March 3, 2017 5 tech trends for 2017

By Natalie Khoo

Natalie Khoo at the Google office

Last month, I travelled to San Francisco in search of this year’s biggest, brightest and most exciting ideas. Over some free lunches (thanks, Facebook and Google!) and a few fancy coffees downtown, I pinned down 5 incredibly smart, savvy individuals and asked them what they thought will be hot in 2017.

1. Alexa, the personal assistant for your home

According to Jonathan Brent, Content Strategist at Facebook

In February 2016, Amazon released Echo – an ordinary-looking speaker with an extraordinary voice-activated personal assistant, Alexa. In the 12 months she has been on the market, Alexa has learnt to do more than just play Spotify upon command. She is connected to the cloud – as well as your electronic devices and smart home appliances – and can execute more than 10,000 skills such as unlock your front door, turn on your lights, set reminders, order your dinner, shop for groceries, and report on how many steps your Fitbit has recorded that day.

Jonathan believes that in 2017, adoption of Alexa may overtake Siri and Cortana (the personal assistants we’re familiar with on our mobile devices). Alexa is more integrated and relevant to everyday consumer needs.

Alexa commands

Alexa skills

2. Artificial intelligence to streamline customer service

According to Elliot Hayes, Manager, Technical Recruiting at Zendesk

Zendesk – one of the world’s leading customer service platforms – is currently investing R&D into programming and testing chatbots. The aim is to create questions and answers that will empower its clients to improve real-time customer interaction – while reducing pressure on human resources.

Such artificial intelligence starts with the application of machine learning systems, in which data is mined to identify patterns. There is also a focus on semantic search as part of this process.

Uber customer service

Zendesk is already working with Uber to test and optimise a broad range of queries and complaints.

3. Augmented reality (AR) for real world applications

According to Mark Mandel, Developer Advocate, Google

For the past few years, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been hot innovations in tech. But this year, VR and AR will be more trending than ever. Mark Mandel from Google explains, “The difference today is that hardware is finally advanced enough for us to create a self-contained unit – one that is accessible and practical enough for someone to wear and use.

However, when it comes to mass adoption, Mark says AR will have a bigger impact than VR in the marketplace. “VR currently doesn’t have the audience to make it mainstream. But the development of AR is very exciting; it is now being widely used (and valued) in the medical, military and healthcare industries.“

This is Surgery Pad, an augmented reality app currently available for the iPad.

4. The Market Network Model

According to Ned Dwyer, Director of Product Management, GoDaddy

Ned Dwyer is an inspiring young Australian entrepreneur. In 2015 his startup, Elto, was acquired by GoDaddy after just three years of operation. He’s now working for GoDaddy in San Francisco and loving every minute.

Ned is naturally quick on the pulse when it comes to tech. His top pick for what’s hot right now is the Market Network Model, in which startups combine both elements of networks (such as Facebook) with marketplaces (like Airbnb). A great example is Honeybook. The Market Network Model offers long-term value for both parties, i.e. it does not exploit suppliers for the benefit of customers. (Look at the case of Homejoy – a startup that experienced astronomical growth but later failed miserably, as it commoditised the cleaners it depended on.)

To find out more, read The Last 10 Years Have Been About Social Networks — The Next 10 Will Be About “Market-Networks” by James Currie. “It’s probably the best piece of writing on the subject by the guy who invented the term,” Ned says.

Honeybook website screenshot

Honeybook provides long-term value to both suppliers and their customers.

5. Social fitness and next-level competitive exercise

According to Miranda Raimon, Partner Success at ClassPass

Fitness startup ClassPass recently launched a new ‘social feature’ within its app that enables users to see what classes their friends are taking. By syncing with Facebook friends, users can now see who is interested in what, when – and this makes booking/attending classes a whole lot more fun.

Furthermore, you can now compete with your friends, fellow classmates, or yourself (if you want to smash personal bests). Popular spin studio in the US Flywheel uses technology that measures individual performance on each bike, and displays live stats on a leaderboard during sessions. Data is recorded and accessible anytime via the Flywheel app.

ios_find friends by name-fb screenshot

How to add friends from Facebook to your ClassPass account.