Whether you’re a business owner trying to make your enterprise more profitable, a marketer trying to make your life easier, or just a consumer eager for the latest and greatest technology, it’s hard not to be excited about the new tech trends that are shaping our world.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve made a number of predictions about how technology would develop throughout 2016, and while many of my forecasts came true (more or less), there have also been some surprising developments in new areas that are worth our attention.
These are some of the most important and defining tech trends of 2016:
1. Streaming video.
Chances are, you’ve seen at least one of your friends or a major brand you follow stream a live video for their audience over the past year. That’s because streaming video is becoming more practical, more popular, and in heavier demand. Streaming video is interesting to users because it gives them an “in the moment experience,” being able to see through someone else’s eyes rather than just seeing a retrospective update. Because it’s been nearly perfected by brands like Facebook, it’s easier than ever for anyone to live-stream a broadcast at any time. Expect this trend to develop further with products like iGlass and Snap’s Spectacles.
2. Augmented and virtual reality.
AR and VR are already seemingly starting to become overused terms, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them on this list. Oculus Rift exploded onto the scene this year, along with dozens of competing devices and systems. Sales figures suggest that this is more than just a passing trend, and the hype wasn’t overblown (exactly). Plus, augmented reality app Pokémon Go crushed expectations with over 100 million downloads, ushering in what could be a new era for augmented reality gaming—and some marketing and advertising opportunities that go along with it.
3. Artificial intelligence (AI).
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have begun to creep into our lives in more diverse and unexpected ways. Just at a glance, AI algorithms are starting to self-improve search rankings and search results, automated investing, and personal digital assistants. So far, there have yet to be any major roadblocks—instead, we’re seeing major breakthroughs, such as AlphaGo beating a human Go master for the first time in history. We’re getting better at making our machines better, and in the next few years, we may start inching closer to approaching human-level intelligence with these systems.
4. Data visualization.
For a few years, every kind of “tech trends” post you could imagine mentioned “big data,” at least in passing. Today, big data is still around and still influential, but people aren’t referring to it in such generic terms anymore; instead, they’re focusing on its applications. One of the most important pieces to the big data puzzle is being able to interpret and manage the data accurately, and draw meaningful conclusions from what you’ve gathered; and that’s where data visualization comes in. Thousands of companies have sprung up to aggregate, project, visualize, and interpret data on behalf of non-professional data analysts, and to make “big data” more practical for the business world.
5. The open enterprise.
The “open enterprise” is a loose term that defines the tendency for different companies and applications to offer themselves through other apps, websites, and device functions. For example, you can order an Uber directly through Google, and Starbucks having plans to expand its mobile ordering app so consumers can order coffee while doing other things on their devices. This is becoming important because the “mobile experience” is becoming fluid, comprising elements of web surfing, information retrieval, and the use of functionality all at once. Being available to your customers no matter what app they’re using is a critical way to build awareness and encourage more engagements.