Tech predictions for 2017
Full steam ahead
Tech innovation is a long process. Concepts such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the internet of things have appeared in science fiction since the early 20th century, with early prototypes and developments appearing from the 1980s.
2016, though, was the year these innovations fully entered the public consciousness, with tangible products available to purchase at increasingly affordable prices. We think this trend is set to continue, with even more developments in 2017 making tech accessible and mainstream in 2017.
While nobody knows for sure exactly what’s going to happen (except the big brand bosses), we have a few predictions for how tech is going to pan out in 2017. Keep reading for our inklings on innovation…
According to market intelligence firm, Tractica, the AI market was worth $644 million in 2016, and that figure is expected to double in 2017. Looks like it’s going to be a big year for AI.
In September 2016, the Amazon Echo launched in the UK, bringing AI into our homes. With its voice-controlled system, Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ can control your lights, play music, link to your central heating, and even answer your questions. Shortly after, Google launched their own offering: Google Home. At around £150 each, these items are expensive but not unaffordable. However, we think the likes of Google and Amazon still have work to do to help consumers understand the usefulness and value of these products – they’re still new and cutting edge. Perhaps PR could help…
Our biggest prediction for AI is more of a wish: we want to see more public education about the uses of AI, and its social implications. At the moment, there’s a lot of misinformation around and a pervasive fear that robots are going to ‘steal our jobs’ when AI is applied to business. This is simply untrue. In reality, allowing AI to automate process-driven tasks, this frees up employees to tackle the more complex tasks that computers can’t do.
Robots needn’t be scary, but a blinding fear of tech is a very dangerous thing indeed.
VR headsets were one of the hottest Christmas gifts of 2016, starting a trend likely to continue into 2017. Most popular at the moment are the ‘smartphone headsets’, that power a VR experience through a user’s mobile. However, we’re predicting that standalone VR headsets will become more affordable as international competitors figure out how to recreate the tech.
We also predict that 2017 will see a shift in how VR is used. Since it’s new and exciting tech, the most common use of VR at the moment is entertainment or marketing gimmicks. As we become more comfortable with the potential of VR, we anticipate that its application will become more ‘useful’.
Though they’ve been tested in the past, we reckon 2017 will be the year that VR showrooms will really take off. Car showrooms could become obsolete, as you simply pop on a VR headset to experience the interior. It would even allow customers to preview customisation options in VR before making a buying decision. Travel agents could also benefit from the selling power of VR, allowing customers to take a look around their dream holiday destination before they take the plunge and book.
We’re particularly excited to see more developments on the application of VR in health-tech. Some medical organisations have started testing the use of VR as a training facility, allowing medics to watch surgeries as if they’re in the room and practice, as well as putting them in tricky simulations. Doctors have even used Google Cardboard to map out a tricky operation that they couldn’t envision otherwise. This is really cutting edge tech, with the potential to make a huge impact on real lives, and the health industry as a whole.
Internet of things
CES 2017 has already given us a glimpse of what’s to come in IOT this year. The range and variety of ‘connected’ objects are growing, and it doesn’t look like this trend will slow down anytime soon.
At this year’s CES, we saw a few items that made us ask ‘did that really need to be connected’? The IOT hairbrush is a notable example. We think there’s a slight danger that consumers could suffer from IOT fatigue. Just because we can connect almost any object to the internet of things, that doesn’t mean we should.
One IOT area that we do think has room for development is pet-tech. We’re a nation of animal lovers, with 46% of UK households now owning a pet. Not only that, but we’re also massive softies: most of us would go the extra mile for our furry friends. A tracking collar that links to your smartphone could soon be an essential for every adventurous pup and their owner, not to mention the ball with a webcam inside, so you can check up on your pooch while you’re out.
For those with pedigree animals, we think IOT monitoring systems will soon become a common way of keeping a more detailed watch on your pets. We anticipate they’ll link to food and water bowls, and include sensors for heart rate and sleep.
Blockchain tech is most commonly associated with bitcoin: the digital currency relies on the blockchain ledger to record the transactions. Blockchain’s potential goes a lot further, however, and we think 2017 will be the year it really comes into its own.
A number of major European banks are exploring the possibility of partnering to create a blockchain-based financial platform in 2017. The service would provide a secure ledger to manage trade transactions for international commerce.
In terms of other applications, we think 2017 will be the year we start to see blockchain as a mainstream option for sending and receiving smart contracts, verifying identity, and confirming data. The latter may even prove to be a popular option with journalist looking to verify sources of information.
According to recent reports, Nissan has been granted permission to start testing driverless cars in London early this year. What previously sounded like a science fiction fantasy is soon to become a reality.
While developments are set to continue throughout 2017, we think it’ll take a while before automated vehicles become the norm. The matter of automation raises questions about whether consumers are in fact drivers or passengers. Experts believe that once these cars become commonplace, we won’t be as bothered about the idea of owning a car. We’re more likely to rent them, like an Uber, to take us where we need to go while we relax in the back.
While convenient, more economical, and environmentally friendly, it will face resistance from those who genuinely enjoy driving and have an interest in cars. Perhaps we’ll see traditional cars becoming more of a hobby or sporting item, but a change that big will take a long time to come about.
Only time will tell
Whether we’re right or wrong, we’re confident 2017 will be an incredible year for tech. We’re sure there will be some impressive developments that were impossible to predict, and we can’t wait to see them!