As originally published in the American City Business Journals.
Technology touches all parts of our lives — from accessing your desktop anywhere to ordering laundry detergent through Amazon Dash buttons.
Phones are exploding, social media heavily influenced the presidential election, and people now have the capability to order groceries through a speaker.
So, can technology get even more ubiquitous? Yes.
Between the good, the bad, and the ugly, it seems that each year presents us with more technological excitement than the last. 2017 will be no exception. From the workplace to the swimming pool, here are the top five technology trends for which you should brace yourself in the next year.
1. Microsoft picks up the slack
Collaborative software isn’t new news, but the demand for it in the workplace will be higher than ever in 2017.
Because the newest generation in the workforce quite literally grew up using technology to communicate, they expect instantaneous collaboration in every area of life — including work. This year, we go beyond interoffice instant messenger systems.
At my company, for instance, we use a collaborative software called Slack. The software allows us to avoid lengthy e-mail chains and collaborate on projects in real time while giving us the option to come in and out of conversations as we please.
Slack grew from 1.25 users to 4 million users in just one year, according to Fortune. I have an inkling that those numbers will skyrocket in 2017 as similar products enter the market.
In fact, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) recently released Microsoft Teams, their self-proclaimed “Slack killer.” The collaboration tool promises all that Slack has to offer and more. So, whether it be Slack, Microsoft, or a third-party contender, it’s going to be a mad dash to see who can capture the hearts of the collaboration generation first.
2. Not just time on our hands
Wearable technology will step up its game in 2017 with the next round of updated watches coming from Apple and Samsung.
It seems that Apple (NASDAQ : AAPL) is trying to drown the competition by upgrading on all of the features of the first-generation Apple Watch and adding some new trademarks to the new Apple Watch Series 2. For example, along with being waterproof, the new model can also recognize four different types of swim strokes and use GPS without a phone being present.
On the other hand, Samsung recently launched its Gear 3, which seems to specifically hit on attributes the Apple Watch doesn’t have. The S3 is not waterproof (it is water resistant), but brings a classic look, compatibility with all Android phones, and built-in cellular voice and data.
In addition, according to the International Business Times, LG will be releasing four smart watches in 2017 that they believe will rival Apple and Samsung’s new models.
All in all, wearables have certainly come a long way in their short lifespan. While they have been previously adored mostly by tech-savvy early adopters and fitness junkies, this could be the year that the average Joe joins the fan club with more options on the market.
3. Virtual desktops for virtually everyone
It wasn’t that long ago that no one really understood what the nebulous “cloud” was. What started out as tech talk has since turned into a tool that virtually everyone uses to store information.
The cloud computing marketplace has matured; with maturity comes smarter innovations. Almost every organization has some part of their operations in the cloud — from email to files to backup and more. In 2017 we’re going to begin to see the virtual desktop —essentially an entire computer that lives in the cloud — gain more traction.
According to market research company Technavio, the global virtual desktop infrastructure market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 11.31 pecent during the period 2016 to 2020. With a virtual desktop infrastructure, one can access anything on their computer from any device and any location at any time. It is a unifying computing experience, perfect for organizations with a distributed workforce.
4. What the hack?
Since the onset of the internet decades ago, there has not been one year in which people have felt more secure than they did the year before — and rightly so. As technology advances, security becomes — and will continue to become — an increasingly prominent challenge.
Throughout 2016, for example, hacks into the Democratic National Committee, Yahoo, Dropbox, LinkedIn and Verizon were just a few of the high-profile security breaches that grabbed headlines. Now the intensity of the security discussion is compounded by the uncertainty within the leadership of our country.
Organizations are coming to terms with the fact that cybersecurity is separate from operational IT and should be treated as such (i.e., separate budget line items). Smart companies will prioritize educating their employees in 2017 on how to identify potential risks such as phishing attacks, social engineering and ransomware. Cybersecurity literacy will play a major role across all industries in the coming year.
5. Cutting the cord
With the release of the iPhone 7, the buzz has been all about the buds. The elimination of the headphone jack on the new iPhone is a topic of contention, but no matter which side you’re on, one thing is for sure — 2017 will mark the year of wireless audio.
Only Apple, with its massive influence, can redefine a market and kill current audio standards. Of course, Apple did not invent wireless headphones, but they have certainly accelerated the arrival of the technology in the mainstream. The 3.5 mm headphone jack, which has been an industry standard since the dawn of smart phones, will become a thing of the past sooner than you may think.
Besides burning the bridge, Apple is also leading the charge with its wireless Airpods. Many audio companies are following suit, and also plan to provide significant improvement in our ability to connect and use these devices in 2017.
Buckle up; 2017 promises to be quite a ride. Competition will foster creative re-conceptualization, collaboration and efficiency will improve within the workplace, and organizations will realize that cybersecurity goes beyond traditional IT. Consumers and companies are likely to embrace some of these trends with open arms, while others will continue to see pushback.
One thing is for certain, though — whether you’re a computer programmer, a business owner, or someone who just likes to tinker on your phone, your life will be touched by new technology in 2017.
Ready or not, here it comes.