Since we were founded 13 years ago, we have never witnessed such an acceleration and intertwining of technologies as we are seeing today. This rapid advancement presents daily risks and opportunities for businesses. Here are the seven areas that we believe businesses should be particularly aware of in 2017 to gain or maintain a competitive advantage.

Tech Trend 1st Text

The physical and virtual merge

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technologies broke into the mainstream in 2016 in a big way. Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift for $2bn back in 2014 caused a stir, which then manifested in a high-end virtual reality consumer headset in 2016. Pokémon GO exploded onto the scene and increased Nintendo’s net value by 50% in its first week. It became the most successful mobile-based app in US history with an estimated 21 million daily active users in just 24 hours.

Microsoft blew everyone away with Hololens. Playstation launched their VR headset. HTC delivered ‘room-scale VR’ with the Vive. As incredible as these are, this is literally the tip of an incredibly large iceberg. Billions have been invested in well over 300 companies working in this space. The mysterious ‘Magic Leap’ has taken in excess of $1.4bn dollars in capital which includes the largest C round in history. It is valued at $4.5bn yet has not launched a single product.

It is said that Magic Leap could usher in an entirely new era of computing as it apparently blends our physical reality with a digital reality so that are indistinguishable from each other. With all of this activity, it’s no surprise that it’s not all ‘games and entertainment’. Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2025 the use of these technologies in the consumer world vs the enterprise will almost be a 50/50 split.

Predictions

Apple will launch ‘Mixed Reality’ capable hardware this year.

This prediction is fuelled not only by the rumour mill, patent filings and company acquisitions, but also the fact it’s the iPhone’s 10th birthday – and it's also said this is the first hardware release from Apple’s new Cupertino HQ. This could be a game changer.

Experimentation across the enterprise will accelerate.

Public and private companies have been utilising these technologies for many years. However, with the proliferation of high-end consumer-grade kit, experimentation across the enterprise will accelerate in 2017. Employee training, simulations and communications are set to be hot topics this year.

Simplifying Complexity

Data is the lifeblood of digital

In 2016 businesses struggled with making effective decisions using data. In fact, 66% of companies believe they gain little or no benefit from the data they collect according to a report by PWC and Iron Mountain. According to Forrester, in the US alone the average person looks at their phone 150-200 times per day, which equates to 30 billion daily ‘mobile moments’. Then consider systems consuming and creating even more data such as CRM, ERP, analytics tools and of course the exploding world of IoT.

Making sense of all this complex data is a task in itself – let alone then using the data to bring about business benefit. At Tigerspike we talk about keeping data simple and identifying two or three critical points to inform the decision process. A recent article in The Telegraph helps bring this to life. Spotify recently launched a platform call ‘Fan Insights’ giving musicians an insight into their fan bases’ behaviour, which wasn’t possible before music went digital.

Chief Economist at Spotify, Will Page, asked Radiohead’s manager which cities listened to Radiohead the most on Spotify. The manager replied, “Easy: London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, New York, Chicago, LA.” In fact, number two was Santiago in Chile and number four was Mexico City. The article makes it clear that they can’t confirm whether there is a link but Radiohead’s tour this year finishes with two gigs in Mexico City. Regardless of whether it did influence Radiohead’s tour, it’s a great example of how simple data can help organisations.

Predictions

Simplicity will win.

The onus is on businesses to identify the three or four key data points they should focus on and then obsess about those data points. Companies that do this well embed data-driven problem solving through their culture. The PWC / Iron Mountain report found that just 4% of companies are using data well. This represents a huge opportunity for organisations who do get it right in 2017.

Data-centric toolkits increase in importance.

Data-centric software delivery toolkits are core to defining how organisations make use of their data. This allows them to understand their end users better and to react to rapid change. Forward-thinking businesses will empower teams to ask the right questions to elicit only the data that matters, then incorporate those insights into their decision-making on an ongoing basis.

Augmented Wetware

Humans and technology becoming one

Hardware and software combine to give us, the wetware, incredibly immersive experiences. Our relationship with technology is getting more and more intimate every year. Smartphones live in our pockets and handbags and go everywhere with us. They sleep next to us in our beds. They wake us in the morning. They are our connection with our family, friends, news and can answer any question in an instant. You speak to Alexa and Siri as if they’re your servants.

Technology has become one of our closest confidantes. This relationship is set to deepen in 2017. Humans are augmenting themselves with technology like never before. It’s helping us learn to walk again – as we were shown in 2016 when, with the help of an exoskeleton and virtual reality, paraplegics were able to regain partial muscle control in their limbs. Human cells are now being grown on microchips and the world’s first real-life ‘cyborg fair’ was held.

2016 also witnessed the rise of the Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) combined with small form factors that sit discreetly inside people’s ears, such as the sleek Bragi. This companion also leverages gestural interactions that ‘learn your body’. Wherever you look our relationship with technology is deepening and, in many cases, moving inside our bodies.

Predictions

Intelligent Virtual Assistants move into the enterprise.

Having hands-free access to contextually relevant information in an instant can have huge benefits for employees. Companies in 2017 will begin to explore if this technology can increase efficiency, employee satisfaction and safety across a number or industry verticals.

We will witness a breakthrough in tech-health.

Wearable sensors and artificial intelligence are ripe to combine for a next-generation health monitoring and diagnostic tool. We predict a mass market application of a healthcare technology with incredible results will surface in 2017.

Robots Rising

Robots continue to capture headlines

Robots often appear in humanoid form, such as Pepper, a robot that can “perceive” emotions. Lynx places Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ into a body that can dance while you order your groceries. These consumer-facing devices are fun and endearing but are just physical manifestations of the real power behind robots that has surged forward in the last year: automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Three factors have driven this technology forward. 1, Affordable, powerful processing. 2, Big Data. 3, Improved, accessible algorithms.

This year has seen the democratization of AI. For example, Amazon has launched a suite of AI services that give easy access to natural language speech, image recognition and machine learning services. At the same time, they’ve announced larger sizes of compute instances on which to run these services. This machine learning feeds on data – and the more of it there is, the better the predictions that can be made from it. Huge steps forward in AI algorithms are also being made.

In March we saw AlphaGo beat Go’s grandmaster Lee Sedol: a transitional moment for machine learning. Then in December, DeepMind, the Google company behind AlphaGo, open-sourced DeepMind Lab, their AI training platform. Powerful, world-class AI platforms and services are now being made available for anyone to use. AI has also just beaten some of the best poker players in the world for the first time, placing the online poker market at serious risk.

Predictions

Robots replacing “non-predictable” jobs will start a new wave of social unrest.

In May last year, Foxconn reportedly reduced its factory workforce from 110,000 to 50,000 – replacing 60,000 workers carrying out predictable, manual labour with robots. Society has come to see this type of job replacement as ‘normal’. But 2017 will see a real surge in more esoteric jobs being replaced by robots and AI. As society becomes more aware of this new tier of jobs being replaced, we’ll see prominent displays of social unrest such as protests and strikes.

Privacy issues will rear their head (again).

As more and more companies start using machine learning, there will be more pressure to assimilate vast amounts of personal to drive their services’ learning capabilities. We’ll see one more Machine Learning based service paused, shut down or stripped back due to public outcry over privacy.

Everything Connect

The internet everywhere

Every year, and especially at every CES, hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. This year was no exception with a whole host of questionably useful products being announced. Anyone for a smart toothbrush, belt or rubber duck? Or how about a hairbrush with embedded sensors and a microphone that can analyse your hair? But it’s not all hype, as IoT usage continues to increase and deliver real value.

In fact, consumer based devices don’t even feature in the top three categories for IoT investment: those places are taken by manufacturing, transportation and utilities where, for example, devices are being used to predict when maintenance might be needed in wind farms or fleets of vehicles – or where assembly lines are autonomously changing their flow to keep production running when problems occur with equipment. In these cases, IoT is delivering massive ROI to businesses – and we are starting to see the consumer sector starting to learn from this.

Predictions

Touchscreen, keyboard… and now voice.

As we move from what’s possible to what’s desirable, voice assistants will move from the preserve of early adopters to the mainstream and we’ll consider voice interaction as just another standard interaction device alongside our keyboards and touchscreens. With the technology now freely available and simple to implement, companies will consider voice assistant functionality to be a standard requirement in their products and services.

We’ll see even worse security breaches.

With the Mirai malware, last year saw some of the worst denial of service attacks the Internet has seen, primarily carried out by compromised IoT devices. We’ve not seen the end of this trend and this year we’ll see even more significant IoT originated attacks. On the other hand, security is now finally an issue that’s on everyone’s radar – not just manufacturers and technology companies but also consumers, who will demand change and finally drive security standards to improve.

Digital Twinning

The physical becomes digital

Although not a new term in industries such as manufacturing, ‘Digital Twinning’ is beginning to creep into other industries and areas of life. Defined as a virtual representation of a physical object, process or service, it’s a term you will be hearing more of in the coming year. Digital twins are now becoming cost-effective, powered by the ‘Internet of Things’ and the cloud, effectively a product of ‘Industry 4.0’. It affords companies a myriad of cost saving benefits including predictive maintenance and process modelling.

Twinning is now moving outside of the industry and into the consumer world. This is primarily being driven by virtual and mixed reality technologies. Humans are now seeking to replicate themselves in a higher fidelity than a profile picture and a witty description. Companies such as AltspaceVR are pioneering ‘Social VR’ and the newly released Bellus3D’s 3D face-scanning camera technology camera is a testament to a brave new world. Many of us will soon have an AI digital double in a mixed reality world.

Predictions

You will begin to hear about ‘Digital Twins’.

In 2017 the term will gain traction fuelled by the continuing popularity of ‘mixed reality’ technologies and the advancement of ‘Industry 4.0’. As this continues, keep an eye out for for the second prediction in this trend.

You may be invited to create a 3D avatar.

As we shift our physical reality to the virtual, more and more people will be receiving an invitation to create a 3D avatar. More than likely this will come via a social media invite or an invite from a fellow VR enthusiast.

Human Centricity

The employee experience is everything

The world we work is changing through technology and as younger generations enter the workforce. Employers have to embrace technology and new working practices to ensure they can attract and retain the top talent. The ‘Employee Experience’ is an essential part of the workplace of the future. 2016 saw millennials enter the workforce and, with them, a change of attitude to work tools and practices. The continued rise of the gig economy has meant firms have to provide flexible working environments for their staff. Working from home is common, as is working on a beach for a company on a different continent.

At Tigerspike we’ve talked for a long time about expectations from the consumer world bleeding into the corporate world. We expect usable tools and systems at work where the user experience is as good as any app we would download. Millennials, in particular, want to work collaboratively with tools that make them more efficient. We’re also seeing VR and AR being used to help train and recruit employees across multiple industries including the military, construction and oil rigs.

Predictions

IoT and Machine Learning will become important in the office environment.

We’re already seeing IoT and Machine Learning understanding our working environments and when we perform at our best. This year, we’ll see IoT and Machine Learning start to sense when we’re tired and alter our environment to help us stay focussed, either by turning on the a/c or turning up the brightness of the lights in our offices.

‘The experience’ becomes everything.

Businesses seeking further employee productivity, efficiency and engagement will focus on all aspects of ‘the employee experience’. As the candidate landscape continues to evolve, how businesses empower and value their workforce with high-end software experiences becomes a critical competitive advantage.

Understand how these trends may impact your business

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