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Dust off that record player: Tech that will turn heads in 2017

You could be surprised by the predictions revealed at ICTAM's Tech Mash Up...

Do you miss your favourite gadget from year's gone by? Well, they could be making a comeback. 

Deloitte’s annual technology forecast focused on developments both at the cutting edge of digital and true retro analog.

ICTAM Tech Mash UpWhile we’ll see growth and development in areas like biometric security and Westworld-style machine learning, when it comes to music, the old is definitely new, as vinyl record sales are again predicted to increase in 2017.

Speaking to a lunch crowd of about 65 at the Tech Mash Up hosted by ICTAM (the Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba) on January 17 at the NRC building in downtown Winnipeg, Deloitte Winnipeg’s Matthew Hlynsky, Manager, Financial Advisory, and Andrea Legary, Manager, Global Research and Development, Government Incentives and Tax, talked about key technology trends for 2017.

$1 Billion in sales for vinyl records

“Vinyl had its peak in the ’70s, started dropping off in the ’80s, but it’s undergone a surprising resurgence in the last couple of years,” Hlynsky said.

Deloitte predicts sales in the global vinyl record sector will approach $1 billion in 2017, mostly via new and used record sales, along with some revenue from turntables and accessories.

“That’s a significant contribution to the music industry if we consider that would be about 15-18 per cent of physical music sales and about six per cent of global music revenues, period,” he said.

record player is back

Hlynsky says the big shift in the market, compared to during vinyl’s heyday, is that records are not the dominant form of music distribution and listening, but rather have a nostalgic niche appeal.

“It’s an artisanal product in the way it’s produced and manufactured and it’s something that can be displayed, whereas digital music just can’t be,” Hlynsky said. “Our expectation is that, in the medium term, the market will stabilize. This would be the seventh consecutive year for double-digit growth in vinyl. The expectation is that will start to slow, but will still be about 10 per cent (growth) for the year.

"As demand grows, so does supply and we’re seeing a number of non-traditional outlets carrying vinyl records. It is interesting, because this is a format many people thought was dead a few years ago,” Hlynsky said.

Maps move off the roads and into buildings

On the mapping front, developments are underway in the final frontier — indoors.

Right now, only about five per cent of indoor spaces are accurately mapped, but Deloitte predicts that by 2022 that will rise to 25 per cent.

“We spend 90 per cent of our time indoors, so there’s a tremendous opportunity if we’re able to bring the functionality inside,” Hlynsky said.

Matt Hlynsky DeloitteHlynsky says it will happen through the increased use of Wi-Fi networks, boosted accuracy of cellular networks and emerging Bluetooth beacon technology that could more accurately triangulate indoor positions.

The technology is important for emergency personnel in their efforts to locate incidents in indoor spaces and costs may be mitigated by businesses and marketers.

“If you can track someone’s exact path from the time they walked into your store, where they stopped, what they looked at and ultimately through to the till, the volume of data available and the ability to extract and analyze insights would be very impressive,” Hlynsky said.

Are machines learning how to be more efficient?

On the digital side of things, Hlynsky and Legary pointed to machine learning’s shift more into our devices as a key development for 2017.

Likening it the HBO sentient-robot/artificial-intelligence focused series Westworld, Hlynsky says this will mean reduced latency when it comes to our devices learning to adapt to our needs. On the HBO show, human-like robots learn, remember and feel through experience, seemingly independent of their creators or programmers. Similarly, Hlynsky says our devices will begin to take on the work of machine learning, apart from the parent network.

“Over 300 million of smartphones shipped, or over a fifth of the units, will contain chips to enable onboard neural network machine-learning capability,” Hlynsky said.

Machine learning allows a device to improve and learn tasks through exposure to data rather than via explicitly programmed instructions.

“If I’m not connected to a network or there’s a weak signal, or underground or on a plane, that functionality is lost. What’s generally happening now is that machine learning is fulfilled through large data centres,” Hlynsky said. “As we use our phones more and more, it’s important that functionality is available all the time.”

The shift will be possible because manufacturers are starting to employ specialized chips that are more powerful and capable of running these types of neural networks at prices, sizes and with power consumption levels that are a fit for smartphones.

When it comes to devices such as drones, boosting responsiveness, reducing latency and improving security can be facilitated if data is not being processed via a network.

“Every millisecond counts,” Hlynsky said. “It can be critical.”

Your fingerprint will become much more valuable

In another sign we’re becoming comfortable with tech recognizing us, Deloitte predicts that biometric security, in the form of fingerprint recognition, will top a billion users in 2017.

“It’s quite a drastic increase when you think that three and a half years ago no phones had fingerprint readers,” Legary said. “It will continue to grow as more and more users become accustomed to and comfortable with the security method. It’s very convenient and a rapid and discreet way of unlocking a device.”

Cars & safety get some major tech boosts

When it comes to how we find our way and get around, Legary and Hlynsky predict a couple of developments.

Andrea Legary

While driverless cars still may be some time away, automated emergency braking (AEB) may make us safer in the short term.

“AEB is here today,” Legary said. “Deloitte predicts that by 2022, one-sixth of U.S. cars and light trucks will be equipped with AEB.”

The technology is widely expected to reduce road fatalities by reducing collisions and lowering impact velocities. AEB technology employs camera, radar, laser, LIDAR technology to scan for obstacles and responds in one to two milliseconds to apply braking without operator intervention.

Legary says the relatively low cost of the technology will facilitate its deployment in consumer vehicles and cites studies that show vehicle buyers are more interested in AEB than fully automated, driverless vehicles.

Will consumers buy more tablets? Think again…

When it comes to consumer electronics, Deloitte is predicting we’ve hit ‘peak tablet.’

“It was expected at one point the tablet would usurp the PC,” Hlynsky said. “However, in 2017 we’re predicting that sales of tablets will drop by about 10 per cent (globally) to less than 165 million units.”

Household use of tablets is still strong, but it appears adoption demand has hit a plateau. Phone screens have become larger and laptop functionality has improved significantly.

“Now there are pivoting screens and touch screens and they’re becoming lighter, stronger and have more battery life,” Hlynsky said. 

Because of the way we use tablets, they don’t need to be replaced as often or as quickly.

“They get less wear and tear and they’re not used on the go the same way as a phone is, so they’re less susceptible to being dropped, lost or stolen,” he said.

Hlynsky says recent surveys show tablets are the number one preferred device for only one demographic: children.

“Until the age of 12, then we see a shift as other devices are introduced to them,” he said. “By 12, that benefit offered by tablets all of a sudden disappears in favour of other devices.”

IT-as-a-service will be on the rise

When it comes to IT services, Deloitte is predicting the rise of a flexible-consumption model, rather than on-premise services.

Rather than owning IT hardware, software and services, enterprises will increasingly look to procure their IT service on a flexible, as-needed basis. Last year, about 25 per cent of businesses were dealing with IT this way, but Deloitte predicts that will rise to about 35 per cent in 2018 and up to more than half of IT spending by 2021 or 2022.

ICTAM Manitoba

ICTAM hosts regular events in Winnipeg, with registration available on their website.

10 Million security attacks, even on your triple shot latté

On the dark side, Deloitte predicts a rise in the number of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks at the terabit level in 2017. DDoS attacks use a variety of techniques to send countless useless requests to a website, boosting traffic and overwhelming it, causing denial of service.

Deloitte is predicting, on average, one terabit-per-second attack per month this year, in addition to 10 million total attacks, with the average-sized attack being between 1.25 and 1.5 gigabits-per-second of junk data. The first attack at the terabit level happened in 2016.

The attacks are often made through ‘BotNets,’ or collections of infected connected devices — anything from PCs to smartphones to appliances utilizing the ‘Internet of things.’

Many ‘Internet of things’ connected devices may be shipped with hardcoded passwords that may easily be compromised. 

“Even your espresso machine could be participating,” she said. “The base of unprotected connected devices is continuing to grow. Even unskilled hackers have access to how to do this now and whether they’re doing it for fun, hactivism or just to disrupt society, it will become more frequent.

“Since these devices are often hard-wired and constantly plugged into a power source, there’s no direct signal to us to demonstrate there is a problem, so you may unwittingly be housing several items that are participating in hack attacks.”

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Jason Halstead

Jason is a Winnipeg-based journalist and photographer who has been published across Canadian media.

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