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What does 2017 hold for technology innovation?

From cloud computing to internet-enabled smartphones, technology is constantly evolving, revolutionising the way we live our lives and run our businesses. Mobile is overtaking desktop, media and marketing is adopting digital and our world is increasingly becoming more connected. So, with 2017 merely days away, Colin Yates, chief support officer at WorkMobile, discusses his tech predictions and the trends he believes could disrupt the business world in the near future.

Looking back at 2016, it has been a landmark year in terms of technology developments. We’ve seen the launch of the iPhone 7, with its waterproof casing, and Samsung’s highly anticipated Galaxy Note 7, while VR and AR have also become hot topics in recent months. Tech enthusiasts are expecting 2017 to bring even more in the way of new technology and innovation. 

Of course, no one can truly predict what will happen over the coming 12 months. But, as the New Year approaches, some areas of tech are showing signs of significant development and look set to explode over the next few years, possibly changing the way we do business. 

The decline of the traditional office 

The power of smart phones and tablet devices has been rising considerably over the past decade, to the point where many of us now rely on these advanced gadgets every day to stay connected and help organise our lives. The business world has also been heavily influenced by these mobile devices, with some businesses starting to introduce Bring Your Own Device policies (where employees can use their own devices in the workplace to carry out their work.) As the corporate use of mobile devices has taken off faster than any other computing trend in history, it is highly possible that we could see the decline of desktop systems and the traditional office fairly soon.    

We are already starting to see this happen. The mobile working phenomenon really started to find its feet in 2016, giving more and more employees the option to work remotely. As smartphones and tablets continue to advance and get ‘smarter’, it’s likely that they will become the only devices we carry on a day-to-day basis, with the desktop computer perhaps left to gather dust. In fact, 

Ofcom found that a third of people already prefer accessing the internet on their mobile devices rather than via a laptop. With screens getting thinner, processors working faster, 4G connectivity and shared cloud storage options, you'll literally be able to work from anywhere, at any time, with the same level of efficiency as you would have in a dedicated office with a laptop or PC.

The rise of the virtual meeting

Continuing with the remote working trend, more and more professionals are opting to conduct meetings from wherever they are, rather than spending full days in a car travelling to clients and colleagues. This stems from advances in video-calling technology, which are enabling business leaders to remain in their office and simply dial a number to have a face-to-face meeting with somebody. Very soon, I can see this advanced video-calling software being embedded into mobile phones, making it just as easy and seamless to conduct a video call as it is to make a standard voice call, from anywhere and with more than one person at a time. 

Even more revolutionary is the idea that it may be possible to conduct a meeting via a holographic image in five years’ time (although mobile holographic technology is still in it’s infancy). This may seem like something only realistic in sci-fi films, but it’s not inconceivable that business leaders will be able to project a 3D image of themselves in real-time from their smart phone. Again, meetings could be held virtually, meaning companies could conduct business, even overseas, from anywhere and at any time. There would be no need to travel long distances to visit clients or colleagues in person, which would save a lot of time and money. However, the human element of face-to-face meetings would still be preserved.

The birth of the Artificial Intelligence personal assistant

With smart phones becoming more and more powerful, some of the largest technology providers (such as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google) are now investing huge amounts in developing extremely advanced devices that can recognise speech. We already have Siri and Cortana, which act as voice-activated assistants and can help organise business meetings and speed up internet browsing. However, with advances in machine-learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), tech providers are looking to develop these ‘assistants’ even further. The launch of the AI-based mobile assistant could see business leaders telling their phones to arrange a meeting with three other people, with the device then actually calling those people up to schedule a time and place.    

This technology isn’t too far around the corner either. In fact, there are systems already available, such as Julie Desk, an AI-based personal assistant that can schedule meetings by email. The system can communicate with you and your contacts in English and French using Natural Language Processing (NLP). Developments are underway, so soon it should be able to understand other languages too.    

The year of IoT and Big Data

2017 looks set to be the big year for the Internet of Things, which offers advanced connectivity between various ‘smart’ devices and systems. There have been a lot of conversations around this tech for quite some time, but up until now, adoption rates have been relatively slow. However, we are starting to see it pop up more and more, with people increasingly adopting smart connected devices around their homes and businesses. 

Over the next 12 months, I can really see IoT taking off and becoming mainstream. For businesses, this presents opportunities to collect what’s commonly being referred to as ‘Big Data’ – extremely large sets of data that can be carefully analysed to show trends and patterns in user behaviour. Put simply, businesses will be able to collect valuable information on their customers or staff using IoT devices (perhaps in their homes, retail stores or in the workplace) to better target their sales efforts and improve worker satisfaction. By effectively analysing this insight, businesses will be able to save time, money and resources by improving the quality of services and becoming more efficient. Not to mention, those brave enough to adopt IoT early on will be giving themselves a huge advantage over the competition. 

Based on developments in recent years, 2017 definitely looks set to bring with it some fascinating technology innovations. Although this is not an exhaustive list of possibilities, it will be interesting to see whether any of these predictions come true. Of course, new trends can emerge and rise up very quickly, so who knows where business will be in 12 months. And that’s the exciting part.

Colin Yates, chief support office, WorkMobile
Image Credit: thinkpublic / Flickr

Colin Yates
Colin Yates is the chief support office at WorkMobile, an award-winning mobile capture solution.