly fee instead of forking out insane sums of cash to see if a product is worth it to them.
- Virtual & Augmented Reality
Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or recreation of a real life environment or situation, like the holodeck in Star Trek. Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancement on top of existing reality, you probably saw it (or at least heard about it) this summer with the release of Pokemon Go. It’s the real-time equivalent to mixing CGI with real-world footage in movies.VR and AR technologies were one of the hottest trends in tech in 2016, there is no doubt about that. In 2017, I fully expect both technologies to really take off, not only in the entertainment sector, but in other aspects of life (and even business).VR, while extremely (extremely) cool does not need to rely on its cool factor to be useful in business. It can be a great tool to showcase products and services (at tradeshows, or by creating early content for VR platforms) and it could also be used to as a service itself (seeing events in other cities) or as a platform to provide more immersion in movies or games. VR can also be used as a training tool to train employees or students in high-intensity, life-and-death situations. By immersing themselves in the situation they would be able to better prepare for the real thing.AR, while slightly less cool (in my opinion) than VR has a more practical use that I believe will be explored in 2017. AR can be used to provide information and context to users in their day to day life. Their smartphone can turn into a lense that when looked through provides the user with information about their surroundings, various buildings, comments from other people about their location, and information about other people using the same program. The possibilities are endless. AR could provide more context in day-to-day life while revolutionizing information services, providing a real-time portal with any information the user may need.These technologies will definitely have a spot in entertainment over the next few years (because they’re really cool) due to the success of Pokemon Go and the hype surrounding VR. It has been proven that these technologies (especially AR) can be easily understood and utilized by the masses (thanks in no small part to our mobile devices). It is only a matter of time before they begin to trickle into other industries. 2017 is the year, watch out for AR and VR at your workplace!
- Internet of Things
“Hasn’t the Internet of Things been trending for a few years now? I feel like all I hear about is how the latest, greatest device is now “smart” and can be connected to fully integrate everything in your life on one system. What do you think I’ve been under a rock for the last few years?”If that was your reaction to this section, I 100% understand. Smart objects have been around for a few years now. Instead of just recording information now many objects can “think” for themselves. The issue is not with the objects themselves, nor the ability for the devices they’re ultimately connected to to handle the data. The issue has always been around connecting the many different objects into an organized ecosystem, where the information works in harmony to provide the user with the most pleasant experience possible.With current technology this is not quite possible. Our machines are not quite smart enough to fully comprehend the world they live in. They still have flaws, more data will be tested and improvements will be made but all of that effort will be useless if a system to organize and use all the information these smart objects collect is not available.2017 is the year that the ecosystem design of the IoT will take place. Companies have already been working on creating an ecosystem but the work is not easy. There are gaps in the data, certain relationships are not yet understood and the development of “sentient tools” throws another variable in the equation however, we are rising to the challenge. The people working on these technologies see a world with ever-increasing AI abilities, a world where we understand more and more each day. They understand that for all our efforts creating a toilet that can tell you details about your nutrition after using it that a system will need to do something with all that data in order to make the data useful to us.There is great potential for cost and energy savings, better health information, better education and so many other potential benefits that can be provided by the internet of things. In 2017, the “mesh” that humanity has been working towards for so many years will take another step towards completion.
What do you think of the first 5? Do you think “As-a-service” economies have a place in 2017? Which of these technologies are you most excited about? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ #TrendsToWatch