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5 Technology Trends to Watch in 2016

Technology is moving so fast that it can be hard to keep up with the latest trends that are shaking up the industry. To help, we have put together our top trends that are worth keeping an eye on this year.

1. Data Analytics

With data cleansing and transforming taking up 70-80 per cent of data analysts’ time, more investment into this is expected this year, according to consulting firm Deloitte. The ETL (extract, transform and load) – or the data preparation process – is what many companies are looking to automate so that their analysts can focus more on the analysis at hand.

Built-in analytic dashboards and custom visualisations will also be a big focus for many companies this year, according to research firm IBRS. There will be a sharp increase in the use of dashboards that tie with SaaS (software-as-service) CRM (customer relationship management), sales and ERP (enterprise resource planning).

Frost & Sullivan, consulting and market research company, expects there will be a lot more focus on vertical analytical needs and not just the typical HR/finance use cases. This is driven by the Internet of Things, where companies look to incorporate external data into their analytics, and to optimise point-of-sale opportunities through real-time data.

Targeted advertising will see more automation this year, where there is little human involvement in running analytics on customers to serve up personalised ads, offers or content.

“What I think is going to happen more and more, as the software matures, a lot more automation will occur so that machines can makes decisions with very little human intervention,” says Slav Tabachnik, Director of Decision Science at Deloitte.

More cloud-based predictive APIs, such as Google Prediction API and Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, will will come onto the scene this year and become more ubiquitous in use, Deloitte says.

2. Artificial Intelligence

According to Deloitte’s TMT predictions for 2016, 80 per cent of software vendors will be using some kind of artificial intelligence or cognitive capability.

Some of the main developments in this field are the use of machine learning and deep learning (algorithms that execute AI) to underpin personal robots, digital assistants, driverless cars, voice activated apps, and so on.

It”s also making its way into other uses cases, such as legal firms, using natural language processing to sort through thousands of documents and computer vision to analyse people’s facial expressions. Machine learning is also being applied on data coming from connected household objects and sensors.

“We’ve estimated that by 2030 there will be over a trillion connected devices in the world, so it’ll become really inexpensive to put chips in everything. Basically if everyday objects are giving off data through really inexpensive chips, you can have an AI that can manage whether it’s driving your car or baking a pizza or whatever”.

“With those sensors sharing data and applications continuing to mature AI will become pervasive in many, many common objects, processes and things like that,” says Frank Farrall, Lead Partner of Deloitte Digital.

However, Farrall warns many companies this year may fall into the trap of thinking out-of-the-box AI will simply solve their business problems. AI systems need a lot of work in training the algorithms to achieve a specific task and also need to be continually updated and refined.

When it comes to automation and jobs, Frost & Sullivan predicts a continued concern over job losses. Laborious jobs are expected to continue to automate, with some jobs that have high digital exposure to possibly be outsourced to machines.

3. Blockchain

2015 may have been the year of investigation, but 2016 will be the year of implementation for blockchain technology, according to Deloitte.

“What we are seeing for 2016 is that a lot of the proof of concept work we are doing and others are doing in this space is [starting] to [move to] systems in production that are using the technology. So we’ll start to see it go live this year,” says Richard Miller, Director, Payments Advisory at Deloitte.

Blockchain technology, otherwise known as a distributed ledger, is making its way into a set of broader applications outside of finance. For example, government departments can avoiding having to integrate many disparate systems and track a citizen’s government benefits through blockchain technology. The certification of a diamond can be tracked through a blockchain, which also acts as a central repository that can be accessed from anywhere.

Investment is also starting to take off. Deloitte University Press found that at the end of 2015, a billion dollars in venture capital was poured into more than 120 blockchain related startups, with half that amount invested in the last 12 months.

Banks are also getting on board with this technology, with 30 of the world’s biggest banks joining R3, a consortium that looks at blockchain technology. Santander InnoVentures did an analysis that suggests distributed ledger technology could reduce banks’ infrastructure costs by up to US$15-20 billion a year globally by 2022.

However, regulation will continue to be a challenge. “How do you make it work in an existing regulatory environment?” asks Miller. “One of the concerns I would have is most players in this space are operating in a bit of a grey area because the compliance environment around it isn’t clear.”

4. Virtual and augmented reality

2016 is the year virtual reality cracks the billion dollar market, says Deloitte.

Although it’ll mainly be centred on gaming, businesses will experiment with the concept of virtual reality and how it can be used for sales, customer experience and marketing purposes. For example, during the Australian Open, tennis fans could participate in a Novak Djokovic ANZ virtual experience.

Other examples are hotels providing virtual reality guides to properties, and prospective university students taking virtual tours around campus.

Dennis Moth, Partner at Deloitte, says this year virtual reality may move to a hybrid of augmented and virtual, where the digital overlays the physical world but at the same time offers more than just contextual information.

Frost & Sullivan says the consumer market will almost certainly be the biggest opportunity in augmented reality, and will likely eclipse most other forms of consumer data interfaces within five years.

Some ways that head displays are starting to be used are for showing medical scanning data over sick patients, and factory workers being able to see changes in the assembly line.

However, the technology still comes across as too gimmicky and many companies looking to tap into AR and VR often don’t pay enough attention to customer research and strategy, where they make investment choices without being educated on what the customer actually wants, says Farrall.

Customer research includes looking at what information is most helpful to display to the customer, what might come across as too creepy of an application, if there is a mismatch between what business think the customer wants and what the customer actually wants.

5. Work Anywhere

Through to 2017, many business managers and executives looking to innovate the workplace will be frustrated by their IT groups’ “two decade old thinking” around desktop-based end user computing, says Joseph Sweeney, Advisor IBRS.

With the growth of mobile and the way data can be protected on devices – through passcodes, encryption and remote wiping – it can be hard to convince workers they need to stick to their desk-bound computers.

Some of the technologies that enable working anywhere from mobile and tablet devices include mobile device management, containerisation and virtual desktops.

“WebRTC* will eliminate the need of a separate application to collaborate on BYOD [bring your own device] devices; connection to the corporate network can be VPN-free,” says Krishna Baidya from Frost & Sullivan.

“With desktop virtualisation, administrators can assign rights and profiles based on users’ unique roles within the organisation and their respective task requirements,” he says.

However, the biggest challenge for working anywhere is not the technology but business managers’ perception that they cannot keep tabs on their staff if they are not always physically present in an office, Deloitte found.

The consulting firm also estimated that with the rollout of the NBN and telecommunications infrastructure, 25,000 more jobs will be created in the years through to 2020.

How about you? Is there a technology that you are watching?

Send us a message, we’d love to hear your opinion and your predictions.

*WebRTC is a free, open project that enables web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple JavaScript APIs.