The Year Ahead 2017: Technology


Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and video will all grow in 2017, says Tom Roy. And they could even make life better for us

In 2017 we will see the advances in tech that arrived in 2016 go into overdrive. A lot of these revolve around developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. They are all in some way connected. To each other. And to us as people.

Cognitive devices

This is a step beyond ‘smart’ devices. Products that have self learning built in to become aware of context – and that are capable of complex thinking that mimics human capabilities (See also sentient IoT, below). Cognitive devices will allow for predictive marketing and product delivery – taking loyalty-based decisions to levels of automation that are actually quite scary.

AI and personal assistants

Technologies around AI, such as natural-language processing and deep learning, will naturally evolve into systems that understand, learn, predict and adapt – and are able to almost clone human behaviour. Rather than simply executing predefined code, these systems will be able to ‘think’ on the fly and react. Everyday tasks are going to be easier, with personal assistants becoming better twins of human behaviour, and logical progression of thought will be built into apps. In marketing, this means brands will be able to learn from past market data, immediate context and individual customer behaviour patterns, and predict an experience to create an offer in the moment, autonomously, intelligently.

Smart homes and connected lives

The smart home will be an ecosystem rather than just a bunch of connected devices. This is where we should see brand collaboration and the dissolution of competition – particularly in different verticals. We’ll see connected lives of consumers demand collaboration between brands and products they use – freely, and geared towards their experience and convenience rather than company bottom line. Expect a sushi delivery via a drone taxi company, and a fridge collaborating with a grocery chain.

IoT, but sentient

Almost in the same genre as AI equipped apps and tools, and homes – the internet of things (IoT) will see adoption of sentient tools. These tools are aware of their context and social interactions – they can feel and perceive and reason. Cloud-based AI, centrally connected robots, and advanced machine-learning algorithms will converge, and we’ll start to see the true benefits of IoT in manufacturing, marketing and everyday living. Commonplace things around us will provide solutions rather than pose problems.

More AR, better AR and with VR

Expect augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to expand beyond visual immersion to include all human senses. Like Pokemon Go for business. By late 2017 we expect that AR-layered VR will transform the way individuals interact with each other and with software/hardware to create immersive, interactive environments. Better AR and VR will be used for training scenarios and remote experiences. The blending of real-world with projected images might just change our experiences at resorts, movies, sports events and classrooms.

DaaS and DoD

Businesses will no longer need to work through the 4Vs of big data (volume, variety, velocity, veracity) at huge costs of time and money. A new breed of data brokers will emerge to provide data as a service (DaaS) and let brands access data on demand (DoD), and simply have that analysed based on immediate need. We’ll see advancements to humanise big data, making it more qualitative and useful and adding layers of empathy – projecting it in a more visualised, accessible way.

Improved CRO technologies

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) will creep into a lot more than just websites and landing pages. CRO will be the new user experience. It helps you track user behaviour on your site and identify elements that produce the highest number of conversions. Marketers will find new ways to use CRO to channel their existing traffic into sales. And CRO will be used in apps, on payment interfaces, last miles of interactions, and retail – anywhere where a yes/no decision is involved.

Noise, filters and clutter-cutting content

Content that cuts through the immense amount of white noise out there will have to be precise and dense. Every word in a post will have to be ‘optimised’ to resonate. Every frame in a video meaningful. Every sound a vibe. Content will become a highly specialised skill, with highly informed and inspired writers and creators who will understand and develop clutter-cutting content. Also, expect apps and assistants that will filter out content you don’t want, even before you don’t want it.

Video gone mad

Yes, video is going to go mad in 2017. Social media? Video. Ads on mobile? Video. Most consumed content platforms? Video. Surgery via video. Wedding invites via video. Resumé on video. College lectures on video. Everything and everybody will see some sort of use for video. And of course good quality, not-seen-before, high-resolution video. AR/VR and video. Guidance systems, sat nav and maps will use video. Live video. Facebook and video. Search and video. Chatbots and video. Oh, and maybe even vodka and video. And, on that high note. Here’s to 2017…

Tom Roy is chief innovations officer at MCN