Top 7 Tech Trends for 2017
By: Luther Andal | December 16, 2016
At the beginning of each year it is helpful to look behind and see what was accomplished and what trends there were. It is also helpful to look ahead and try to forecast what trends will continue and which new ones will likely emerge.
As I evaluated 2016 and began to forecast into next year, I put together the following list of trends I have identified for 2017. I selected a few of the major themes from my analysis and put together the list that I wanted to share with you:
The launch of Siri in the iPhone 4s more than 5 years ago started a voice control revolution. Android phones followed with voice shortly after. Microsoft added Cortana to its phones, computers and xbox gaming device. Amazon Echo launched a couple of years ago and now more than 5 million have been sold. Google Home, an Amazon Echo competitor, launched in November of 2016. At CES 2017 voice control was everywhere, especially in cars with manufacturers in a race to voice control in some models in 2017 and as an option in the majority of their vehicles or the next couple of years. Voice control will continue to expand and grow and improve and over time will become a defacto standard in our everyday lives.
Internet of Things (IoT) and The Cloud
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a topic of a lot of hype and conversation for the last 5 years. That hype has now started to become reality. The Amazon Echo is one of the best known examples of IoT. The Echo is a device that you place in your home that connects to your wireless network and allows voice control of many different features such as grocery lists, to-do lists, timers, searches, home automation devices, etc. It is estimated that Amazon has now sold well over 5 million Amazon Echoes over the last 2 years and sales are growing at a high rate. Another popular IoT device is Tile, a very small bluetooth device that can be attached to keys or other valuables so that they can be found if lost using a mobile app. Other common IoT devices range from health and wellness like Fitbits and other health trackers to pet trackers to smart home devices to children’s toys, etc. In 2017 expect to see a huge growth in IoT devices, many of which we already use and many more that will be announced and sold this year. IoT will continue to move into our homes, work and daily lives in 2017.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
For decades science fiction authors have written about artificial intelligence (AI). The examples in sci-fi have ranged from machines that could take voice commands to friendly robots that would walk, talk and interact with their human counterparts to doomsday scenarios where AI robots would take over the world and destroy humanity in the process. While many of these examples are still far fetched if not flat out implausible a number of them are becoming reality right before our very eyes. While we don’t expect to have walking, talking robot assistants anytime soon we can look around us and see AI begin to have an impact on our daily lives. Over 5 million Amazon Echo’s have been sold meaning millions of households already have an AI device in their house. The device is able to understand voice controls and interact with the homeowner. Google has followed with Google Home has now launched and will bring another AI option for the home. Amazon Alexa, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Skype and others are available or will be available shortly allowing you to conversationally chat with a bot much like you would a human to book a flight, order a pizza or order an Uber driver. Smartech devices like the Nest which learns your temperature behavior and adjusts temperatures according to your behavior. Driverless cars are another area that AI is making a huge impact. Tesla already has AutoPilot that allows for monitored driverless driving by their cars and has announced that 2 of their cars in current production and one that is nearing production will include all the necessary hardware (cameras, radar, sensors, etc,) and software to be fully driverless once the software validation is complete and there is regulatory approval though there is no timetable for either to be complete. CES 2017 has AI in devices from toothbrushes to ratchets to smoke detectors to windows/blinds and on and on. AI is just starting to emerge and it will continue to adapt, evolve and grow into 2017 and beyond and will be one of the technologies that will have the greatest impact in our lives over our lifetime.
Machine Learning using Big Data
Big Data has been a big topic of discussion over the last 5-6 years. We are in the middle of the Big Data era. Up until now the focus has been mainly on how to capture it, what to do with it and how to use it. It was evident early on that it would be impossible for humans to manually parse the enormous data sets. This meant that computers had to analyze the huge data sets but because the data set is so large it is still very hard for humans to know or even test all the different hypothesis they may have. Thus the necessity for machines to analyze data and learn i.e. machine learning. A bunch of computers are programmed to analyze the immense data sets and learn from the data analyzing it for correlations, relationships, patterns, etc. The hope is to be able to make reasonably accurate predictions based upon the knowledge learned from the big data set. This is essentially finding “gold” hidden in big data. Machine learning is already implemented by many companies and most of us have already used it without even realizing it. When Amazon makes recommendations for you it is employing machine learning on big data sets to show you other items you may like, other items that people ended up purchasing after viewing the item you are viewing, etc. Language processing is another type of machine learning. Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa are two of the best examples of language processing. Both are powered by machine learning algorithms that have parsed huge data sets and learned how to process language and parse spoken verbal commands into actual computer commands. This is possible because of learning against a huge data set of verbal commands and also by learning in near real-time as new commands are spoken. Driverless cars are another example of machine learning as algorithms have been developed to parse through huge data sets to simulate various scenarios and test the algorithms and for them to learn from them. The data sets are ever growing as new data is added in real-time as the driverless cars drive and encounter new data that is processed and learned from. Machine learning will continue to grow in 2017 and beyond and eventually will affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Tesla debuted their AutoPilot in October of 2015 and since then Driverless cars have been a huge topic of discussion. Telsa announced in October of 2016 that all car models including the yet to be launched Model 3 will have the senors and software for self driving though the capability will not be enabled until the software is ready and regulatory legislation for self driving cars is passed. Tesla Autopilot has now driven over 1.3 billion miles. Google’s self driving cars have driven over 2 million miles fully self driving. Uber deployed self driving cars in Pittsburgh and San Francisco at the end of 2016. All major car manufacturers have announced self driving car initiatives with delivery dates ranging from 2018 to 2021. Many experts expect that legislation will be ready by 2021 for fully autonomous cars to be legally used for the first time. Another analysis forecasts that autonomous vehicles will be on the road by 2025. Self driving cars are here already in early stages with Tesla Autopilot and other assisted driving already available in models on the road. In 2017 we will see self driving cars gain momentum many of the large manufacturers offering assisted driving like Autopilot and also announcing their schedules for delivery of the first next generation self driving level 3 and 4 cars with the ultimate delivery of level 5 which is fully autonomous vehicles within 5-8 years. Self driving cars are no longer a sci-fi tales of future societies they are becoming more and more reality everyday and that trend will pick up steam in 2017 and beyond.
Virtual & Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) is defined by Wikipedia as “the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.” The Oculus Rift which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 and launched in March of 2016. HTC, Sony, Google and others have launched competitors to the Oculus Rift. Video gamers have been the largest early adopter of the Oculus Rift and other VR headsets but industries like healthcare, automotive, military and others are also beginning to use VR to replace real world tasks or to prepare for them. VR became reality in 2016, that reality will continue to grow throughout 2017 and into the future.
Augmented Reality (AR) is defined by Wikipedia as “a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” The most popular example of AR is a game, Pokemon Go where players go around and catch virtual Pokemon that they can see on physical maps. The physical map is augmented with virtual characters. A more practical example is Microsoft’s HoloLens project which is a headset with a pair of glasses that allow you to view the physical world with virtual elements that HoloLens adds using the glasses so they appear as 3 dimensional. A University is using HoloLens to teach anatomy by overlaying 3 dimensional virtual objects over real world physical objects. A construction company is using HoloLens during the design process. Like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality also became a reality in 2016 and it will continue to grow and expand into the future.
Productivity exploded during the computer age. Automation has been a huge part of the productivity explosion. During the last 4 decades of the computer revolution automation has largely been relegated to simple, routine, repeatable tasks. We all know of examples of these tasks being automated for instance in manufacturing. Auto manufacturing That is changing with Artificial Intelligence (AI) growing in capabilities and complexity it has allowed automation of ever more complex tasks. For instance driverless cars have become reality in the last 18 months and are expected to grow dramatically in capabilities and popularity over next 5-8 years. The ultimate goal is for a fully autonomous vehicle by 2021. Tesla, Google, Uber, the major car companies, etc. are all investing heavily in self driving cars and it is only a matter of time before the early driver assisted versions become fully automated.
Chatbots were launched by Facebook, Whatsapp, Microsoft, Slack and others that allow customers to “chat” with a Company using AI to execute tasks with no human interaction at all such as ordering a pizza, requesting an Uber driver, booking plane tickets, checking reservations, etc.
Another area of growth for automation is the home. Home automation has grown dramatically over the last few years and is expected to continue to grow throughout 2017. From robotic vacuum cleaners to lawn mowers to security systems to thermostats to lighting to smart appliances and more homes will become more and more automated over the next decade.
Automation has already had a massive impact on routine tasks the last 4 decades and now it is expanding into more and more industries. In 2017 AI based automation will begin to impact us on a daily basis and that trend will continue far into the foreseeable future.
We’d love to hear from you. What trends do you see in 2017?