These 2017 Tech Trends Will Impact Business in a Big Way

Keith Krach
November 10, 2016

Every year in the fall, industry pundits begin to speculate on which technological innovations the coming year will bring. The rapid pace of development in the digital age makes each year’s potential more exciting than the last, and the innovations that 2017 will bring are no exception to this rule.

Listed below are five trends that professionals can expect to influence business and product development in 2017.

1. Mobile continues to gain ground.

Since the early 2000s, the trajectory of mobile usage and development has skyrocketed. In 2014, the number of global mobile users surpassed the numbers of desktop users. In May of last year, Google announced that the number of searches conducted via mobile devices surpassed the number conducted via desktop. Research shows that of those who own a smartphone, as many as 87 percent say that their phone is always at their side.

None of this is on track to change in 2017, as tech sector pundits predict that it will be another big year of growth and development for mobile technologies. Recent data indicates that within the next three years, smartphone users may be 6.1 billion strong—or more than 80% of the world’s population. Expect to see more in the way of app development and mobile marketing for businesses, as 75 percent of all Internet use is expected to be conducted via mobile devices in the coming year.

2. Virtual and augmented reality find footing.

Innovation in the development of virtual reality (VR) has been something of an ill-fated pipe dream since companies first began experimenting with it in the late 1980s. The technology of the time did not provide innovators with the tools needed to realize their ambitious visions, and interest in virtual reality waned. Instead, it was the Internet that drove the technological revolution from the 1990s on.

However, a growing number of products from the last year have begun to re-energize the potential of virtual reality, including several products that incorporate augmented reality (AR) technology. VR headsets developed by some of the biggest names in the tech sector have garnered the interest of gaming devotees. At the same time, augmented reality has generated excitement through apps like Niantic’s wildly successful Pokémon Go. Experts see the possibility that 2017 will be a year when more startups enter the market using AR- and VR-focused technologies to provide innovative services to customers. Companies may also find targeted applications for AR and VR in functions like marketing.

3. Artificial intelligence extends its reach.

Innovative technologies like IBM Watson have already shown us what artificial intelligence is capable of accomplishing, even in its early stages. As of October, IBM employees diagnosed with cancer will have the opportunity to access Watson’s new suite of oncology applications, ushering in a new age for both healthcare and AI. The use of artificial intelligence is nothing new, but expect 2017 to be the year that businesses across all industries begin to find uses for AI within their operations.

Research indicates that the coming year will see more development of machines capable of moving past the limitations posed by rule-based problem solving. In its place, experts anticipate technology that can learn, adapt, and operate with ever-greater independence. While AI is expected to affect every market, the business services, advertising, and media and entertainment industries are anticipated to rank in the top 10 sectors that will embrace its adoption and use. By 2020, the market for artificial intelligence could be over $5 billion, up from just $419 million two years ago.

4. Our tech tools will get smarter, too.

In conjunction with the growth of AI, 2017 is slated to bring advanced forms of tech tools that benefit from the intersection of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. Virtual assistants are expected to grow in both use and capability as they become able to synch with external products and applications in a way that hasn’t been possible before.  

Additionally, items that previously acted as stand-alone smart products will begin to have the capacity to connect with other IoT-enabled items, paving the way for collaborative decision-making between technologies. The applications for these innovations will prove useful in many settings, including the home, the office, within factories, and even within the medical field.

5. Stronger investments in security.

The coming age of digital connectivity via the Internet of Things has been labeled the “digital mesh,” and it’s bringing a heightened degree of security concerns with it. Increased communication and touchpoints between technologies and devices means there will be more opportunities than ever for hackers to obtain private data. Because of this, 2017 may be a year characterized by even greater levels of adaptive security architecture than seen in 2016.

This aspect of the 2017 digital frontier will be especially important to businesses, as US consumers continue to be concerned with the way companies are handling their private data. Businesses that wish to remain successful will need to remain vigilant and make sure they have technology leaders who can adapt quickly in the face of new threats that emerge from the digital mesh. New technologies like User and Entity Behavior Analytics may help close some of the security loopholes left exposed by so-called perimeter solutions.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.