For many people, 2016 was the year they would rather forget. With all the bad news of war, poverty, terrorism, racism, elections and much loved celebrities biting the dust, including a few in the tech and science world, it was a tough year.
But just like every year, there was a bright side. 2016 had its share of many important technological breakthroughs that changed how people live, work and play. So what do we expect in this new year? There are many tech trends that experts and consumers are watching that will surely change the world. Below are the top technology trends that we can expect to see this year.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and the death of the Hub
The Internet of Things has just been on trend lists for years, so why has this thing not caught on? One main issue is the interoperability of the different smart devices. In theory, IoT is supposed to connect all of your devices together, producing glorious technological harmony. But in reality, we have not reached that point yet, at least in a usable manner. You have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other technology, plus there are more smart home platforms to consider to make it happen. In theory, centralisation should make it easy for IoT to become mainstream. But it’s not the case.
And instead of using a centralised hub, smart device manufacturers and makers will focus on interoperability. It will result to a shrinking number of directly compatible devices, but this will not matter. This advancement will replace the hub and most likely do a better job.
Artificial Intelligence and Automation
Artificial intelligence will not just be a domain for the big platforms like Facebook and Google. Experts and consumers will see that sensors, wearables, cars and more will be AI-powered. Of course, many of these products will just be hype, but the ones that will truly deliver a better and enhanced user experience by leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence could change the game in their respective categories.
We all know that automation is not new, at least on the business and manufacturing side. Consumer experiences with automated technologies, primarily come from automated customer service systems, washing machines and other appliances. Automated customer service will not go away, but the good thing is, it will get better thanks to AI chatbots that truly understand context. Plus more and more jobs will be automated in the future. Smart devices will also gain value from increased automation. The downside is that many jobs will be lost as a direct result of jobs moving away from humans and towards machines and software.
Commercial drones have gone from distraction to fascination to obsession in a short time. Last year, drones took over a section of the CES floor show and this year’s convention will even have a Drone Rodeo out in the desert. It’s a double-edged sword really because some people are really into drones and some people are not because of privacy issues.
Cars Will Go Beyond Driverless
Although we have thought that by this year there will be flying cars, time travel and hover boards, cars have gone the other way. We still have wheels on cars and use the road to drive them, but cars will go driverless in the future, as some experts say. Alternative fuels and driverless cars were the buzz last year, but this year car companies will go beyond. More attention will be more focused on the car’s interior. Concept vehicles will feature driver-centric technologies – windshields with heads-up displays, windows that feature palm recognition for your car security and more connected car accessories and gadgets. Whatever the product is, manufacturers will claim that it will be AI powered.
Virtual reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality
Virtual reality is not new. The technology was introduced to the public in the late 90s and early 2000s, but never really picked up because there were limited or no applications for it at the time. Plus the headsets were so heavy and expensivet. It was a cool concept though. Fast forward to today, VR and AR have come of age, partly because of the launch of Oculus, Sony and HTC are delivering consumers accessories that they have been wanting for years. Plus the technology and accessories are becoming more mainstream, more affordable and more accessible.
Also, manufacturers are working on high-end VR experience that is mobile. Intel has announced their device in project Alloy and will be a big presence at many tech conventions. Smaller companies will also vie for a piece of the pie with their own wireless VR headsets.
The Rise of Wearables….. Again
Action cameras, connected watches and step-counters will have to step up their game this year. Yes, they are there, but most of them failed to wow consumers. Many vendors will have to take into account how people will use them for a long time not just for a week after unboxing them. The world of sports will fully take advantages of many wearable technologies this year.
Way before Apple introduced their AirPods to the scene, a few companies had been talking about wireless earbuds. Despite the wire tangle problems, issues with fit, audio quality and durability, the big names will be bringing wireless earbuds to the market. Depending on how these devices will be accepted or how well they do, they will just be called wireless and the ones connected by a “cord” will be semi-wireless (semi-stupid, really). Expect a lot of earpods to be lost or dropped and never be seen in the future.
The Rise of the Chinese Brands
Tech conventions are not complete without big televisions, although the room for innovation in this category has become slimmer. High dynamic range and 4k are now common and the race for the biggest screen is already old. Now Chinese brands like TCL, LeEco and Hisense are making their presence known at shows. Many consumer experts say that this year will be their breakout year with several major events and many product lineups that can compete with big brands for price and technology.
These are just some tech trends making noise this year. Watch out for more in the coming weeks.