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Have you seen the future? Top 5 predictions from the 2017 Tech Trends Report

By , March 7, 2017
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The Future Today Institute recently released the eagerly anticipated “2017 Tech Trends Report.” Entering its 10th year, the report outlines in great detail the emerging technology trends, which will influence business, education, politics, government, education and society in the coming year.

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In an age where technology has the power to disrupt and transform a marketplace overnight, the Tech Trends Report acts as an early warning signal to organizations. By understanding the potential impact of these emerging trends, business leaders can integrate the report findings into their strategic thinking, allowing them to adjust planning, operation and business models accordingly. Failure to monitor these trends can place organizations at significant risk, potentially compromising their competitive edge or future growth by failing to react to shifts in the marketplace driven by technology.

The 2017 Tech Trends Report is extensive, requiring a significant investment of time to absorb. So we wrote this post to highlight the top 5 takeaways extracted from the 155-page report.

1. Artificial Intelligence comes of age

Artificial intelligence has now advanced to a stage where it forms a key component for the majority of trends outlined within this report. As such, it’s of crucial importance to decision-makers that they familiarize themselves with AI. As the next layer in technological advancement, AI will be integrated into everything organizations do professionally.

The field of AI is exceptionally broad with many facets that offer significant benefits to organizations. Take Deep-Neural Networks as an example: The relatively new branch of machine learning will soon be an invisible part of every organization. Programmers can utilize deep learning algorithms integrated with terabytes of data – images, text, video and speech etc. So systems can be trained to learn on their own. In practical terms, an increasing number of human processes can be automated, such as the writing of software or the monitoring of cyber security.

Real-time learning — another branch of AI — offers significant business benefits. It is now possible to use a continual flow of transactional data and adjust models in real time. Websites could be re-written and products matched to an individual user as they navigate the site, based on their behavior.

2. Mass adoption of bots and virtual agents by major brands

The past 12 months have seen bots emerge from the fringe, entering the mainstream vocabulary of business. A reflection of this growth is the existence of 12,000+ Facebook Messenger bots, and a range of platforms, which make it easy for organizations to build their own bots.

Big brands are waking up to the power of these bots within customer service and marketing interactions. KLM is a prime example. The Dutch airline uses bots to push boarding passes and status updates to customers, as well as support the millions of messages they receive through the Facebook Messenger app.

Expect to see an explosion of bots used by major brands in 2017, automating customer service interactions and social media engagements. Bots have been particularly helpful to companies like Autodesk and Bradesco Bank to automate responses to easier, commonly asked customer queries that support teams receive (level-one support). This allows agents to focus on the more complex questions that customers have that need human interaction and more creative responses.

3. Cognitive Computing set to accelerate

Evolved from anticipatory computing in the 2010 Tech Trend Report, cognitive computing is a regular, featuring on the trends list for a fifth year. Synonymous with the appearance of cognitive computing is IBM’s Watson platform.

IBM Watson is used as the prime example for how a cognitive system can supercharge humans’ and businesses’ ability to think through and solve complex problems. The platform is now helping doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers and other professionals in their everyday work – helping to cure cancers, personalize customer service, improve data discovery, surface critical insights and uncover trends and patterns that can help companies gain a competitive advantage.

The world of cognitive computing is anticipated to take a leap forward in 2017. Late last year, IBM announced the launch of the Cognitive Horizons Network, a collaborative and elite network dedicated to accelerating the field of cognitive computing. Made up of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the University of Michigan, and the University of Montreal – the network of schools will pool resources and work jointly to solve cognitive problems an push the envelope in the field of cognitive computing.

4. Shortage of data scientists and analysts driven by big data boom

In 2017, the buzzword of Big Data will continue to grow as organizations continue to become aware of these vast data sets and the insights that can be gleaned to drive economic growth. Large businesses will increasingly demand more analytics tools and experts to inform key business decisions, while government agencies will look to big data to determine funding for various programs.

Expect to see the widespread emergence of the Chief Data Officer position at mid-size and large organizations. These CDOs will be charged with championing big data initiatives to drive smart decisions and collaborate on security and surface insights.

One of the biggest challenges facing businesses wanting to implement AI and cognitive solutions in 2017, is finding the right kind of skilled employees. Previously unknown and unwanted, roles like that of a data scientist are set to become of the most sought after positions in the coming year. This is expected to create a significant data science skills shortage – with some estimates predicting a 50% gap between supply and demand.

5. More innovation than ever before

One of the biggest takeaways from the 2017 Tech Trend Report is vast growth of technological trends. This year’s report identifies more than 150 notable trends, a whopping 85% increase from the 80 trends highlighted in the 2016 Tech Trends Report. As innovation and advancement of technology continues at an exponential rate, we see the increasing pattern of one technology giving life to the next.

The 2017 Tech Trends Report is a fascinating read packed full of insights. The top 5 takeaways merely scratches the surface of the value contained within. A core theme within the report is AI and it’s importance to businesses.

Watson is working with businesses, scientists, researchers, and governments to out-think our biggest challenges with AI, machine learning and cognitive technologies that are more accessible than ever to every business, large or small. To learn more about Watson’s cognitive solutions and APIs, read more on this blog or sign up for a free trial on our website.

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