‘Tis the season for annual tech predictions, and with 2016 on the way out and 2017 at our door, there seems to be no better time to reflect on the tech shifts that have happened this past year and what may be knocking at our door.
Whether it's housing that knows to turn the lights on when you leave, cars that can drive themselves or medical revelations as a result of big data, there is a lot on the horizon for the year ahead.
Prediction 1: Machine learning changes the way we work
Machine learning, or artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise, and companies across the globe are turning to algorithms and automation engines to analyze and understand consumer behaviour patterns.
We can already see these technologies becoming popular in spaces like the productivity app Slack, which has integrated customer service bots into its chat service. Not only are the bots able to respond to customer questions and solve problems, but they can collect and compile data on consumer behaviour, speech patterns and keywords, which can assist businesses with understanding how to help their customers.
But AI in business can go much further than just answering questions, as AI bots will be applied to compile data, schedule meetings and even answer your emails.
Prediction 2: Self-driving cars save lives
One of the biggest leaps forward in machine learning and artificial intelligence is in the realm of self-driving cars. While you may not find one self-parking in your garage in six months, companies like Tesla Motors and Google X are working hard to make it a reality as soon as possible.
Many cars already come with automated features like cameras and sensors to increase your sensory field of vision, plus that ever-popular W-iFi in the car. (Read how they do that here). Some cars will now even park with the push of a button, and Tesla Model 7 cars come equipped with an autopilot capability. Currently, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) concludes that Tesla cars fall between the level 2 and level 3 of the automated automobile classification, with level 5 being entirely independent of human interaction other than starting the system and choosing the destination.
Why does this matter? For one, automobile collisions kill almost 1.3 million people worldwide every year, and AVs, whose sensors can detect movement and changes in the surrounding environment faster than a human, may save thousands of lives a year.
Prediction 3: We'll watch football games in VR
Virtual reality is becoming more commonplace, and companies like NextVR and LiveNation are teaming up to bring VR concerts and shows to reality. In the not-too-distant future, venues will be able to create and produce live streams of events like sports games and concerts to customers who can watch and engage without leaving the comfort of their living rooms.
We’ll also see the increasing popularity of 360-degree videos, which will make your standard viewing experience that much more immersive.
Since VR setups can be prohibitively expensive to the average consumer, VR ‘arcades’ have popped up in recent months as options for consumers to play with and test the hardware before making the investment. With this in mind, we may see spaces starting to rent out rooms for groups of VR enthusiasts to watch a football game or concert that is actually happening in an exotic location on the other side of the world.
Prediction 4: Big data predicts your health
Until recently, sharing information between hospitals, specialist offices and family doctor practices has been challenging and often frustrating.
However, as medical records become digitized and digital standards begin to emerge, sharing information in real-time between facilities will help doctors treat their patients more effectively.
Not only will doctors and nurses be able to look up your medical history with the click of a button, but by having access to ‘big data’ (that is, data sets which can be analyzed to reveal patterns and trends) doctors will be able to study long-term impact on resident’s health or medical concerns. For example, studying data on issues like city pollution levels can help identify health concerns that manifest themselves in certain portions of the population.
Prediction 5: Your ‘smart' home is going to be brilliant
Rapid adoption of new technology is helping us transform our buildings into interconnected ‘smart’ buildings.
Thanks to companies like Nest, Amazon Echo and Vivint Sky, your home isn’t just where you go to relax and unwind; it’s swiftly becoming a place that learns your habits, preferences and schedule, then adjusts on its own to suit your lifestyle.
For example, your Nest: Home will use sensors to detect when you are no longer in a room, and can turn off lights after you leave. You can set your thermostat to your preferred temperature from your watch or smartphone, and your home will be perfect temperature when you arrive. If you’ve forgotten to turn off your oven after you leave the house, now you don’t have to go back — now you can turn off your oven from your phone. Canadian competitor Ecobee is also ramping up their smart thermostat offerings to bring more options to the market in the ever-popular ‘Internet of Things’ category.
Not only do ‘smart’ homes make our lives easier by turning off lights and appliances, but they can help reduce energy costs, lower our environment footprint and help us be more efficient in day-to-day lives.