A look ahead at 2017

2017 tech outlook -- and saving predictions from the digital dustbin

Chatbot onslaught, 5G hype machine on tap for 2017; plus looking back on 2016 predictions

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A look ahead at 2017

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Anyone who has ever done any news video knows that much of what originally gets recorded winds up on the cutting room floor, or these days, in the digital dustbin. That's usually for the best and that was the case recently when myself and other IDG editors were asked to share our 2017 tech predictions, as seen in the embedded video here.

But since I went to the effort of coming up with another prediction, beyond expecting 5G hype to crank up in 2017, and looked back to see how my 2016 predictions fared, I figured I'd lay that all out here.

My other prediction, which was essentially thrust upon me every time I attended a conference in the second half of 2016, or more recently, peered into my email inbox, is that enterprise IT staffs are going to be inundated with requests by higher ups and end users to support conversational interfaces and chatbots.

The demand for such support will rise as people become more and more used to communicating via real-time messaging systems (from texting to Facebook Messenger to Slack to Microsoft Team to Cisco Spark)  and via conversational interfaces found in consumer products from Amazon Echo (5M sold in 2 years) to Google Home to Apple and Microsoft devices.

MORE: 5 technologies that will shake things up in 2017

Every tech conference I go to these days seems to feature references to Echo integrations, almost with an assumption that everyone has one (don’t think that’s true at all, but surely many more will after holiday shoppers succumb to the latest Amazon and Google marketing pushes). Organizations like Acquia, which supports open source Drupal websites, for instance, is working hard on integration with devices like Echo.

Apple’s likely to come out with some sort of answer to Echo as well, so that could ratchet things up another level.

Tens of millions of dollars are being pumped into chatbot and conversational UI startups, and increasingly ones that are enterprise focused. Dozens of these companies got first round funding this year, which means we’re likely to see a lot of new products pushed out next year to enterprises. Companies that have invested in all sorts of big data products might find these new tools useful for making sense of such data. And it’s not just startups: Big enterprise software companies like SAP are also paying plenty of attention to enterprise chatbots.

While a lot of new chatbot products might make their way into enterprises via lines of business – sales and marketing software company Hubspot, for instance, has built its own bot – IT is going to have to support this new wave of applications. That will mean dealing with everything from app integration to management to security, according to AppDynamics, an application performance management and monitoring company that I asked about this topic. 

"With the advent of conversational interfaces like Siri and Alexa, customer expectations are increasing for 'instant' interactions with the companies that they engage with.  And users are impatient, the software and infrastructure supporting these interactions must perform well, as the slightest delay can cause a user to abandon and move on to another brand," the company says. Not only will IT staffs need to respond quickly, but they'll need to make sure that data doesn't get compromised in the mix.

"Adapting these interaction models will also likely require new services running on new kinds of infrastructure.  And that introduces even more complexity to an already highly complex IT environment," according to the vendor 

Some of the vendors that have been funded, like Message.io and Imperson, have built platforms to make it easier for enterprises to build bots and ensure that they work across different messaging systems like Slack and Microsoft team.

One way in which these tools might benefit IT directly is in handling some of their helpdesk and other tasks.

2016 predictions scorecard

As for my predictions from last year ():

*I anticipated that WLAN vendors would push back against the FCC for slapping WLAN customers for blocking WiFi hotspots. As far as I know, WLAN vendors have not done this, perhaps as a result of their customers getting the message after being fined themselves by the FCC or becoming aware of others getting fined up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prediction result: WRONG!

*I expected enterprises would become more willing to embrace the public cloud – and even talk about it. This has definitely happened. We even had a pitch recently from Evernote wanting to yap about its big move to the Google Cloud. In other words, the customer actually approached us about that deal, not the vendor, which is usually the way it works (not that Evernote and Google aren't very tight in the first place). Prediction result: RIGHT!

*That there would be major consolidation in the big data/analytics market, where venture dollars poured in to dozens of startups at a dizzying rate during 2015.

I'd say this did happen, in a way. While this didn't necessarily take the form of a bunch of mergers and acquisitions, there did appear to be a holding back by VCs of big rounds of funding (tens of thousands of dollars) in this market.  And it's not like there weren't some high-profile players buying into this market -- Cisco buying CloudLock, Apple purchasing Tuplejump and SAP snapping up Altiscale to name a few. 

The fact that there weren't even more such deals by companies like this might very well also have been the result of such buyers being dazzled by startups in even sexier markets, such as Internet of Things and artificial intelligence/machine learning. That's where a lot of the consolidation action wound up happening. Prediction result: MORE RIGHT THAN WRONG...

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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