The top tech trends of 2015, and what their future holds
Knowledge, undeniably, is power. As far back as we’re able to look into recorded history, superior information has been a defining factor behind the success of individuals, tribes, countries, and, in a far more general sense, the entire human race. This is particularly relevant to the information explosion we find ourselves in today – with future technologies emerging virtually overnight, organisations that can consistently capitalise on the latest technologies and use them to derive real competitive advantages will, naturally, be in a position of power. But the sheer amount of new technology that appears on a daily basis means it’s not necessarily practical to investigate every new gadget or each technological flavour of the week – and it’s a safe bet that many of the popular trends in technology won’t end up sticking around for the long-term. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most promising future technologies, what they might look like in years to come, and why they’re worth learning about.
1. The Internet of Things (IoT)
In the 2015 Gartner Hype Cycle Report for Emerging Technologies, which measures how close future technologies are to mainstream adoption, the Internet of Things has emerged as the most-hyped technology for two consecutive years. There are several good reasons for this. Firstly, it’s great for showmanship – few things make it as clear that ‘the future’ has arrived than a virtual home assistant likeApple’s Homekit, Amazon’s Echo or Android’s Project Brillo. Most significantly, though, it plays into a trend in technology that Gartner calls ‘digital humanism’ – in other words, technology that keeps people as its central focus. It’s hard to deny that IoT looks like a significant turning point in the mainstream adoption of technology. It’s also easy to see how IoT epitomises the concept of ‘digital humanism’, and the evidence for the power it has to bring real, positive change to people’s lives is already well-documented.
Even though IoT is five to ten years away from maturity by Gartner’s forecast, we’re already seeing its influence creeping into our lives in many ways. Relatively speaking, IoT is also a blanket term, as it can be applied to a number of emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and smart homes. We’ve already seen the impact of the device revolution on our personal and private lives, and as more of our traditionally ‘offline’ world comes online, our world will change exponentially. All things considered, it seems like a fairly safe bet that the Internet of Things is a future technology to keep an eye on, as it will likely bring new importance to the jobs of developers and designers in the world of the future.
2. Machine Learning
Over the past few months, machine learning technology has been making its way into the mainstream in a variety of ways. Google’s neural network ‘dreams’ broke headlines around the internet not too long ago, and more recently, Apple is reported to be investing heavily in machine learning experts. It might be a long way from maturity, but machine learning is already making its presence felt in its foundational stages. In the coming years, especially in light of other hype cycle entrants like IoT, connected homes and Smart Advisors, an understanding of machine learning will become increasingly important, and eventually a prerequisite, for developers.
Machine learning was also high on this year’s hype cycle report, slightly higher on the Peak of Inflated Expectation than IoT and Autonomous Vehicles, but with a projected time to mainstream adoption of 2-5 years. Machine learning is already being adopted into the mainstream to a certain extent, such as Facebook’s AI research and Amazon Web Services’ Machine Learning service, and the technology is likely to evolve considerably in the coming years.
3. Self-Service Analytics
As more businesses start to acknowledge the value of the ocean of data that we have at our disposal, being able to manipulate and analyse that data will become increasingly important in crafting a competitive edge. Historically, this kind of data analysis could only be carried out by qualified data analysts, but with the proliferation of self-service analytics services in recent years, advanced analytical techniques are available to people with no background or training in analytics. This doesn’t necessarily mean the death of the data analyst, what it does mean is that the power of advanced data analytics is available to anyone who takes the time to familiarise themselves with the software.
In the context of IoT and machine learning, advanced analytics represent an integral part of the way that we will interact with technology in the future. Being able to understand the principles behind advanced analytics, and how to use them in a practical sense, will be a great advantage for developers and designers. There are already many powerful open source analytics tools available, and advanced analytics is likely to become increasingly important in many industries and markets.
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