In 2016, Blockchain took off with a lot of media attention on the distributed technology that will drastically change organisations and societies. Many organisations are exploring Blockchain solutions. The R3 Partnership, which involves over 70 of the largest banks in the world, seeks to invest almost $60 million in the development of their blockchain platform. Although four prominent banks left the consortium, it shows that banks are serious in further exploring this technology.
However, settling of transactions is not the biggest opportunity of the blockchain technology. The real possibilities come with recording smart contracts on the blockchain. Smart contracts are traditional contracts, but written in code. They are like If This Then That statements; only they tend to be a lot more complex. When linked together they can result in new forms of organisations such as a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation.
The most well-known platform for smart contracts is Ethereum. Ethereum is a decentralised platform for applications (DApps) that run exactly as programmed without any chance of fraud, censorship or third-party interference. Although Ethereum is still a very young platform, and has some challenges with involuntary hard forks, the opportunities of irreversible smart contracts linked together on a platform like Ethereum are enormous. Multiple startups are developing similar platforms such as Synereo, Maidsafe or the latest platform Ardor. They are all trying to build the decentralised internet. 2017 will see these platforms growing up, although we will probably also see some issues related to these platforms. However, slowly the technology of a decentralised internet is growing up and smart contracts will be an important part of Blockchain 2.0.
2. Deep Learning Becomes Smarter and Brings Us Closer to Artificial General Intelligence
The algorithmic business has the potential to change society and 2016 saw a significant increase in the development of algorithms. Algorithms won the game of Go, it can translate languages it does not know and even detect a criminal simply by looking at an image of a face. Artificial intelligence will not stop there and in the coming years we will move more and more towards a form of artificial general intelligence; Siri that can also drive your car.
Artificial general intelligence is becoming possible because of deep learning. Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning and is inspired by the neural networks in our brain. The objective is to create artificial neural networks that can find patterns in vast amounts of data. Deep learning is becoming widely available now, because of the increased computing power and large data sets that are available to scientists around the globe. Therefore, in 2017 we will see many new deep learning applications that could significantly impact our lives.
Deep learning algorithms are not trained by humans. Rather, they are exposed to massive data sets, millions of videos / images / articles, etc. and the algorithms must figure out for itself how to recognise different objects, sentences, images, etc. As a result, it can come up with solutions no humans could have thought of. An example is a set of algorithms that just developed an encryption algorithm humans could not decipher using patterns humans would never use. Thus, if in 2017 you have the feeling that your computer talks in a secret code to you, that could very well be true
3. Conversational AI: Intelligent Applications Will Revolutionise Interactions
Connected devices will become truly smart in 2017. Robots, autonomous vehicles or boats, drones and any other Internet of Things product will become increasingly intelligent. These devices will become a lot better at understanding the user and adapting the product or service to the needs of the user. Software updates will be done over-the-air, reducing the need to constantly buy a new product.
When these smart devices are connected to intelligent applications such as Siri, Alexa, Viv, Cortana or Google Home, the possibilities become endless. Conversational AI will enable high-level conversations with these intelligent applications. At the moment, these applications are primarily used to control your phone, play music or order a pizza but in 2017 that is about to change drastically.
Already, Alexa owners can control their car from inside their home and turn on the engine, but soon you will be able to control almost any device using your voice. Especially the development of Viv, which is coined as the next generation of Siri, will be able to do anything that you ask. As such, these bots, as said by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, will be the next apps. 2017 will see the convergence of these intelligent applications with many IoT devices and with Amazon announcing a new startup accelerator focused on conversational AI, it will change how your organisation will have to deal with customers.
4. IoT-Related Data Breaches Will Cause Havoc
The Internet of Things continues to grow. In 2016, probably around 6,5 billion devices are connected to the internet, which is expected to grow to 50 billion devices in 2020. 2016 also saw the first large scale IoT-related DDoS attack. The 2016 IoT DDoS attack, which disrupted the internet on the USA East Coast, was made possible because of the lack of security with connected devices. A botnet infected thousands of connected devices such as routers or smart cameras and used these to launch a DDoS attack that brought down the internet for millions of people.
Unfortunately, 2017 will probably see many more of such IoT-related attacks. Simply because IoT connected devices are notoriously vulnerable because of the lack of security. Many organisations that develop smart toothbrushes, smart cameras, smart dolls for children or whatever smart connected device you can think of, do not take data security serious at all. As such, hackers will be able to hijack your daughter’s Barbie doll to spy on your kids or bring down the internet for millions of people. Governments and regulators must step in to force manufacturers of connected devices to secure their IoT devices to the highest level, because it only requires one internet connection to infect a network with a virus and bring down the internet.
5. Mixed Reality Will Drastically Improve Data Visualisations and Decision-Making
Augmented and Virtual Reality have come a long way in the past years. Augmented Reality had its pivoting moment in 2016 with the launch of Pokémon Go, which reached over 100 million users in just a few weeks. Obviously, Pokémon Go is not very relevant for large corporations that want to understand their data, but it is important to understand the impact Augmented, Virtual or Mixed reality will have on our society. 2016 also saw the launch of several new Virtual Reality devices, including PlayStation VR, which instantly made VR accessible to over 40 million gamers who bought the PlayStation 4. Another pivoting moment.
Although AR or VR might not be very useful for the boardroom, the concept of Mixed Reality might very well be. Mixed reality is the merging of the virtual world with the real world and some of the devices that enable this are Microsoft Hololens or the yet-to-be-revealed Magic Leap. Mixed Reality will offer tremendous opportunities for organisations to better perform tasks at hand as well as to better understand the data generated by the organisation.
There are already many examples of some form of Mixed Reality being used in the manufacturing industry to enable better repairs, faster product development or improved inventory management. In addition, Mixed Reality will help decision makers with the understanding of (very) complex data sets, which will enable them to make better decisions. 2017 will see an increase in products and applications developed for Mixed Reality, which organisations can use to improve their decision-making or deliver a better product or service.
6. Big-Data-as-a-Self-Service Solutions Will Catalyse Big Data Adoption
With the hype of Big Data finally behind us, organisations are starting to see that their data offers valuable insights for their business. Organisations want to monetise their data. Slowly, they are starting to understand that, actually, all companies are technology companies. As such, they should treat their data as if being the core of their business. However, for many organisations, it is not possible to spend millions on advanced big data analytics systems and/or hire big data scientists or analysts, simply because they are too small for that. Fortunately, 2017 will see a rise in Big-Data-as-a-Self-Service solutions.
Self-service big data analytics will enable organisations to monetise their data and to use the insights to improve their business. These solutions do not require months of planning and preparation or the development of an IT infrastructure. Instead, you can simply connect your data sources and get to work. These platforms will enable agility, short time-to-implementation and offer increased productivity for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. Knowing that there are approximately 125 million SMEs in the world, it is a massive market up for grabs. Big-Data-as-a-Self-Service Solutions, enabling organisations to prepare data irrespective of the type of data, whether structured, semi-structured or unstructured, could, therefore, be the killer app for big data adoption in 2017.
7. Sensemaking through Mixed Data Will Empower Employees
The world around us is changing rapidly and organisations need to make sense of this changing environment to remain competitive. However, this sensemaking should not only be done by C-level executives or senior managers. Instead, organisations should empower the true decision-makers with the right insights from data. The real decision makers within an organisation are not senior managers or C-level executives, but are the employees that face the customer, sell your service or build the product in the factory. Insights can be provided by what I like to call a mixed data approach. Combining internal and external data as well as structured and unstructured data to gain valuable insights.
2017 will see more organisations empowering their employees with the right knowledge, thanks to big data analytics. Organisations will adopt tools such as Apache Spark, Hadoop or visualisation tools such as Tableau Software, ClearStory Data or Periscope to finally give the true decision-makers the insights they need to make the right decisions. This will shift the power balance within an organisation, since knowledge equals power. As such, it will require a change in behaviour of senior managers and C-level executives. However, if done correctly, it will increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve employee empowerment, increase profitability and along the way improve employee satisfaction.
2017: The Year of Intelligence
2017 will be an exciting year in terms of big data and I would like to call it the Year of Intelligence. Finally, we will see smart contracts developing into the first Decentralised Autonomous Organisations. Breakthroughs in deep learning will slowly bring us towards Artificial General Intelligence and intelligent applications combined with conversational AI will change how we interact with organisations. Those organisations will start to empower their employees with data insights and using Big-Data-as-a-Self-Service solution will improve their organisation. Unfortunately, all these intelligent applications of big data will also result in increased data breaches that will cause much harm to organisations and consumers. All in all, it will be an exciting and intelligent year.
What do you think of these seven big data trends for 2017? Anything you want to add? Please join the discussion in the comments below. If you want to download the presentation of the seven top big data trends for 2017, click here.