Tomorrow's world: from learning machines to self-aware cars.

One thing is for certain; technology never stands still.  Next year promises more exciting innovations and trends that will change how we go about our daily lives. Here's out tips for 2017 technology trends.

Machine learning & AI
Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence will be the next big markets to play for in 2017, according to Gartner.  These are made up of technologies such as deep learning, neural networks and natural-language processing (NLP).  Applied AI and advanced machine learning will create a host of intelligent implementations such as robots and autonomous vehicles as well as virtual personal assistants (VPAs).

Intel, for example, is designing microchips specifically for use in neural networks. During 2016, it acquired various AI start-ups including Nervana (deep learning), Movidius (machine vision), Saffron (cognitive computing). Meanwhile, Google has developed Quick Draw doodle game based on a neutral network which can guess what you are drawing from your doodles.   The tech giant is also pushing AI into the cloud and using machine learning to teach AI networks how they can improve themselves.

Smart contracts built with blockchain

A blockchain is a public register of Bitcoin transactions. Its allure is the ability to create a digital transactions ledger and share it among a distributed network. Forrester believes that after research into dependable and robust autonomous financial transactions, we will see the first prototypes of smart contracts that support specific IoT processes, such as validating an automotive contract in real time.

Augmented and virtual reality

The popularity of augmented reality (AR) games such as Pokemon Go are driving AR into the mainstream.  AR blends virtual reality and real life. Gartner predicts that one in five global retail brands will use AR to enhance the shopping process, resulting in much higher customer engagement next year. IDC expects AR/VR to reach mass adoption levels by 2021.

At the same time, virtual reality is finally coming of age. VR has a wide range of uses from entertainment through to healthcare. Excedrin in the US, for example, uses VR to simulate the difficult visual symptoms associated with migraines.  CCS Insight forecasts that more than 12 million virtual reality headsets will be sold in 2017, with sales of augmented reality smart glasses expected to be worth $1.2 billion. 

IoT becomes real

IoT will lose its novelty status and start making its mark as chip makers go into overdrive to embed sensors in devices. According to Nucleus Research, IoT has grown out of its ‘shiny object syndrome’. Enterprises are now starting to look at it like any core enterprise application and considering how it can impact the bottom line. 

The technologies that IoT requires - fast and reliable wireless connections, cloud computing to process big data and low energy, powerful chips - are all here.  Next comes the devices. By the second half of next year, we will start to see the fruit of IoT designers’ labors arriving in stores, according to Morgan Stanley Research.  These will include drones, smart assistants and remote medical devices.

Virtual assistants get a promotion

Intelligent apps such as virtual personal assistants (VPAs) will provide the convenience we crave from technology.  They will start to transform the workplace, taking over everyday tasks such as prioritizing email. But it isn’t just about VPAs.  Gartner expects every existing category of software to start exploiting intelligent apps with AI capabilities, from security tools to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

Mobile banking

By 2021, up to 2 billion people will use their mobile device for banking, estimates Juniper Research. As mobile banking becomes the most common way of dealing with financial matters, the industry is beginning to open up to outside competition. Orange, for instance, is launching a mobile-only bank in France in 2017.  Further disruption is set to follow: the EU Payment Services Directive 2 mandates that banks will have to release APIs so that regulated ‘third party payment providers’ (TPPs), with user permission, can access bank accounts.

Self-driving cars arrive ahead of time

Self-drive cars will hit the forecourt.  Audi, for example, has said it will put its first driverless car on sale in 2017.  The Audi A8 will be able to drive itself in certain situations, but will still require a driver behind the wheel.  Meanwhile, Volvo plans to put 100 self-drive cars on public roads in Sweden, allowing drivers to mix autonomous and active driving.

Cyber threats to the President

Cybersecurity will be a major issue.  Forrester believes that targeted espionage, ransomware, denial of service and privacy breaches will grow in 2017.  Forrester has gone as far as predicting that within 100 days, the new president of the US will be faced with a major cyber crisis.

And the threats are only going to get bigger in size and number - and more diverse. The  Threat Horizon 2017 report by the Information Security Forum (ISF) predicts that over the next two years we will see cyberthreats intensify globally.  Data leaks from exposed IoT devices, rogue governments utilizing terrorist groups to carry out cyberattacks and the increased use of algorithms to operate and make decisions for critical systems, such as industrial controls, are the top three security risks for next year the ISF has outlined for 2017.   At the same time, enterprises must deal with a big data explosion, primarily down to IoT, increased regulation and a security skills shortage.

To find out more about the fast growing world of the Internet of Things click here.  Read more about thinking machines: business opportunity or threat to humanity here