2017 is finally upon us, and no New Year would be complete without a barrage of “tech predictions” from every media outlet, analyst, and talking head in the blogosphere (is that still a word?). From Gartner to Fortune, and even the Mirror, everyone is reading the tech tea leaves so they can be the ones that “called it.” Our own crystal ball is in the shop for repair, so instead of trying to make our own predictions, we’ve taken a page out of our Cloud Services Brokerage book and we’ve done what you might call a “prediction aggregation”: We’ve diligently studied every 2017 tech prediction article we could find over the past couple weeks in order to condense them all down to what we believe are the seven most important tech predictions for 2017. So, with no further ado, here are our picks for the Top 7 Tech Predictions for 2017.
- The rise of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – Machine learning has been subtly creeping its way into consumer products for a few years now, but 2016 was probably the first year it became “trendy.” Now, 2017 is looking like the year it goes from being just a buzz word to being a critically important and widespread technology. When people think of AI, they probably think of Hollywood movies or something like IBM’s Watson. While IBM has and continues to contribute an immense amount of knowledge to the AI sector (Hollywood, not so much), these days modern AI/MI innovation is also being heavily driven by use cases like self-driving cars and big data analytics. By harnessing the immense power of Artificial Neural Networks, AI/MI-powered software is finally quite good at a couple things that, previously, had only been mastered by human minds: pattern recognition, and predicting. The use cases for AI/MI enabled software are varied and range from life-saving to completely trivial. On one hand, we have ‘smart’ electric cars that can predict accidents split seconds before they happen, and on the other hand, we have Netflix which always seems to be able to read our minds with its machine-learning powered suggestions. In 2017, expect to see many more applications and consumer products adopting some sort of machine-learning or AI capabilities. And if you’re one of many that received an Amazon Alexa for Christmas, you may be wondering when it will become self-aware and take over the world, a la Skynet. Thankfully, our tea leaves indicate that the robot apocalypse is at least a few years out.
- Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality Products Become Common – 2016 was the first year that Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) products became popular with consumers, and 2017 will see the importance of these so-called “immersive technologies” grow significantly. VR was thrust into the media spotlight in 2016 primarily due to the release of the Oculus Rift headset in March. Augmented Reality saw its first major hit with the Pokemon Go phenomenon, which as many remember, was virtually inescapable for a few months. Now, Microsoft is working on its own VR headset while Google has a very rudimentary but surprisingly engaging AR app that requires nothing but a folded cardboard cutout and a smartphone. Currently, most of the popular VR/AR apps seem like nothing more than toys, but the potential is immense: we could have headsets that instantly show factory workers the location of malfunctioning equipment, or embedded screens in Ambulances that use AR overlays to improve response times to emergency situations. Marketers will catch on quickly, as they do, and so analysts also predict a surge of AR and VR-powered marketing campaigns from many major companies.
- Blockchain Goes Beyond Bitcoin – If you followed tech media last year, you probably heard a lot about Blockchain. However, despite all the buzz, most of us still have only the faintest idea of what blockchain is (other than being “that thing” Bitcoin used that let shady people buy drugs on the internet). In actuality, blockchain is just a special type of “distributed ledger.” Gartner defines distributed ledgers as: “an expanding list of cryptographically signed, irrevocable transactional records shared by all participants in a network. Each record contains a timestamp and reference links to the previous transactions. With this information, anyone with access rights can trace back a transactional event, at any point in its history, belonging to any participant”. Basically: its a very secure and efficient form of transactional “record keeping” that doesn’t require constant back-and-forth communication with a central server. Sectors like medical, financial, and government (which all deal heavily with contracts and require top-notch security) are expected to adopt, or at least investigate, Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies in 2017. Though so far Bitcoin is the only proven blockchain application, expect that to change in 2017.
- Mesh App / Service Architecture Takes over the Software World – Analysts predict that 2017 will be the year that Mesh App Service Architecture (abbreviated as MASA) will move from the early adoption stage to being widely implemented. It can be hard for non-programmers to wrap their heads around MASA as it is not really a specific technology, but rather a set of evolving best practices and techniques that ensure interoperability and scalability when building applications in the cloud. Many may have heard about MASA without realizing it in the form of “Microservices”, but the slightly less buzzy “Mini services” are also a big component. Instead of building applications the 1990’s way as single, enormous, monolithic blocks of code, coders break them apart into “mini service” which are shared and reusable blocks of code with a focused purpose and which typically have public APIs to support reuse. “Microservices” take this concept to a slightly lower level and reduce the scope of their associated code blocks to a specific feature or function but don’t typically have public-facing APIs. Mini services focus on composition and reuse while microservices focus on agility and scalability. Companies that adopt these software architecture styles sooner than later will have an enormous advantage in the coming year as more development and app hosting continues to move to the cloud
- Intelligent Things / Apps – Intelligent Apps / Things are not possible without AI/MI, so in a way, this is just an extension of our first prediction, but it deserves its own section because it will see huge growth in the coming year. “Intelligent” in this context refers to something with a variety of sensors and associated machine learning capabilities that let it respond to, and interact with, a changing physical environment. The most well-known examples of intelligent things are Robots, Self-driving vehicles, and Drones (even your Roomba is ‘intelligent’ despite its best attempts to convince you otherwise). This Christmas has already brought virtual home assistants like Google Home to many households, but In 2017 expect to see even more adoption of intelligent things like smart appliances and even tools, as well as the continuing development of intelligent apps like virtual customer assistants and smart advisors.
- Adaptive Security Architecture will Dominate Cybersecurity – Best practices for cybersecurity have shifted pretty significantly over the past decade. In the past, most cybersecurity efforts were focused on preventing attacks. Nowadays, the increasing sophistication of attack tools, increasing use of open APIs, and increasing use of cloud services means that attacks will be, more or less, inevitable. Though prevention still has its place, what’s even more critical is the speed at which companies can respond to inevitable attacks. Leveraging the power of machine learning and big data, early advances in Adaptive Security Architecture have enabled new security approaches that range from analyzing the download patterns of users on networks to detect potentially compromised machines, to smart firewalls that will respond to in-progress DDOS attacks with ad-hoc rule changes.
- The dominance of Digital Business Ecosystems – Like MASA, this prediction is not really a specific technology or product, but rather, an immense shift in the way companies are doing business and planning for the future. A Digital Business Ecosystem can refer to anything from the iPhone or Fitbit app stores, to the Netflix catalog, to Craigslist. Basically, they are digital-only platforms where business “happens.” Whereas the past couple decades saw large companies mostly taking old analog products and trying to tweak or adapt them to a digital world, the new dominant paradigm of the Digital Business Ecosystem means companies are starting to develop new products primarily (or exclusively) for these ecosystems. In the past, banks may have considered a mobile banking app as an afterthought: nice to have, but not critical. In the modern world of Digital Business Ecosystems, banks may literally use an app instead of building physical locations (which sounds great until you realize that banking apps can’t provide free candy and ballpoint pens, which if we’re being honest, is the only reason we actually go to the bank).
These were our choices for the most important tech predictions after sifting through the hundreds of articles and predictions made over the past couple months. Though we believe our Top 7 picks are enough to give you a good handle on the many transformations expected in the coming year, we obviously couldn’t include everything. If you’re interested in getting more in-depth or seeing the predictions that didn’t make the cut, we’ve included links to the best articles and references for 2017 tech predictions (a list of lists, if you will) at the bottom of this page. As we head into 2017, the team at DoubleHorn would like to thank you for continuing to trust us with all your cloud and communications needs, and we’d like to wish you and your family a Happy New Year!