What to expect in 2017
2016 was the year when tech journalists were hoping for better stories. A year where Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality reached new levels, serious testing of driverless cars took place and robots evolved to pose a serious threat to human jobs. It was also the year of cyber security threats from Russia, Brexit winning the majority vote and the rise of “The Trump”. No one was able to predict the last two, with polls stating the exact opposite outcome, so how are we supposed to predict the tech trends of 2017?
In its fourth year running, Brands 2 Life hosted their annual ‘Tech Trends’ event in Central London, looking into the current hot topics in the tech space. My second time attending, I again had the pleasure of hearing from some of the top tech journalists within the UK press. This year’s panel consisted of BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, Channel 4’s Geoff White, Madhumita Muraja from the Financial Times and Parmy Olson from Forbes Magazine.
Last year’s event revolved around new gadgets and technologies while this year focused more on how the impact of the latest political events could affect the tech industry. The key topics discussed were; Assisted voice control devices, Cyber security and Legislation.
Assisted Voice Control Devices
We are constantly seeing more and more devices with voice features released in the market. With Amazon Echo being the most sought after Christmas present last year, it is fair to say that assisted voice control devices, especially smart home hubs were a big hit in 2016.
The entire panel agreed that Amazon is the clear market leader with its Echo (Alexa) and Dot devices. Already installed in some driverless cars as experienced by Rory Cellan-Jones at CES, you will be able to turn off your lights at home by asking Alexa to do so. Google Home comes as a close second, being more intelligent than the Echo and actually having the ability to converse. Cellan-Jones is intrigued to see whether Apple will join the Voice competition, as there is growing pressure for the tech giant, who has yet to produce something innovative since the iPad.
Compared to the overhyped wearables which haven’t proved themselves in our every day lives, voice assisted devices have. Forgetting your Fitbit at home wouldn’t make you go back and get it. However Smart Home Hubs, such as Amazon’s Echo, make life easier. They have had high adoption rates and as another positive, have acted as a gateway in making humans more comfortable talking to devices. Consumers have already been blown away with the ability to talk to your home, but it will be interesting to see how these products develop once voice recognition comes into play in the near future.
One downside of voice assisted devices is the search function. When they are asked a question, we will receive an answer derived from Google . How can we trust the answer we receive is truthful? Especially on topics around religion, politics and extremist sites. The Internet, now referred to as the ‘Splinternet’, currently suffers from Google’s Autocomplete functionality. However, the panel were confident that with Google’s track record of ‘fixing problems’, they will be quick to act upon this issue.
Cyber security continues to prevail in the news, especially after the recent DNC hack. Social engineering where hackers leak sequences of information, is becoming a bigger threat to politics and governments.
The role of journalists has changed as the culture and role of Intelligence Agencies is blurring. Now, Intelligence Agencies can leak their findings directly and whistle-blowers have an organisation they can easily approach. According to White, this will continue as the future will consist of “more strategic leaking”.
The Dark Web has become trendier than ever, with more people having access and the skills to play with their identity. The truth is, every company should be concerned. If you have any skeletons in your closet, be prepared. The skeletons will be revealed, and in a way that will damage your company the most.
In Europe, legislations such as the GDPR, NIS Directive and PSD Directive are coming into place in 2017. These laws will help protect companies and individuals from cyber-attacks and other threats as well as forcing companies to go public if data breaches occur. The question is whether Trump will establish these laws in the US as well, something that the panel highly doubted. According to them, Trump is downplaying the importance of cyber security and won’t go to the same lengths as the Obama Administration.
Trump’s decisions and how they could affect US tech companies was another fundamental topic. While lowering taxes would be good for Silicon Valley, Trump’s views on net neutrality and trade tariffs with China could be harmful. Needless to say, the US have very interesting times ahead.
The UK is also entering the unknown with Brexit. Several companies and startups have had concerns but so far there is no reason for them to leave London according to the panel. Other European cities are taking full advantage of the situation, by positioning themselves as the new startup hubs. Paris is one city to look out for, with Station F becoming the world’s biggest startup campus.
Overall, yesterday’s event was insightful and relevant in terms of recent political events. It was a pleasure hearing from industry experts and even though the near future has never been more difficult to predict, I look forward to reflecting and hearing from them in another year’s time.
Valma Tikkakoski, Campaign and Communications Manager at Cisilion