The tech sector is easily the fastest evolving business domain at present. In a US survey conducted earlier this year (by PwC), nearly 46% of all CEOs of tech companies stated that they had ventured into at least one new industry in the last three years. What’s more, 78% of the respondents expressed their concern at the sheer pace of technological development and innovation in their respective sectors. 2016 has indeed been a big year in terms of technological advancements, with many ‘new’ solutions being implemented by businesses. We will here look forward to some technologies that are likely to dominate in 2017:
AI-powered ‘Intelligent Agents’
Artificial Intelligence (AI) should arrive in a big way by next year. It has been projected that, within the next five years, ‘intelligent agents’ powered by AI will replace almost 6% manual jobs in the United States alone. The cognitive technology solutions will have the capability to interact with users, interpret requests and commands, and have decision-making abilities. Many processes, which are manually done till now, will be automated with these software agents working on the basis of intuitive artificial intelligence.
Move towards ‘Open Development’
Software and mobile app developers will gradually move towards open and agile development practices in the next few quarters. An ecosystem will be established where all important data, information and metrics will be easily searchable and accessible. In addition, open development will also make it easier than ever for developers to exchange feedback and opinions, leading to a qualitative improvement in the final versions of new software.
Note: Open development will probably not have a strong presence in the domain of enterprise applications. Less than 3% of such apps have horizontal scaling properties at present, and it will take some more time before open development becomes practically viable for them.
3. ‘Internet of Things’ at the fore
Connectivity will be the name of the game in 2017 and beyond, and Internet of Things (IoT) should witness big spurts in growth. According to a Statista report, the number of connected devices reached a whopping 22.9 million this year, and the figure is all set to touch 50 million by the turn of the decade. From mobile phones and tablets, to smart home appliances, automobiles and business IT systems, IoT will offer a seamless connectivity option across the board, paving the way for enhanced efficiency. Industry 4.0 is here to stay!
4. Growth of the ‘mobile internet’
4 out of every 10 person in the world has ready access to the World Wide Web at present – a far cry from 1995, when only 1% of the entire world population had internet connection. Of the 3.7 billion-plus individuals having internet access, well over 2 billion users use mobile devices to browse the web. The global penetration of mobile internet will increase further next year, with smartphone shipments projected to sustain its high levels. The year-on-year growth rate of mobile internet users should hover around the 2% mark, till 2021.
5. Increased focus on ‘Webscale IT’
No matter how big or organized an enterprise IT setup is, it cannot quite match up with the services provided by the biggest cloud service suppliers (read: Google, Amazon). 2017 should witness significant adoption of ‘webscale IT’ in business systems – a breakthrough architectural approach that will enable managers to avail high-end cloud services within their enterprise setting. The increased emphasis on open philosophies for development will complement the implementation of the ‘webscale’ approach.
6. Short-range networks to dominate in IoT
Wide-area networks have their own advantages, but they won’t be the first choice in the Internet of Things architecture. Forget 2017, the short-range networks (which are, obviously, of lower power) will be way more popular for wireless connectivity in IoT, right till 2025. Existing cellular networks – which are not always suited for optimal battery, bandwidth and cost-effective performance – will gradually be revamped. Both short-range as well as wide-area networks will focus on delivering high connection density levels.
7. ‘Blockchain technologies’ to find greater usage
The blockchain distributed database architecture is far from being a ‘new’ thing. The setup, which underlies the system of ‘bitcoins’ and follows the ‘Merkle Tree structure’, was applied for the first time in 2009. However, implementation of ‘Blockchain technologies’ has been relatively limited to date – and 2017 might well be the year when it finally starts to register high user-adoption rates. Copyright management and royalty collection are two activities for which blockchain database models are already being tested by leading companies and authorities.
8. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
For all the hype over virtual reality in 2016, this was largely a year of ‘learning’ – what exactly virtual reality is, and the nature and functionalities of VR hardware and software. The widespread acceptance of tools like Google Cardboard and Oculus (acquired by Facebook in 2014) has fueled interest in virtual reality – and together with augmented reality, it is set to become a $150 billion industry by 2020. Close to 800 VR companies will be present across the world – a remarkable 15-times increase over the number present in 2005. In 2016, the VR industry registered a 200%+ year-on-year growth.
Note: At this point, it is important to understand the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality. The former offers an immersive experience to users, by recreating environments with the help of computer simulations. AR, on the other hand, builds on the existing reality with cyber-generated layers – to enhance interactivity with the surroundings.
More investment on ‘IoT security’
With every new significant technological innovation comes security-related risks, and Internet of Things is no exception. As interest in, and implementation of, IoT grows, there is likely to be a surge in the number of online ransomware attacks and probable cybercrimes. That, in turn, puts the focus squarely on IoT security professionals. There is a dearth of skilled manpower in this context, and as cross-device connectivity becomes more and more important, companies will be forced to invest more on security maintenance and threat-avoidance.
Rise of the APIs
To be fair, application program interfaces (APIs) have been growing at a fairly rapid clip for some time now. Around 40 new APIs are added every week by developers, and the total count of APIs has jumped to 15000+ on Programmable Web. The ‘Business-to-Developer’ business platform is expected to get further momentum in 2017 (with backend-as-a-service (BaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) growing more and more popular). Most mobile applications will need to have a secure, robust backend – and that will be implemented through APIs.
Note: REST (representational state transfer) APIs have already moved ahead of the more chunky SOAP (simple object access protocol) APIs, in terms of popularity. The gap is likely to grow wider in 2017.
11. Familiarity with ‘Hybrid Wireless technology’ to increase
Think that IoT, or Industry 4.0, is the ultimate advancement as far as smart connectivity solutions are concerned? If yes, well…think again! Work is already underway to create hybrid wireless interfaces - that will allow multiple devices to access and leverage resources from shared protocols and wireless service providers. IoT will gradually become closely inter-linked with customer engagement platforms over the next 4-6 quarters. From wifi networks to radio frequencies, and from cellular data to light – everything will be sharable via hybrid wireless technology.
12. ‘Wearable tech’ will be bigger
It all kickstarted with the arrival of Apple Watch (with all due respect to all the smartwatches that have existed since earlier) in 2015. At present, there are close to 450 wearables in the market – and that number should show significant increases by the end of 2017 Q3. Interestingly, it has been predicted that (by Gartner), that 3 out of every 10 wearables will not be visible to the naked eye. Apart from fitness tracking, wearable tech will make its presence felt in the fields of healthcare, 3D bioprinting, virtual reality, and of course, fashion. Demand for smart pet trackers (e.g., collars with GPS tracking) will also spike.
13. Evolution of ‘Spatial Analytics’
The domain of spatial analytics has not yet been fully tapped into by business-owners. In most instances, use of this technology is limited to simply displaying the physical location of vital assets on maps. Things should evolve more in the next couple of years, with spatial analytics solutions being used to power smart sensors, facilitate machine-learning for better customer-interaction, and access key in-store analytics data. The focus will be on generating a seamless store workflow, by combining existing information with properly analyzed geospatial data. Businesses that manage to implement, and get the best out of spatial analytics, should report higher revenue and profit figures.
14. ‘Globe of Mobile Apps’ will grow
The worldwide mobile app market is nowhere near to approaching saturation, as we have already highlighted in an earlier post. Both Google Play Store as well as Apple App Store has well over 2 million applications, and the combined number of app downloads will reach 268.7 million by the end of 2017 (an increase of almost 10663% over the 2009 figure). In the United Kingdom alone, there has been an increase of 0.9 million app users in 2016 Q2, on a quarter-on-quarter basis. By 2020, the global app industry should generate in excess of $100 billion in revenue – nearly double of the 2016 revenue figure (~$51 billion).
Note: Close to 83% of the total revenue from apps will be generated by mobile games. Not surprisingly, 2D/3D game development is something that most leading mobile app companies are being involved in.
15. ‘Software Defined Everything’ to gain traction
The concept of ‘Software Defined Everything’ is expected to be implemented on a large-scale in 2017 and beyond. In a SDE setup, the control center/data center will shift from static hardware components to automated, smart, software agents. Both software-defined networking as well as software-defined servers are expected to be used by business – while software-defined storage will also grow (probably at a slower rate). A smart SDE setup will enhance business agility, and be a cost-cutting option as well.
16. Growth in ‘Distributed Stream Computing Platforms’
The escalation in the demand for DSCPs will be a direct result of extensive adoption of Internet of Things. Certain applications powered by IoT will require real-time analysis of very high volumes of data. That, in turn, will increase the importance of ‘Distributed Stream Computing Platforms’. These are, in essence, event processing platforms that can create events at the rate of millions/second. Security of these platforms, will, once again, be an issue of paramount importance.
17. Rise in ‘Edge Computing’ practices
The current trend of moving data and web-enabled services from centrally-located nodes to the logical end-points of networks (the essence of ‘Edge Computing’) will grow stronger in 2017. Forrester Research Inc. has forecasted that mobile edge computing will increase in a big way, while the concept of ‘fog computing’ (with a decentralized architecture) will become increasingly familiar among people. Industrial internet services and applications will improve. Cloudlets – the pint-sized data centers in the cloud – will witness a rise in usage as well.
18. Communication via ‘Business Value Dashboards’
Business data volumes will keep on increasing as we step into 2017. The need of the hour is to use tools and solutions that keep the datasets secure, systematic and streamlined, at all times. With an eye on that, many data managers and IT infrastructure experts have started using ‘Business Value Dashboards’ (BVD), while interacting with the external world. These dashboards are typically flexible and customizable, and they can combine business analytics metrics in a smarter way than ever before.
19. The next level of ‘Security Management’
On a year-on-year basis, the number of IT security breaches and hack attacks are increasing. Of particular concern is the steady rise in the volume of zero-day vulnerabilities. In 2017, we are likely to witness cutting-edge security orchestration and automation technologies in practices, to counter serious threats. Smart workflow management tools will be adopted, and there will be a decided focus on enhancing ‘threat intelligence’ levels. Performing in-depth link analysis and monitoring security analytics are other activities that will grow in importance.
20. More informed choices of ‘IoT Processors’
With Internet of Things catching on at a fast clip, the need for powerful IoT processors will emerge in a big way sooner than later. For ensuring seamless, interruption-free connectivity across devices, the hunt will be for processors that have customizable firmware, compatibility with different operating systems, and offer robust security and encryption support. Skilled IT personnel will be required to monitor and manage the processors.
Project Ara, Google’s first modular smartphone, was expected to be one of the biggest tech announcements of 2017 – until the company announced in September that the project has been scrapped. However, there will be advancements in cloud native application platforms, real-time interaction management (between customers and businesses) and container management tools. The tech domain will continue to evolve, and 2017 might be the year when many of these new technologies finally become popular.
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