11 Nov 2016

Connected cows & B2B tech predictions for 2017

A business journalist we know asked recently what the big technologies were that businesses would be thinking about in 2017. It is a huge question without an easy answer.

Experts like Gartner dedicate huge amounts of time and resources to understanding emerging technologies and are far better qualified to make that kind of call. I worked with Gartner back in the noughties and I can guarantee that its hype cycles are a much more analytical and reliable indicator of what will be hot.

We do, however, get to speak with a great many technology CEOs, founders, marketers, PRs and journalists through our work, so can offer a little insight.

Here are our predictions around five technologies we’ll hear much more about in 2017:

Cloud gets collaborative

Nearly all businesses use the cloud in some form to reduce the burden on in-house IT, improve connectivity with other systems and enable people to access resources remotely. Beaming, the business ISP, says more than a third of firms are now completely reliant on cloud applications.

So far the cloud has been mostly about cheaper computing, but experts reckon conversations on this topic will shift to super-computing in 2017. Nick Morris at Dropbox says next year the cloud will be more about helping to solve big global problems like cancer and enabling people to achieve things that were previously impossible through massive shared computing power and collaboration.

Virtual reality becomes business reality

Virtual reality took huge strides forward in 2016, with new headsets and devices to cater for every budget. Entertainment, property and travel brands are leading the way, offering virtual tours and other immersive experiences to engage customers the VR realm. Marketers from many more sectors will follow suit in 2017.

The wider potential for VR in business also continues to grow. With the likes of Facebook and Second Life seeking to improve how people interact with each other in virtual environments, we expect many more businesses will start using this technology to help their people work remotely and collaborate with colleagues and business partners across the world.

IoT focus shifts to analysis & practicalities

With an astonishing number of devices now connected to the internet, focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) will shift to how businesses use the data they have gathered for practical purposes.

Rolls-Royce, for instance, is using aircraft data to improve engine performance and efficiency, while sensors attached to cows by UK startup Smartbell now allow farmers to track their location and even identify health problems using a smartphone.

One of our favourite examples is i2O, a clean technology firm that gathers data from water networks to help utilities match supply and demand, reduce pressures that damage pipelines and improve maintenance. It is helping water companies achieve significant environmental, financial and service improvements globally.

Cybersecurity gets serious

Beaming revealed that cyber crime cost UK companies £34 billion last year, and with 2016 bringing further pain from malware, data breaches and other cyber attacks, 2017 will be the year businesses get serious about cyber security.

Security experts have expressed concerns about the flaws that are inherent in many technology systems commonly used for business purposes. Companies that raced to embrace new technologies will now seek to close the holes in their systems.

Marketers will embrace live streaming

Finally, we’ve seen the emergence of brand journalism and content marketing over recent years as the web and social media allows businesses to engage directly with their customers and other audiences.

Video has become an even more valuable marketing and communication tool in the online environment. In 2017 its use will go up another level thanks to live streaming on popular platforms like Facebook and YouTube, which allows businesses to involve viewers in the moment and respond immediately to their comments and questions.

We see businesses using this new technology to offer live online coverage to seminars and events, commenting in real time on industry news and providing ‘behind the scenes’ access to their working environments using this technology.

Was there anything we missed?

Let us know what technologies you think will make the world of business sit up and take notice in 2017. Give us a shout if you want to talk to us about them.