Against 2016’s difficult backdrop of Brexit debates, political commotion and muted economic expansion, it would be easy to assume 2017 would be a slow start in terms of growth and innovation. But the outlook for technology promises to be anything but.
As managing director of one of the fastest growing tech firms in the UK, I’ve experienced first-hand how the pace of technological development has taken place at breakneck speed. And while some may be taking a step back, cautious of what’s to come, technology is one industry that shows no signs of slowing down.
The fluid workforce
Technology has clearly accelerated a shift in our society towards a faster-moving, temporary, project based workforce. This promises to be a trend that continues into 2017.
For many businesses, skill-shortages will drive technology investment towards more sustainable, intelligent, intuitive and integrated solutions.
This shift in employment will also drive further specialism between consumer brands delivering either high-end, bespoke products (to the few) or high automated, low-cost, self-service products (mass-market). It will be even more competitive, with a focus on seamless customer experiences.
Productivity and unification
Productivity isn’t necessarily about adding more functionality. 2017 will be the year for choosing unified apps – applications that work seamlessly across a variety of different channels and devices. In will be critical that unified apps work in the same way whether using an iPad, Microsoft Surface, PC, MAC, iPhone or smartphone.
This must reduce deployment overheads for companies investing in technology - as employees will already know how to navigate and use the systems on the devices of their choice, this removes complexity and improves productivity.
Biometrics is one of the hottest topics in technology and cybersecurity markets today - the use of biometrics for user authentication and identity is essential in tomorrow’s world. We are likely to see an increasing variety of industries making use of biometrics, as it becomes more reliable and more affordable. For example, in healthcare, biometric technology can be used to ensure patient identification.
In the leisure industry, fingerprint identification is now being used in gyms to ensure that only members can access the facilities. In industry, biometrics are being used for tracking time and attendance along with access control. What’s of real interest here is the intelligence that can be harnessed, thanks to certain identification. Joined-up intelligence, internal and bureau sourced, means businesses can understand more about their customers’ needs and preferences.
It can enable them to make faster, better decisions based on greater evidence. This will help them achieve the best possible outcome for their business (efficiencies) and the end customer (customer experience). Technology will finally guarantee businesses can accurately identify customers, real-time, as individuals - across any channel or device.
Personalisation techniques, in marketing, will no longer be considered a dream but essential to performance and loyalty. It also means an era of real-time, intelligent programmatic advertising. This refers to the process of using software to buy digital advertising - most common in real-time bidding - where no human would be able to handle the auction quick enough.
Applying intelligence to programmatic advertising, across channels, will not only reduce wasted advertising spend but also ‘spam’ advertising techniques.
The PSD2 (Payments Services Directive 2) and Open API (application programming interface) standards in Banking will come into force in the UK (and the wider EU) soon. Implementing technologies that comply with PSD2 will bring exciting innovations in security and app development as well as other products or services, in order to stay ahead of the curve.
Intelligence not data
Cloud computing and big data are no longer just buzz words, they are driving transformation even for small and medium-sized businesses. We are about to enter the era of powerful tools that can interpret big data, thanks to the emergence of real machine learning.
Better reporting obviously leads to better decision making. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have been around for a while, but they are more advanced and prominent. Autonomous systems that can process information, alter their behaviour, predict actions, understand conversation or trends are being developed thanks to advanced algorithms, parallel processing and massive data sets.
Machine learning will be taking on big data - taking historical data and projecting forward, for real-world applications. Microsoft Dynamics NAV already has machine learning capability for sales forecasting, stock forecasting and cash flow forecasting.
Intelligent apps such as VPAs (Virtual Purchasing Assistants) can now perform some of the functions of a human assistant, making everyday tasks easier (by prioritising emails, for example) and its users more effective (by highlighting the most important connections).
You’ll soon be hard pressed to find a business application without AI, whether it’s for marketing, resource planning or security. Empowered millennials are starting to catch onto the fact that empowering experiences are worth so much more than material things alone. From smart vehicles to devices as innocuous as light bulbs, intelligence is being used to enhance the experience we have with our things. The more intelligent things there are, the bigger intelligent networks and network applications will become.
There are more and more devices where you can ask a question and you’ll get an instant answer. Computer adaptability is boosted by faster processing and internet connectivity.
Content is still king
Nearly two decades ago, Bill Gates declared “content is king!” Since then we’ve experienced a seismic content revolution: social media, user generated content and augmented reality. However, I believe that content will now have to cater for information overload and even shorter attention spans such as personalised, dynamically built video or animated content presentations.
Virtual and augmented reality will continue to blend the digital and physical worlds. Graphic overlays and visual immersion are just a couple of examples of how virtual reality will also be applied and tailored.
Craig Such, managing director, Azzure IT
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