If you think that 2016 caused an uproar in the political world, then 2017 promises to match this but in technology. The pace of change is accelerating at a dizzying rate with profound implications for the way we work, play and communicate. But what tech trends should we be looking out for this year?
Cybersecurity will undoubtedly be the dominant theme of 2017, all tech innovations could be undermined by data thefts, fraud and cyber propaganda. Hacking could break the internet and much more beside. As accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election continue to reverberate around the world, hackers – whether private or state-sponsored – would seem to be getting the upper hand. In November last year, hackers stole £2.5 million from 9,000 Tesco Bank customers in a raid that the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority described as ‘unprecedented’. The more connected the world becomes – think connected cars, smart homes, sensor-laden cities – the more opportunities for hackers to break into the system and wreak havoc.
The buzzword of 2016 was Al and it looks set to dominate 2017 as well, whether for better or worse, time will tell.
There are two views to the use of enabling machines to learn, adapt to new circumstances and make decisions for themselves, rather than simply obeying pre-programmed instructions or algorithms.
Pessimists envisage self-programming machines running amok in the workplace, breaking free of human control with potentially apocalyptic consequences. But optimists believe that applying a more restrictive, less autonomous form of the machine learning to the wealth of data we are now generating and storing in the cloud could help identify correlations and patterns that were impossible for humans to see before. As more devices and sensors become connected, we will learn even more about the world around us. This ability to make sense of all this data could help us cure disease, tackle climate change, grow food more efficiently and generally run our lives in a much smarter, more sustainable way, proponents believe.
Lots was made of customer service chatbots last year, sometimes described erroneously as AI in action, but most of these were actually pretty dumb, merely guessing the most likely answer to fit the question. Real AI, underpinned by natural language processing, neural networks and machine learning, will understand how humans think, talk, and categorise concepts, making it smarter and easier to interact with. The more people who use it, the more data it will have to learn from and the better it will become, so we are likely to see a proliferation of smarter virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and newcomers like Viv.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Pokemon Go showed us last year how augmented or mixed reality tech could take the gaming world by storm, however, 2017 is likely to see more businesses adopting the technology too.
Marketing opportunities are obvious, with companies such as BMW linking up with Accenture and Google Tango to create an app that lets customers visualise what various car models would look like in real world situations. Lots of other retailers will be using it to enhance their marketing.
There are plenty of industrial and educations applications too, with smart glasses and head up displays enabling workers to follow instructions, read manuals and navigate workplaces more efficiently.