So, what’s in store for 2017?  Here are the top tech trends that you can expect to hear more of this year in the business world.

The tech world took its foot off the accelerator in 2016 with many providers choosing to iterate on existing productions rather than launching innovative new solutions.  Apple products such as the iPhone 7, Apple Watch 2 and MacBook Pro received lots of meh, but at least they didn’t explode as the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 did!  Voice controlled AI in the form of Alexa, Cortana and Siri showed their potential, but are not yet reliable enough for commercial use and Blockchain continued to be the revolutionary new payment system that again failed to break into the mainstream.

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1. Cloud First for Business

Most of us have been relying predominantly on cloud applications for the last few years, whether we knew it or not.  Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat for communication, productivity applications such as Evernote, Office 365 and Google Docs and storage solutions such as Dropbox, iCloud or Box.

Businesses have been slower to adapt.  With more of us working remotely or at client’s premises and with falling prices of cloud applications 2017 could be the year that commercial enterprises become “Cloud First”.  Group communication via Slack or Microsoft’s Teams and Enterprise versions of Office 365 or Google Docs will join the existing back office accountancy and CRM solutions already used by many businesses.

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2. Government Cloud

If business were slower to adapt to cloud than individuals, that’s nothing compared to the snail’s pace adoption by government bodies.  Don’t expect revolution here, however now that security is significantly tighter with the major online products government organisations will dip their toes into the 21st century!

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3. Strengthening Cyber Security

Speaking of security, expect even more cyber-attacks in 2017- even if Donald Trump doesn’t acknowledge them!

To combat this expect security to have a higher profile in 2017.  You will see an increase in the number of websites using 2-factor authentication and tighter encryption to avoid high-profile and costly exposure.

The Ashley Madison attack in 2015 was highly embarrassing, causing many ‘difficult conversations’, before the 2016 theft of £2.5m from Tesco Bank and the alleged cyber hacking of the US election.  Will there be something bigger and more damaging in 2017?  Bank security is very tight, but what about the applications that link to them via APIs?  Could an accounting or payroll application prove simpler to break into and manipulate for hackers?

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4. Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

High street banks are already investigating how these technologies can be used alongside traditional currencies, most notably Blockchain.  The massive fluctuations in exchange rates that followed the unexpected Brexit and US Presidential Election results in the UK and US,  potential French Presidential Candidate Marie Le Pen standing on a mandate to withdraw France from the Euro and China has announced that certain social security payments will be made with Blockchain.  Will 2017 see the rise in the use of these technologies as a safe-haven in uncertain times?  Whether it is or not, this could be year Blockchain hits the mainstream.

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5. Wearables Wearing Out?

Not literally of course – although some of them may do!  The use case for smartwatches and other devices for personal fitness and the quantified self movement are as strong as they ever were.  An increasing number of people wear Fitbit and similar to track their health, especially after the end of year excesses.

But what about business?  Many accountancy and CRM providers have developed Apple Watch or Android Wear apps to complement their mobile apps, however we’ve yet to see one that fulfils a genuine business need.  They’re much more often used to show how up to date their technology teams are or as a sales tool which is then quickly forgotten.  Until wearables can be used for anything other than personal monitoring without requiring a link to a smart phone it is difficult to see them making any further traction in the commercial sector.

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6. Internet of Things In! (IoT)

Interconnected smart lights controlled with your smartphone, cloud connected fridges which tell you when food is going out of date and Amazon Dash Buttons to re-order, 2017 will see the IoT continue its march into our homes.

What about the workplace?

The usual candidates are all developing Operating Systems for the Internet of Things, but it still too early to see any commercial benefits yet, beyond a nice conversation starter and to show off your shiny new office!

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7. Virtual Reality Check (VR/AR)

2016 saw the launch of VR for mainstream entertainment with Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR making waves.  But that’s just entertainment, right?

Before the production of cheap video cameras and reliable internet, few of us would have imagined conducting business meetings on TV in different countries!  Great as video conferencing is, nothing beats face to face contact. VR could be a bridge between the two.  The cost of these devices is defiantly affordable to commercial enterprises and there’s no doubt this was in Mark Zuckerburg’s mind when Facebook acquired Oculus for £2bn back in 2014.

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8. Rise of the Chatbots!

2017 will see the increase in the use of robots and chatbots across business applications.  Slack and other communication tools already make great use of bots to inform groups of completion of tasks and events in different systems.  As these are more widely used they will continue to become more and more useful, learning how to respond to humans in natural language.  Support desk and front of house services can be offered by these new smart bots, freeing up time for us mere mortals to focus on non-repetitive tasks.

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9. Machine Learning

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.  Companies such as Facebook already use this type of technology to determine what is shown in your news feed.  Bookkeeping applications such as Xero and Exact are building this same technology into their products; match a bank transaction from Vodafone to your mobile phone invoice in January and these applications will recommend the same posting in February.  They’re not alone in this and the range of processes machine learning can be adopted for is a big as the software developers imaginations!

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10. The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Self-driving cars from Telsa, Google and Apple?  Or love interests as dramatically shown in Her and Ex Machina!  AI and Robots are coming to take our fun!

The media has had a field day hyping that robots will take over our jobs…even the BBC got involved!

Building on the Digital Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will encompass breakthroughs in robotics, AI, IoT and other areas mentioned above.  The fear that our jobs will be taken is wildly overstated.  Yes, many tasks that are currently done by humans will be automated, but that doesn’t mean we will be redundant!  The changing nature of work will mean that we may do different tasks, not that everything will be done for us.  Mass Production created millions of new jobs in the early 20th Century that did not – and could not – exist before.  It’s too early to know what future careers will be formed, but there’s no doubt that millions more will be created for our rapidly growing population.

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