Top tech trends for 2017

With the year rapidly coming to an end, Maria Fernandez, Vodafone UK’s Head of SOHO Sales and Marketing takes us through the most useful and out-there upcoming tech trends for 2017.

The world of technology never stands still, so knowing where to focus is great for staying ahead of your competitors and making the most of new apps, software and trends. Our top tech trends 2017 article features a rundown of everything that’s got the network buzzing.

At Vodafone, we believe that supporting UK businesses to understand and make the most of the latest technologies is a priority.  We are committed to play a crucial role in helping our businesses grow and develop, become more agile and closer to their customers.

While some of the tech trends below are still in development or just out of reach of the mainstream, it won’t take long for it to start trickling down into the public eye. So check out the list of the Top Tech Trends for 2017.

5G

5G is the next big jump in mobile speed. Many businesses are saying they need it in order to get ahead and grow their offering. With higher speeds and a larger network capacity, there will be greater connectivity for businesses, customers and everyone in between.

Cloud services

Cloud services are a lifesaver for SOHOs (single office/home office businesses) and SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) because they provide access to software and services at an affordable rate instead of paying large amounts of money upfront for it. In addition to Software as a Service and Storage as a Service, where you get access to externally hosted software and storage, Security as a Service is tipped to be a big focus for next year.

Businesses are constantly being attacked by cyber criminals, which means providing access to affordable, externally managed and frequently updated security solution is a natural evolution for the cloud.

Intelligent apps

Intelligent apps are apps that scan and respond to events and react accordingly. This could be an app which acts like a virtual personal assistant  and tells you when you have meetings or when important emails have arrived.

Virtual assistants are already in use in most mobile devices: Siri, Cortana and Google Now are so accurate that they can be reliably used in everyday life – including how they’re being used with regards to other apps.

For example, Siri now supports third-party developers (i.e. ask Siri to order you a taxi) and Cortana integrates fully with Windows 10 and Microsoft Office. Grand View Research stated that the Intelligent Virtual Assistant market size will be worth $12.28bn (£9.65bn) globally by 2024.

Intelligent things

The Internet of Things is getting an upgrade. The smart devices which are linked to the internet will soon start to benefit from the data generated by intelligent apps. The apps that control the devices will begin to introduce elements of machine learning. What this means is that devices will begin communicating with each other to help make decisions.

Gartner estimates that 6bn devices will be utilising the knowledge and AI support by 2018. Markets and Markets predict that the Internet of Things market will grow from $157bn (£123.43bn) to $661.7bn (£520.23bn) by 2021.

AI and Advanced Machine Learning

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning are made up of systems which can understand, learn, predict, adapt and act autonomously. In the future, some of these systems will be able to learn from themselves and their environments and go on to adapt their behaviour in real-time.

This is already manifesting in the form of Chatbots and driverless cars, and the predictive analytics that Netflix uses to learn from our tastes and make refined suggestions.

For SOHOs and SMEs who want to experiment with AI, a Chatbot is an easy entry point into AI and Machine Learning. A Chatbot is an increasingly common customer service and marketing tool that mimics intelligent conversation by responding to what users type.

The natural extension of this will be interactive objects, building on devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Xbox Kinect and becoming fully interactive. Research firm TMA Associates think that the market for devices like these will be $600bn (£472bn) within the next three years.

Virtual and augmented reality

2016 was the year of virtual and augmented reality finding a real place in the world. Games like Pokemon Go and devices like the Samsung Galaxy VR headset were very successful and took the concept beyond a gimmick.

Other brands have thrown their budgets behind developing new applications for existing technology, to help to make them mainstream. For example, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought the VR headset Oculus Rift and has already presented an early stage virtual environment, where people can communicate as if they’re in the same room when they put on the headset. This raises incredibly potential for improved remote working and creating exciting, immersive content for your customers.

Digital twins

Digital twins are essentially a combination of all of the above technologies. They’re a digital representation of something in the real world that’s been created by sensors. For example, a sensor might be able to check the layout of a room, then feed the data through to an app which creates a virtual representation in a VR headset.

Since these digital twins are created in real-time and store data about the location they’re in, they’re great for performing analytics and discovering ways to optimise productivity