Live from CES: Tech industry trends

I have a feeling 2016 is going to be a really interesting year for technology. This could be the comeback year for the bellwether brands as they try to claw back the focus from the fast-paced, new kid sparkle of the Uber and Airbnb style brands. 

We’ll see more M&A activity as established brands try to leapfrog the newer players, and if you want to get specific about one technology area just look at the cloud computing space - we’re going to see the likes of IBM, Oracle and Microsoft re-establishing dominance with smartly thought through enterprise solutions that embed real resilience and security.  IBM’s SoftLayer acquisition is going to start paying off in a big way in 2016.

Some of the hyped technologies of 2015 will evolve in 2016.  For example, the real game in 3D printing is the potential to transform businesses and sectors through downloadable plans for all manner of products, parts and solutions.  It is all about IP and enabling access to that IP by the end user.  It is not unthinkable that a mechanic in a small bodyshop can download and 3D print the exact auto part he needs to get his customer back on the road.  3D printing has the potential to radically disrupt the manufacturing sector for good.

Wearables have had a mixed 2015, with some amazing hype and some less amazing sales figures.  According to CCS Insight the sector is going to boom from $12 billion in 2015 to $25 billion in 2019.  That growth is likely to be driven by both consumer and enterprise sales.  Wearables offer enterprises a realistic way of tracking teams and of providing data that can aid productivity long term

However, the two stand out technologies for me are virtual reality and AI. 

VR is yet to go mainstream but 2016 could be its year.  There are three highly anticipated VR product launches in 2016 with the Oculus Rift CV1, HTC Vive and the Sony PlayStation VR.  Microsoft’s HoloLens headset launches its devkit early next year and I’ve now acquired three Google Cardboard promotional headsets from three separate events.  We’re going to see more mainstream VR content whether that’s news stories, ads, films or gaming.  What will be more interesting and offer more fundamental transformation is how VR is applied to the enterprise environment for things like immersive training for high risk jobs, three dimensional data visualizations, immersive product demonstrations, modelling and scenario mapping.  In the public sector the use of VR for medical or defense purposes will fundamentally change our rules of engagement.

IBM has dominated the AI story in 2015 with its Watson cognitive computing system.  We’re now at a point where the whole picture needs to be pulled back to smaller scale, but no less impactful, services and solutions that can connect into the cloud via APIs.  We need to make AI real, and take some of the fear out of the equation.  2016 should be the year where we start to see more policy and regulation around AI and its use across the globe.

Sara Gourlay
Global Technology Practice Director, SVP Asia Pacific

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Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search