Technology in the workplace is developing at a blistering rate. Both consumer tech and uniquely business-orientated innovations are completely changing the working environment, from the boardroom to the basement. Many innovations, such as company-wide instant messaging are now the norm, but we want more. We want our environment and our appliances to think with us; keep our calendars, book our holidays and take care of our daily routine – and new technologies are being developed every day to help us achieve this.
The year ahead will undoubtedly bring about change and progress towards this future. Below are five innovations that are at the moment in their infancy, but will have a drastic impact over the next year:
The end of the app
Steve Job’s predicted that the individual app would disappear, and this will start to bare truth in 2017. And it’s about time too. Opening individual apps for every tiny function is backwards and with the ascent of virtual assistants, everything from hotel bookings to the fastest routes to our destinations will be handled for us. Virtual assistants unite the functionality of all the varying apps within a device in a single user interface.
The rise of cyberspace
Augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality will create a new, separate cyberspace – and 2017 will see a greater move towards this. The technique has come so far as to make really impressive results possible, and engines of games and software platforms now have default support for VR.
The possibilities are endless and the first applications are already beginning to emerge. At the moment it is largely isolated to entertainment, but it will soon revolutionise business applications. Because why would we still go to meetings if we can meet on a virtual beach in virtual Hawaii with a live video feed around us?
Social media will also experience a transformation and will start to offer an immersive user experience. It is no coincidence that companies like Facebook are investing so heavily in virtual reality technology.
Artificial intelligence (AI) for the masses
The rise of artificial intelligence is inevitable and we will start to see more and more applications of AI in the business world. Applications that fully understand human speech, biometric security software and hyper intelligent virtual assistants will all come to the fore.
For a real world example take Microsoft. It’s made a free deep learning toolkit available on Github, which fits the company's strategy to make AI available to the masses. Developers can use this toolkit to develop smarter applications that can learn from their interactions with humans and other computers.
Think applications that fully understand human speech, or security software that works on the basis of facial recognition. And AI isn’t isolated to just this example; we have already witnessed its adoption across the business board. Banks use chatbot applications to answer customer enquiries and IBM's Watson for Oncology already advises doctors when making treatment choices. In 2017, AI will increasingly nest in every part of an organisation. o:p>
Internet of things
We’ve been waiting a while for the Internet of Things to make the transition from our toothbrushes and our thermostats to our office, but there still are obstacles in the way, notably the lack of a common safety standard. That the security aspect still needs attention, was proven last month, when a large part of the Internet in the eastern United States was shut down by a DDoS attack originating from Internet of Things gadgets including smart security cameras and routers.
Still, in the coming years we will witness an explosive growth of the 'things' and by 2020 there will be 20 to 50 billion devices connected to the IoT . The Industrial Internet of Things is already a reality. Consider the Rolls Royce aircraft engines that continuously send real-time data to the manufacturer to predict potential problems and prevent disasters. Or the John Deere tractors, that inform farmers about what crops they should plant, when and where they need to plough and what is the best route, all thanks to the addition of sensors and data connectivity.
And it’s not just heavy industry and farming, our offices will also experience an IoT transformation. Companies are working on digital ceilings for example that can transform an ordinary modular ceiling into an intelligent data hub that can increase productivity, lower the operating costs of buildings and provide personalised environments for workers. IoT is going to change everything, and companies should be aware of the implications.
The business revolution
This brave new world of technology is not confined to the consumer space. Innovations associated with the consumer sector are increasingly finding their way into the workplace, just as tablets, mobile phones and app stores did during the consumerisation of IT. Companies therefore need to act now or risk being left helplessly standing on the sidelines by the end of next year. The same companies that ten years ago believed the cell phone would not affect their corporate IT, are now trying to cope with the BYOD revolution.
The same will happen with companies that are failing to acknowledge the impact VR, deep learning, AI and IoT will have on their IT structures. If businesses fail to recognise the need for change, they will struggle to attract digital native employees, keep their IT and data secure and ultimately keep up with the competition. Innovation is by nature unpredictable.
But one thing is certain, it never stops moving forwards. 2016 has seen huge leaps and bounds in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning – and 2017 will see these digital revolutions develop and break into the everyday.
Bob Janssen, SVP of Innovation, CTO & founder of RES
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa