The BBC published an interesting piece on tech trends for 2017 last week and while the BBC is not necessarily viewed as cutting edge it does represent mainstream views on emerging technology.

What struck me most is that all the key trends they list are anything but new. They name the following trends:

Cybersecurity – Cybersecurity will be a dominant theme in 2017, as all tech innovations could be undermined by data thefts, fraud and cyber propaganda, as e.g. the alleged Russian hacking of the 2016 US presidential election or the predicted fall of a major bank in 2017 due to a major cyber attack and the consequent run on that bank. The BBC also predicts that the internet of things (IoT) will play a larger role in targeted attacks in 2017.

Artificial intelligence – Enabling machines to learn, adapt to new situations and to make decisions for themselves, rather than simply obeying pre-programmed instructions or algorithms.

Augmented and virtual reality – Companies like BMW linking up with Accenture and Google Tango to create apps that lets customers visualise what various car models would look like in real-world situations. And while virtual reality is still primarily used in gaming, improved headsets will enable better training and teaching applications.

Automation – As AI increasingly takes over from call centres or customer service staff, and automation is increasingly adopted in manufacturing, the impact for manual labour jobs is enormous as is the requirement to create an alternative employment.

All of these technologies and trends have been around for a while, so, are there no new trends or will these trends have such an enormous impact on our lives that they overshadow all other new trends in 2017?

I strongly believe this to be latter as we are close to reaching the point at which the Terminator movies kick in. Good old Arnie battling the T1000 seemed futuristic in the 80s and 90s but we have now reached the point where the machines, where artificial intelligence and automation is omnipresent and where wars are increasingly battled in cyberspace.

Cybersecurity has been a growing issue for years but we have now reached the point where banks, governments and entire countries can be held to ransom. Though there are -yes, you guessed it- technological solutions that can be deployed to address these issues. Blockchain technology and digital ID innovations can now largely prevent many of today’s and future cybersecurity threats, but it would mean large scale transformation of existing platforms and working practices. It can be done as countries like Estonia have successfully proven, but there needs to be the will by the authorities to change systems and practices for the better.

Artificial Intelligence & automation are necessary to manage the world around us. Most scientists and visionaries, strategists and thought leaders would agree that the world around us can no longer be led and made sense of by human brain power alone and that we need technology to:

  • Digest the ever-growing mountain of data and present us with key information we need to make a personal or business decision
  • Analyse things instantly on the fly and decide on our behalf – think of driverless cars or of a computer making the decision whether an application for insurance should be accepted or declined

The key questions will be how much power can we relent and how much control do we retain, so that the Terminator scenario remains a fictional one.

So, the key trends for 2017 are momentous indeed.  As ever we can make technology work for us and avert the doomsayers’ prophecies of machines running the world.

2017 will prove to be a pivotal year in the progress of the human race, how we interact with each other, how businesses deal with their customers, whether the right technologies are chosen to enable our business strategies to flourish and -importantly- whether we allow technology to assist in solving the key issues of today and tomorrow.

The level of innovation seen today is unprecedented and is invariably linked with key technology developments such as the Internet of Things, Big Data or AI to further amongst others the:

  • Development of renewable energy
  • Reduction of pollution
  • Delivery of sustainable materials
  • Improvement of water availability and purity
  • Protection of wildlife and the environment
  • Management of natural disasters
  • Protection of information

We need to embrace advanced technologies sensibly and wholeheartedly as otherwise Judgement Day may be closer than we think.

If you are involved in the fintech sector, you may be interested in attending our event FinTech North on 26th April 2017. Read more about it here, or alternatively book your place.