2017 Tech Trends You Need to Know in Business
In business, it’s always a good idea to stay on top of the latest stats, 2017 tech trends and other buzzworthy news. All it takes is one hot new technology to make a big impact on your business, whether it’s dramatically reducing your operational costs, improving productivity or widening your profit margins.
But also, let’s face it – it’s always fun to check out new tech!
So, where are things headed for the rest of 2017 and beyond? Here’s what you need to know.
2017 Tech Trends and Notable Facts
1) The VR / AR revolution is coming.
Virtual and augmented reality has come a long way since the 90s, when cheesy movies led us to believe that the only logical users were video-game-addicted teenagers.
Today, VR is on the cusp of going mainstream, not just for consumers, but in the business world, too.
Last year, members of Forbes Technology Council wrote that “VR will shake up the business world in a way that’s even greater than the Internet did in the 90’s … becoming tools for every aspect of any business, including future product prototyping, developing new features, driving sales [and] enhancing retail store experience.”
What are other ways that business could leverage virtual reality technology? Here are just a few:
- Forget PowerPoint presentations and field manuals. VR could easily become the new standard for employee training and instruction. It can provide virtually hands-on guidance, in ways that no other documentation can. Additionally, consider the savings in travel costs when employees can remotely attend conferences and training events.
- VR will likely revolutionize the way manufacturers build and prototype their new products.
- As more consumers gain access to VR devices, imagine the ways that businesses and sales professionals can market their products. Online demo videos and ordinary webinars just won’t cut it anymore.
- As retail shifts away from brick-and-mortar stores, consider how virtual reality could elevate the experience of online shopping: virtually trying on clothes, browsing the rack and navigating a virtual store.
Key stat: 500 million VR headsets are projected to be sold by 2025. (Piper Jaffray via The Motley Fool)
2) Virtualization is only just getting started.
While we’re on the subject of all-things-virtual, let’s not forget about virtualization. While the concept of virtualization is not new—various iterations actually go back to the 1960s—new technologies have taken off in the last few years alongside the rise in cloud computing.
Faster broadband speeds are leading businesses to rethink their IT infrastructure and shift more network resources to virtual environments.
In a nutshell, virtualization uses software to create virtual machines, operating systems, storage devices and servers. It separates computer environments from the actual physical infrastructure and makes it possible to simultaneously run multiple operating systems and applications on the same server, more efficiently.
Consider, as a very basic example, the ability to run Windows applications on a device like Google’s Chromebook, without actually having Windows installed on the device. Virtualization makes this possible. And in doing so, it offers businesses a number of cost-reducing benefits:
- Maximize network and infrastructure resources
- Run multiple types of applications and/or operating systems on the same physical hardware
- Minimize the need to expand physical infrastructure
Business News Daily writes, “Virtualization can reduce the number of physical systems you need to acquire, and you can get more value out of the servers. Most traditionally built systems are underutilized. Virtualization allows maximum use of the hardware investment.”
Businesses around the world are already depending on virtual environments on a daily basis, in a wide range of uses. But this will be an important technology to watch in the years ahead.
Key stat: 70 percent of surveyed senior executives say that virtualization has had a significant impact on efficiency and cost savings. (CIO Insight)
3) AI is getting smarter.
Businesses live in a data-centric world – in fact, they’re overwhelmed with it. It’s easy today for a business to collect information on virtually every action a customer makes during a sales flow – from little things, like a single keystroke in a form, to larger actions, like responding to an upsell offer.
Then, you have to factor in things like the user’s demographics, location, time of day of response and so on.
But all these actions and data points are meaningless without being able to interpret them properly. Using computers to analyze the data is not a groundbreaking concept. But what is groundbreaking is the ability of our machines to make accurate assumptions about the data, identify patterns, determine what’s important and optimize processes on their own, with little human instruction.
This is the kind of AI and machine learning that businesses are beginning to leverage more and more, and not just for marketing purposes. Advanced machine learning is helping to build smarter products more easily, enhance cybersecurity, enable autonomous transportation and so on.
Machine learning is projected to completely revolutionize 12 major industries in the years ahead, including automotive, manufacturing, finance, agriculture, energy and health care.
Consider just some of the potential applications and impact on these sectors:
- AI can optimize complex manufacturing processes, predict production failure and automatically redistribute resources to reduce bottlenecks and bring products to market faster.
- In retail, AI can optimize both in-store and online product assortments to maximize sales, bring an enhanced level of personalization to consumers, and reduce the need for human buyers.
- In finance, AI can identify smarter, more personalized investment opportunities, identify lending risks, predict account behavior and identify fraudulent activity.
Machine learning has been around since the 1950s. But in the next decade it could radically change the way we do business.
Key stat: Machine learning technologies will replace 5 million jobs by 2021. (World Economic Forum via Forbes)
4) Businesses are getting serious about data protection.
A recent headline at ZDNet read, “Ransomware is now so awful it’s actually making us take security seriously.”
This pesky form of malware, in which attackers lock your data and throw away the key unless you pay up, is wreaking havoc on businesses. In 2016, spam emails containing ransomware spiked 6,000 percent and infected as many as 56,000 organizations in a single month. The FBI predicted ransom payouts would soon exceed $1 billion a year.
But there’s a silver lining to all this bad news: ransomware is causing so much damage that more companies are now expanding their cybersecurity and putting a renewed focus on business continuity.
In compiling our stats, 2017 tech trends and figures, there’s one stat we continued to stumble across: aside from ransom payouts, ransomware costs businesses a whopping $75 billion a year in downtime, lost data and related expenses.
This is why more businesses are switching to newer, more reliable data backup and recovery solutions. So that in the event of an attack, administrators can simply roll back to a recovery point before the infection occurred.
New DR technologies from Datto offer several unique innovations that can help to fight ransomware:
- Data-backup devices that detect ransomware and notify administrators to restore a backup if an infection is found.
- Hybrid cloud technology that stores backups both locally and in the cloud for added insurance.
- Inverse chain technology that eliminates the most common problems in the backup chain and makes each backup a fully bootable machine, resulting in faster backups and faster, trouble-free recovery.
Key stat: 67% of ransomware targets are SMBs that have valuable data but sub-par IT security. (Datto)
5) IoT is entering the workplace.
The Internet of Things is not just limited to home automation, Fitbits and other consumer gadgets. Businesses are increasingly integrating Internet-connected devices into their operations, products and their office environments—but not in the ways you might think.
A recent article in Forbes explains, “The Internet of Things isn’t so much about smart devices, but about sensors. These tiny innovations can be attached to everything from yogurt cups to the cement in bridges and then record and send data back into the cloud. This will allow businesses to collect more and more specific feedback on how products or equipment are used, when they break, and even what users might want in the future.”
Consider John Deere, for example, which in recent years has begun adding data connectivity to their agricultural equipment, notifying farmers precisely when and where to plant certain crops.
And in the workplace, IoT sensors and devices could have a huge impact on productivity and revenue opportunities:
- Consider WiFi-connected machines in retail warehouses that operate autonomously, constantly collecting data and learning to improve efficiency.
- Telecommunications giants like Verizon are already marketing a wide range of IoT solutions to businesses, helping them reach more customers with “connected machines,” and track their high-value assets everywhere they go, including devices, machines or employees in the field.
- Retailers are already using IoT sensors and devices in the form of foot-traffic counters, digital signage, humanless POS systems, smart price tags and even smart shopping carts that help customers find the items on their digital shopping lists.
The rise of IoT in business will also undoubtedly be accompanied by the rise of IoT cybersecurity threats. Keep an eye out for new security technologies to emerge in this space in the years ahead.
Key stat: In a survey, 23% of enterprise businesses said they are already using IoT, compared to 14% of small and medium-size businesses.
What Else to Watch
Remember that new technologies come and go all the time. These 2017 tech trends and projections represent only a tiny fraction of the many innovations that are gaining traction right now. Cloud-based collaboration tools, mobile payment apps, smarter chatbots, autonomous drones and workplace digital assistants are just a few of the many additional technologies to watch over the next five years.
Which business tech trends are you keeping an eye on? Leave a comment to let us know!