2015 was the year of hover boards, drones and wearables. A year where apps that track everything from fitness and health to location achieved high adoption rates. So what’s big in 2016? Having attended the ‘Tech Trends 2016’ event hosted by Brands2Life in London last week, guests had the pleasure of hearing predictions from insightful tech journalists within the UK press. The panel consisted of BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, Geoff White from Channel 4, The Sun’s Daniel Johnson and Murad Ahmed from the Financial Times.

With most panellists just having returned from CES in Vegas, they had a fresh view on the newest inventions within the tech space. This meant that some key themes were prevalent. The automotive industry, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality were amongst these hot topics.

“Cars are becoming more like giant smartphones”

There has been an extraordinary pace of change in the automotive industry. Car companies now want to be seen as tech companies, with Tesla, Toyota and BMW as prime examples of car manufacturers trying to push boundaries of what is possible.

Rory Cellan-Jones from BBC interviewed Elon Musk during his trip to CES, discussing the electrification and complete autonomy of auto mobiles. Musk firmly believes that cars will be completely autonomous within the next 10 years and will have the capability to automatically stop to charge themselves in a span of two years. According to Cellan-Jones, we have the software, infrastructure and regulatory change to push these features to become feasible, but he was a bit more cynical about the timeframes Musk suggested.

“Be scared of the robots”

Artificial Intelligence was another big theme in Vegas. A lot of companies want to say they are involved in AI because it is such a “hot” industry to be in. Google DeepMind (getting machines to think like humans) and Watson by IBM (a cognitive system enabling a new partnership between people and computers) were name dropped as companies to look out for by Murad Ahmed. “In the future, every five years we will have to re-train for a job as a robot will be able to do it better”, said Ahmed. An interesting quote that might not be reality at present but will be at the forefront of all our minds within a few years’ time. Taxi drivers especially are getting increasingly worried – what will happen once Uber introduces its driverless cars?

“Get lost in another world”

Oculus Rift were the pioneers of Virtual Reality a few years back, and have now announced their release date (April 2016) and price (£500) as it will be made available to consumers. An expensive gadget one may argue, but if the prediction of Dan Johnson comes true, it will be a Christmas gift favourite in 2016. Other Virtual Reality players to look out for are Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive.

“It’s a competitive world we live in”

So what’s going down in 2016? Which tech trends have failed to take off? As the valuations in Silicon Valley spiralled out of control in 2015, the rise of the unicorns will now be known as the fall of the unicorns. According to Ahmed, valuations are finally coming back to reality, which will also be beneficial for entrepreneurs and their early employees. This leads to the downfall of the ‘On-Demand Economy’ which grew out of proportion due to VC funding. On-Demand Economy companies have been spending way too much on marketing, offering deals that are way too cheap, have low margins, bad service and therefore are making no money.

The concept of ‘Smart Homes’ has also failed to take-off, after being talked about for a while now. According to Daniel Johnson, they still have a long way to go, as consumers fail to see the immediate benefits. Consumers are price conscious and need to see the convenience factor before buying into the whole smart home concept.

Another gadget experiencing poor adoption rates in 2015 was the Apple Watch. After a lot of hype before and after its big launch in April 2015, it has been a disappointment to most consumers. Even though it is still the best known wearable in the market, it has definitely not been a killer. It will be interesting to see whether the Apple Watch 2, rumoured to launch in March this year will be better received by the fans of the brand.

What’s in store for IT?

Geoff White from Channel 4 touched upon topics that were relevant to us in the IT industry. With the increase in cybercrime, The European Data Protection Act has been established in favour of the ‘people’. If any company gets hacked and personal data of customers is lost, the customers will be the first to know. Geoff also mentioned the rise of the ‘Dark Web’ and that hackers are getting smarter in how they work. Hackers are starting to use the news cycle and have become more strategic in how and when they leak their findings. A prime example of this was the Ashley Madison data breach in 2015. At the moment Cybercrime has been a numbers game, but slowly hackers will start targeting more and more of SME’s. However, thanks to the Data Protection Act, the public will have more information about all the cybercrime happening around us.

Overall, this was an extremely informative event and it was a pleasure to hear from experts in the industry. It will be interesting to see whether their predictions come true – something to review at the Tech Trends 2017 event in another year’s time.

Valma Tikkakoski, Campaign & Communications Manager at Cisilion