When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine time beyond the year 2000. Back then, time seemed to move slower. Summers seemed longer. Years felt like eternity. Yet here we are – time flying by. In fact, I haven’t blogged about tech predictions for a while (since 2012 ) and I finally felt compelled to do so (it could also be the result of the cold medication I’m on).
I probably shouldn’t say “predictions” as much as much as “trend analysis”. There are certain trends that have been building over the past few years that will drive much of what I’m expecting to see in 2017. I came up with this list based on what I see as both trends in the industry and the inevitable direction of progress coupled with where we are along that journey. I also paid attention to other analysts, with special emphasis on the Gartner Hype Cycle (some of which I actually have conflicting views on).
Late in 2016 I spoke at the Deliver conference in Winnipeg on my predictions for the next decade of software development (a more narrow view of technology trends). I also provide some background that helped formulate my thoughts, much of which applies to these predictions.
You can check out the recording of that here: https://www.infoq.com/presentations/software-development-trends-innovation
Here are my 2017 Tech Predictions
Bot Platform Wars
As with all innovation, things start out with a lot of fragmentation. We’re starting to see the emergence of “bots” – from pre-cooked bots like Siri and Cortana to build-your-own-bot frameworks. In fact, there are about 6 of them when I last counted. Microsoft’s Bot framework, ChatScript, PandoraBots, Facebook Bots, Robot.me, and Imperson (I’m sure there are more). What’s good about this era in innovation evolution is that there is a LOT of leapfrogging and lots of fast evolution of the platform.
The bad part about all of these options is – where to begin? How do you compare them? Lots of churn may actually slow adoption of these platforms. With that said, in my opinion, all of them are still very new and have a long ways to go. Personally, I’m placing bets on Amazon’s Alexa platform. It’s clear that Alexa is becoming more of an operating system and framework where bots and other “things” can plug into.
Humans will choose an AI over a Human for certain tasks
Yup. I believe that this year someone (maybe me) will refuse the opinion of a human expert in exchange for one from an AI. In 2016, IBM Watson was proving itself to be an excellent tool for doctors in the diagnosis of Cancer. In reality, AI’s can consume much larger amounts of data more often. Watson is trained to read medical literature – about 25 million published medical papers in about week and is also able to scan the Web for the latest scientific research… and it never forgets.
I know one thing is for certain, if I ever have a cancer scare, I’ll want Watson involved in my diagnosis and treatment plans. These platforms will only become exponentially better over time.
Rise of AI Personal Assistants
This is a result of all the bot frameworks I made reference to above. In the media you’re probably seeing marketing around Amazon’s Alexa/Echo and Google’s Home. These are generic use “bots”. What I’m referring to more is the rise of bots that do one or two things really well. For example, a bot that will help you schedule meetings between people across different organizations (this task is still crazy hard to do manually). I think we’ll have specific bots for booking and managing travel as well. As I said above, my bet is on Alexa being a super important platform that will naturally tie these bots (assistants) together. I think Cortana will also become an important platform for this as well.
More Platform Wars
I mentioned above that any new wave of innovation will spark huge amounts platform splintering. No problem if you only are building web apps (we still have platform splintering of course – but it has been relatively manageable). Now we’re seeing platforms for browsers, cloud, mobile, machine learning, AI, bots, Internet of Things, watches, augmented reality, virtual reality, physical robots, and even drones. What makes this important is that we’re starting to see innovation that spans all of these platform types. There is a lot of churn in many of these platforms, an no clear winners yet.
Hyper AR/AV progress
There is no doubt of the velocity we’re going to see in this space. I purchased a Sony PlayStation VR kit over the holidays and was completely blown away. Content will be everything, of course, and there is going to be a very wide spectrum of AR/VR platforms to choose from (both good and bad). I have been comparing the state of AR/VR to very early mobile phones. We’re going to see very rapid evolution in these devices, services and content (apps, media, etc). It is already a huge race. It won’t be long before we’ll have full VR movies as well as more “Pokémon” type games that allow us to interact with the physical world more naturally.
Impact of the Renewable Energy Industry on the Economy
Bluntly, this is now big business which means that it is good for the economy and it is good for the planet. Solar (in all of its variants) continues to drop in price per KW-hr, and continue to do so. Expect there to be significant growth in this sector – combined with all of the problems that will come along with that growth. Lack of regulations, lack of management systems, lack of access to skilled labor in such a rapidly evolving space. Of course, we’re going to see a number of clear market leaders in this space (Tesla) and a whole lot of Tesla wanna-be’s. Which is good from a competition standpoint. This type of shift is great for the economy as well as the secondary economies generated by all major industry.
And Now For Some Dreams
Here is my quick list of really cool things that I would love to see in 2017 – but probably won’t happen.
- Release of a production personal drone human transport machine (aka.. a flying car!).
- The end of air travel for business (I hate it so much.. please make it end).
- A ban on websites that constantly ask for your email address 5 seconds after you start reading a good article.
- A ban on websites that start playing video and audio when all you want to do is read an article on a website.
- A ban on websites that have more marketing and advertising content than actual content.
- Hearing augmentation – really great devices that will allow you to block out all noise (traffic, sirens, people talking) completely – and only select what you want to hear (conversations, music, white noise).
- Really good hologram projectors – like on Star Wars. I really hate wearing Augmented Reality goggles – they look goofy still.
- Tech that allows us to be human again – not glued to screens, addicted to distraction, spending every last minute with our heads looking at our phones or tablets. Tech that enhances our world, but doesn’t remove us from it.
- Not having to feel like we need to pay to be healthy, pay to lose weight, pay to eat right, pay to look good. Shouldn’t it be the opposite?
- (I’m stretching now because I wanted to hit 10) Discovery that alien life exists and it thinks we’re silly
- (yay, I made it past 10) Someone making a production version of Tesla’s Radiant Energy Receiver – giving us MORE free energy without sun or the wind
That is all.