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Technology Trends Every Chief Innovation Officer Should Look Out For in 2017

October 27, 2016

The Chief Innovation Officer, by nature, is constantly working to stay ahead of the innovation curve. Whether looking for transformative technologies to utilize in conjunction with existing products, finding creative ways to save time and money by increasing productivity, or finding new revenue streams by adopting new technologies and diversifying the products they put out, the savvy CIO always keeps an eye open.

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And as we near 2017, several major, game-changing trends are on the horizon that are already being used by early adopters in a number of industries. CIOs, take note!

  • Location-Based Services (LBS)

Location, as you know, is no longer confined to a GPS. With a range of new indoor location technologies, LBS has entered an exciting phase of development and is already transforming analytics and advertising revenue opportunities. While the spotlight is still on BLE beacons, WiFi is gradually gaining ground. Successful deployment of multi-channel engagement platforms like Proximity MX are illustrating the potential of WiFi to quickly capture market share. And with Peter Thiel joining the board of Zenreach – the WiFi Startup, you can be certain of the profitability of deploying such technologies.

You can expect big advances in personalized retail in 2017 as companies continue to leverage indoor positioning technologies. Analytics, the major market driver in the retail industry, will give retailers deep insights into how customers shop across different channels, which in turn will drive bigger basket sizes. With physical indoor spaces such as hospitals, airports, malls and stadiums stepping up the use of LBS technologies to better engage their visitors, 2017 is all set to be the ‘Year of the Visitor.’

  • Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality AR)

Virtual reality, once a fantasy, is quickly becoming a reality. VR and its cousin AR have made great strides within the past year, particularly in the gaming industry, where technologies like Oculus Rift are quickly becoming commonplace. The next frontier for VR and AR is likely the retail space. There are some companies already adopting augmented reality; for instance, L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius app allows a user to compare different makeup looks on a live image of their face. Apps like this will quickly become the norm in 2017.

A range of players are also using these immersive technologies to differentiate themselves in the healthcare industry. ABI Research points out that companies like Pristine (AR “see what I see” applications), Ubimax (AR software and services), and Vuzix (AR hardware), are already laying the foundation for the anticipated medical AR ramp-up. The launch of Epson’s Moverio BT-300 (smart AR glasses) early this year is a significant move in this direction and has the potential to drive mass adoption in the year 2017, as surgeons and other medical practitioners find more and more use cases for smart eyewear.

Augmented reality will also play a big role in advertising. For instance, products that match a consumer’s interests and price range could appear in focus if a consumer is using AR technology. Some see this utilization of AR as intrusive, providing even more advertising for the consumer to sift through. However, others see targeted advertising as a mutually beneficial relationship: consumers get pointed to the products they want in a more immersive experience, and vendors are able to advertise their products more effectively. Since targeted advertising is quickly becoming standard on the internet, it’s only logical that it will soon make its way into the AR industry.

  • An AI-Driven World

Artificial intelligence has evolved from being a “buzzword” to being the norm. Customer service, for instance, is becoming driven by artificial intelligence, as basic questions can often be parsed and answered by chatbots or virtual assistants. Chatbots mostly operate via text, but the technology is quickly becoming available for them to speak in natural (non-robotic) voices. Although our trusty friends Cortana and Siri have been around for a while, the chatbots of 2017 will become much smarter and will start to displace human customer service representatives as natural voice technology and language parsing technology continue to improve.

AI is taking automotive sophistication to a whole new level. While Toyota has invested one billion dollars into artificial intelligence and robotics, Otto — a subsidiary of Uber — has already had a successful dry run with a driverless Volvo truck and has managed to demonstrate the exciting possibilities these autonomous vehicles can unleash in the ride sharing economy. Going by the announcements of Nissan’s IDS concept and Tesla’s Autopilot, it is obvious that the transportation industry will be majorly disrupted in 2017.

  • IoT (Internet of Things)

The Internet of Things refers to the network of internet-connected devices that will soon be able to communicate with each other in very meaningful ways. For instance, a smart (internet-connected) refrigerator will eventually be able to tell that its owner is running low on food and place an order for grocery delivery. IoT will eventually be very prevalent in our home lives, but right now connected environments are starting to have a big impact in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

Warehouses are becoming increasingly automated, and that means smart forklifts can already communicate with each other so that they don’t crash, and smart shelves can sense that a product is running low and order more. Production plants are also becoming increasingly automated. With IoT-connected robots working on a production line, error handling will become automated and remove the need for human production line workers. A broken piece on one part of the production line will communicate with other production line parts and let them know to stop working, and also works to ensure the part gets replaced. These processes cannot be automated without all of these devices being connected, as there can’t be any communication without connectivity. Expect adoption of IoT devices within warehouses and manufacturing plants in 2017.

  • Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a foreign concept to many, but it’s quite simple in reality. A cloud is simply a server or group of servers in some remote location. By moving away from in-house servers, technology companies gain enormous benefits. First, there’s no longer any sort of space constraint, as the servers in question are not in-house. More importantly, cloud computing exemplifies the utility of the sharing economy. There’s no longer server purchase overhead, as the servers are held by third-party data centers. There are also no lack of utilization issues; cloud services generally charge by usage, so a business is only paying for as much computing power as it needs.

Users often adopt virtual desktop services in conjunction with the cloud. Virtual desktop services allow users to login and access their documents that are stored remotely instead of locally. This gives users the ability to access their files on foreign computers and eliminates the space restrictions that a user’s hard drive might have. Virtual desktop and cloud computing technology as a whole are quickly becoming commonplace and it will soon be rare to see a technology company not utilizing the cloud.

2017: Time to Catalyze Innovation!

Technology is at an exciting turning point and is driving innovation across many industries. CIOs must adapt quickly this upcoming year if they hope to compete in an economy that is becoming increasingly technology-driven.

So this time next year, you won’t have run out of milk for your cereal.

Your fridge would have already ordered it for you.

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