Four Tech Trends To Follow In 2017 

by Srikanth Ramakrishnan - Dec 23, 2016 08:27 PM +05:30 IST
Four Tech Trends To Follow In 2017 Robots play football in a demonstration of artificial intelligence at the stand of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. (Photo by Sean Gallup/GettyImages)
  • Machine learning is set to play a big role in the future of technology - the more we interact with them, the more they learn.

Technology is constantly evolving at such a rate that what was new at the start of the year is outdated by the end of the same year. However, some forms of technology tend to dominate the entire year, and beyond as well.

Here are the four tech trends that will see it through 2017 with a big bang.

Machine Learning And Artificial Intelligence

Visitors check out a slimmed down version of the IBM Watson supercomputer. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Visitors check out a slimmed down version of the IBM Watson supercomputer. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence have always been there, working silently in the background, on applications like Google Search or Google Translate.
However, machine learning is poised to take a rather long leap in the near future and dominate every part of our lives. With Google’s new Assistant taking on Apple’s Siri, and offering a vast suite of integrated applications, from travel to shopping, machine learning will be the frontrunner in newer technologies for a significant amount of time.

According to McKinsey, the use of big data would be the ‘key basis’ of competition among companies, while also stressing on policy developments relating to privacy, security, intellectual property, and liability of the data that is being used for more automated experiences. Further, IBM’s Watson supercomputer has proven its worth by winning the American quiz show Jeopardy!, beating two former winners in the process, using 200 million pages of structured and unstructured data.

Augmented And Virtual Reality

A man uses a VR head-set while sitting on a motorcycle. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A man uses a VR head-set while sitting on a motorcycle. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have seen major uses in the recent past. While VR generates a virtual environment to recreate a real environment, AR generates virtual elements against a real backdrop. The best known use of VR is the Google Cardboard Kit, which recently got complemented by Google’s new Daydream platform. AR, on the other hand gained prominence with Pokémon Go, a game that managed cross over 100 million downloads. The Google Glasses and Oculus Rift are the best known VR platforms.

Citi estimates the AR and VR market to cross a trillion dollars by 2035, and with newer content and devices slowly pouring into the market, it could very well be possible. The 2016 Gartner Hype Cycle predicts the widespread adoption of VR and AR in the next five to 10 years. The IEEE Spectrum speculates that the slow adoption of VR and AR tech is due to poorly produced content that suffers from quality, thus making consumers sick. However, with over two billion dollars being invested in the industry in 2015-2016 alone, we can expect quality to slowly grow better. Simply put, nobody would spend a lot of money on a headset if it is going to make them sick. The quality of content is bound to increase and soon, quality content can be expected in bulk quantities as well.

The development of virtual or augmented content will, in all probability, soon become like shooting a video: Anyone with a camera can do it, leading to a whole new level of entertainment.

Internet Of Things

A Mobile App Interface To Control Home Appliances. (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
A Mobile App Interface To Control Home Appliances. (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

The Internet of Things (IoT), a large interconnected network of “connected smart devices”, refers to different devices being connected to each other. It is used to remote control devices, and even vehicles. It is part of a larger collection of smart electricity grids, intelligent transport and can ultimately be the backbone of smart cities. With major technological bigwigs including Google and Amazon involved, Cisco’s prediction that 500 billion devices will be connected by 2030 does not seem like a difficult target at all.

With retailers using ‘smart shelves’ and sensors to gather information about customers to make their shopping experience better, a combination of machine learning and IoT is needed. Smart shelves and automated displays can show the customer exactly what they are looking for using a set of algorithms based on interests and past purchases.

With toasters and heaters connected to the network, IoT is poised to change the way we live our lives. It leads to time optimisation, and a relatively more comfortable level of living. One could turn on the water heater remotely so that they don’t need to wait after returning home for a shower. Or else, the toaster could be scheduled to keep the toast read after they’re done with a shower. Of course, a lot needs to be done on the security front, especially after hackers managed to knock down several major websites this year by hacking into IoT-enabled devices.

Autonomous Vehicles

Self-driving car prototype. (Waymo)
Self-driving car prototype. (Waymo)

Another major development in the technology field is the autonomous vehicles industry, sometimes known as the Driverless Car project. Spearheaded by tech giants such as Google (The Waymo project), Uber, and Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors (Autopilot), driverless vehicles have already hit the road in a series of tests across the world. While Tesla’s Model S did get involved in an accident, and Uber’s test had to be stopped in its hometown of San Francisco due to high rates of accidents, the industry is learning from its mistakes and constantly improving.

Again, similar to machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, driverless vehicles are constantly evolving. Co-founder of Ride-sharing app Lyft, John Zimmer says that the availability of such cars would give most people the advantage of owning a car, but without the financial burden. In his essay, The Third Transportation Revolution, Zimmer concurs with Elon Musk that the future of autonomous vehicles would be a network of linked vehicles. Lyft aims to have majority of its vehicles as autonomous in the next five years.

The future of technology is highly reliant on these four branches, all of which are interconnected. Machine learning, though, is the biggest of all, the more we interact with them, the more they learn. What they learn about us can be channelled into the other three branches. The VR or AR content that we view can be based on an email we received. Our next ride can be based on what game we were playing. Our breakfast can be cooked by a smart oven using a recipe from the internet or a smart grid can shut off the electricity supply to our houses when it realises that we are flying out for a trip.

Exciting times lie ahead. Keep an eye out in 2017.

Srikanth’s interests include public transit, urban management and transportation infrastructure.

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