Technology is evolving sometimes at an overwhelming pace, that is a secret to no one. But so is our everyday life, be it big new realities such as Brexit or a new president in the USA, or day to day life where we are bombarded with thousands of advertisements or non-stop news, twitter, and the buzz of modern life in a connected world, as Black Mirror reflects in its third season just released three weeks ago.
Think of the disruptive technologies and the new paradigm where Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT) are becoming the norm and are getting on the mainstream media every day. They are now becoming a big part of the IT business, in which corporations will spend in 2017 a volume of 3,5 trillion dollars, according to market research firm Gartner.
Despite all the buzz generated by the latest MacBook Pro model, the future will be dominated by software vs the many hardware devices that we all have (laptop, smartphone, tablet, a GPS to run, health wristbands and other wearables…).
Here´s a recap on the 2017 tech trends:
Virtual Assistants: Apple´s Siri (2011), Google Now (2012), Microsoft´s Cortana (2014) or Amazon´s Alexa (2014) have been with us for a while, yet the mainstream use of these virtual assistants is to be seen. This category is going to experience a massive growth for 2017. Siri opened its code to external developers earlier this year, so more uses for this one and for Cortana are expected to come in the near future. Amazon has just launched its Echo Dot, a voice controlled personal assistant to be used at home to play music, set up your alarm, help you with your shopping or even order an Uber.
Internet of Things (IoT): these are devices connected (smart devices) to the internet such as drones, printers, webcams, your toothbrush, or remote health monitoring, and many more, that are able to send and receive data. The biggest cyber attack of the decade happened just 3 weeks ago by hijacking “smart” devices. Not only the tech industry needs to tackle the security issues of the IoT, but regulators, and this is the biggest challenge they face right now.
On the other hand, from next year these devices will be able to “talk” to each other, and therefore provide a better service. For instance, Manchester City Council was funded with £10 million by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for its programme to develop a smart city, connecting its health, transport, service and environment with 20 kinds of sensors. IoT market is expected to grow 4 times its actual size to reach $661 billion by 2021.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning: over 30 years after Blade Runner and just 15 after Spielberg´s Artificial Intelligence, AI is now a reality, with machines, robots, drones, and many other forms of smart devices. Tech giants as Microsoft or Google are already using AI in their Cloud solutions, and it is expected to be used by smaller companies in the near future. AI business will grow exponentially (+10 times, according to Market and Markets) in 5 years to total more than 5 billion by 2020.
Virtual/Augmented Reality: Pokémon Go has been the hype since it was released earlier this summer, and made Nintendo´s shares skyrocket. By mixing AR and the actual world, this game-changing app made our kids (and not only young folks) to get moving and play out of their rooms, helping the digital natives to exercise (though still attached to a screen), and to boost marketing actions by small businesses or big corporations. Niantic´s game is evolving every week with new features, to keep players engaged. The latest one is that you can compete with your friends.
Augmented Reality is a term first used at the beginning of the nineties by a Boeing (company celebrating its centenary this year) researcher. For the next two decades it was mainly used by researchers at universities, with not many specific applications. It wasn’t until three years ago when Google released its Google Glasses that AR became a buzzword meant to be known and used by the mainstream public. The problem was the price (making it difficult for the masses to buy them) and mainly the uses the device allows, at least at the early stages of its commercialization. Samsung Gear VR is now available to buy for less than £50, and Facebook (who bought Oculus VR for $2billion in 2014, the company developing the Oculus Rift) are working hard to help AR to be a mainstream thing, and offer immersive experiences to the mass consumption society. Right now it is possible to “view” a house or “drive” a car even if they are not built yet. Or bring simpler activities to a new level, such as play video-games, or see how an H&M outfit fits you, and even sit in a front row show in Paris Fashion Week from your living room coach.
Major advances are expected for 2017, as AR/VR business will grow from $5 billion this year to +$160 billion in 2020, according to IDC (International Data Corporation).
Bots/Conversational Systems: interacting with apps (either writing or speaking to devices as Amazon´s Echo Dot) will find new ways of a two-way conversation, using bots. A bot can be a quite complex AI based machine able to understand almost anything, or just a simple device “understanding” predetermined commands (think of how we have been using Google daily since 1998). All the big players (Google, Facebook, Microsoft) are working on different bots with multiple purposes, which will replace the use of apps (there are over 4 million apps, but how many do we use regularly?). In China, more than 700 million people can book a taxi or a flight, play games or buy a concert ticket talking to a bot using Weixin (chinese name for WeChat app).
Digital Twins: still a bit early for these, but a digital twin is a combination of AI, IoT, AR/VR. Again, coming black to Charlie Brooker´s Black Mirror, it´s been almost 4 years since the first episode of the second season “Be right back” was aired, where a woman who just lost her husband is able not only to talk to “him”, but purchase a replica built from his social media and internet data. Scary? Wait and see…