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2017 - Looking into the tech crystal ball

Along with Christmas jumpers and tinsel, December also brings with it an inbox influx of industry predictions for the coming year. We have sifted through some of the best and come up with our favourite predictions for 2017.

TakeawAI
This year will see some of last year’s tech highlights entering our homes and becoming more engrained in our daily routines.

Amazon Echo and Alexa are already taking on some of the light work at home, but with Google and Amazon also bringing more AI services to their Cloud based offerings, this trend is set to continue. It isn’t just the market giants who are playing with AI. Startups like Gogobot are also incorporating AI into their new apps and products. Markets and Markets estimates the AI market will grow from $420m in 2014 to $5.05bn by 2020.

Accessible to eVRyone
Virtual reality is also now no longer just the domain of the computer geek with the highest spec machine. This year saw 16.5 million VR headsets sold and over 500m Pokemon Go downloads – VR has clearly reached the mass market and is here to stay. The fact that most VR headsets were purchased even before compatible content existed shows how keen consumers are to adopt this new tech. This bucks the trend of software spend increasing whilst hardware spend goes down.

Questioning digital decisions
The move towards AI will also make old algorithms seem clunky and outdated, as consumers expect more and forgive less. An example is Facebook’s algorithms that choose the adverts you are shown based on your demographics. This can often go very wrong. Not all women announcing their engagement want to be targeted by weight loss adverts, or be offered pregnancy tests as soon as they change their status to ‘Married’. Nesta agrees that “Scepticism about digital decision making will gather pace in 2017.” Gartner goes further, and predicts that the solution will come from a “move beyond traditional rule-based algorithms to create systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously.”

Millennials transform media
With over 86 million Netflix users, millennials will continue to bring change in the way that traditional media is delivered. Modern consumers expect their chosen shows to be streamed and available anytime, anywhere. GP Bullhound estimate that 20% of video content is viewed on mobile devices. With an existing $30bn market value, this can only rise. One can also assume that streaming and video content will continue to adapt for wearables and possibly even leap on the opportunity given to them by driverless cars. What better way to pass a journey than catching up on your favourite drama series – not something that a driver can currently do.

Digital twins
2017 will bring with it the ability to be in two places at the same time. Amazon drone deliveries, driverless vehicles and chefs – all of these already make it possible to free up your own time up by delegating to autonomous machines. But, according to Gartner, another major trend for 2017 are ‘Digital Twins’. The result of combing IoT, AI and VR/AR, Digital twins are a pairing of digital data to a physical object. Pioneered by NASA for controlling faraway systems, Digital twins will be how people interact with the real devices floating around the real world. Imagine robot surgeons or bomb disposal bots – the twin is a proxy of the real world skilled individual combined with digital monitoring, physics and sensor data. The technology will be dynamic, learning and also interactive.

Blockchain
Bitcoin was tipped as a big thing for 2016, but the underlying technology (Blockchain) will emerge as the real winner. Blockchain is a way to distribute a live database across many computers all over the world, and it can be used to keep track of more than just Bitcoin. Market Reports Hub estimates the global blockchain technology market will grow from $210.2m in 2016 to $2.3bn by 2021 thanks to its other possible applications.

Move over EUnicorns
2017 will see the advent of European ‘Decacorns’ – companies valued in excess of $10bn. GP Bullhound predict Spotify and Hellofresh to be the next in 2017. Bloomberg, however, encourages some healthy scepticism to develop as these new ‘Decacorns’ emerge: “It’s a made-up word based on a creature that doesn’t exist.” The same article describes how investors and founders reach such enormous valuations through some very loose calculations. Here’s the equation they came up with:

Valuation = (“founders hopes and dreams” X “how fast a company’s actually growing”) – (“downside protection” X “investor ‘fear of missing out”)

Best taken with a pinch of NaCl.

Asking more from our AI
As AI, and in particular virtual assistants take off, consumers will be looking for more conversational input from their devices in a move away from straightforward commands. Larger companies like Oracle are already investing more in chatbots to help make interaction feel a little more ‘friendly’.

That’s it for our predictions for 2017 – it was so much easier when all we were waiting for were self-tying sneakers and hoverboards.

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