A coffee machine that knows exactly how much milk you want in your coffee or a phone that unlocks only when you look at it - 2017 will see companies walking the tech talk, a bit farther than they have. Several technology concepts that have piqued our curiosity - artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, connectivity standards, and more - are expected to be evolved and developed into products. As Sandeep Aurora, Director, Marketing and Market Development, Intel South Asia, says, "If 2016 was the year that concepts such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) became mainstream for consumers, 2017 will be the year when commercial application of this synergy of hardware and software becomes real, to make novel experiences possible."
Here's what 2017 has in store
AI Invasion: Artificial Intelligence isn't restricted to enterprise or commercial use anymore. From personal assistant software such as Siri, Google Now and Cortana, to movie and music recommendations on the basis of past interests on apps such as Netflix and Spotify, our lives are already influenced by AI. Going forward, it will have a bigger and better role to play. Prashant Pradhan, Watson Business Leader, IBM India-South Asia, says, "In the next five years, almost every decision in business and our day-to-day lives will be touched by AI. This will happen through systems that can understand, learn and reason, and interact naturally with human beings. Promising applications of AI are already visible in our lives. India, in particular, holds a lot of potential for cognitive use, due to the scale and complexity in areas such as education, healthcare and commerce." AI's role in high impact areas such as healthcare will be noteworthy - for instance, IBM's Watson is augmenting the expertise of oncologists to take on cancer. Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft are heavily investing in AI along with its variations such as machine learning and robotics. Closer home, wearable tech company Boltt Sports Technologies will be introducing a fitness kit comprising a pair of smart shoes, a smart band and health and training apps, powered by AI.
Digital Twins: Touted as the one of the key technology trends in the coming years, digital twins are virtual representations of a physical product. This dynamic software model relies on sensor data to understand the state of the product, respond to changes, improve operations, and add value. It is a cloud-based virtual representation of a physical asset that can be used for asset optimisation, product design, simulation, monitoring, and improved user experience in nearly all industries. Gartner estimates that by 2020, there will be more than 21 billion connected sensors and endpoints, and digital twins will exist for potentially billions of things. Initially, businesses will use digital twins for more complex, high-value assets, but eventually, they will use them for lower-value assets based on the model. D.D. Mishra, Research Director, Gartner, says, "Today, digital twins are used by only a few professional communities, such as product engineers and data scientists in select industries such as manufacturing and utilities. The idea of modelling the much larger number of common things - cars, buildings, and consumer products - from virtual models with functional behaviour embedded to make day-to-day decisions about the physical world is only just emerging."
Merged Reality: Even as augmented reality and virtual reality become popular, merged reality will rise to prominence. Also referred to as 'mixed reality', this technology merges the real and virtual worlds in a way that objects can interact with each other. Intel's Project Alloy, a wireless headset that allows you to bring real objects into the virtual world using 3D cameras, is a fine example. Another example is Windows Holographic Shell, an immersive virtual reality interface that allows users to manage all aspects of the Windows 10 operating system using a head-mounted display. "Towards the end of next year, we also expect merged reality to come to the forefront with five technological advances - six degrees of mobility, integrated tracking, more natural manipulation, and untethered, digitised real-world content," adds Aurora of Intel.
Iris Scanners: As the world progresses towards digital transactions, our smartphones and tablets become increasingly vulnerable to security threat and data theft. While fingerprint scanners add a layer of security, the next generation security measures will entail iris and retina authentication. Companies are focusing on adding more secure ways of authentication such as embedding iris scanning for unlocking devices. Salil Prabhakar, President and CEO, Delta ID Inc., says, "2017 is expected to be the year when iris-enabled consumer mobile devices will hit the market. This is based on the groundwork that has been done in 2016 by both government agencies and private enterprises. Iris-enabled consumer mobile devices will allow apps to integrate Aadhaar authentication and eKYC." Chip makers such as Qualcomm have been focusing on integrating security layers in the chipsets. Qualcomm's Secure Execution Environment is a controlled and separated environment outside high-level operating system that is designed to allow trusted execution of code, and reduce damage from viruses, Trojan and rootkits. Going forward, iris scanning will be integrated in the next generation of Snapdragon 800 and 600 series processors, but for this, device makers will also need to add a separate iris scanner module.
Connectivity Standards: New connectivity standards such Bluetooth 4.1, USB 3.1 and Type C will become prominent this year. The USB 3.1, also known as USB 3.1 gen 2, is the successor to USB 3.0. Although introduced a while back, its adoption has been very slow. But Rajesh Gupta, Country Manager of SanDisk India and SAARC Retail Sales and Marketing, Western Digital Corporation, believes that USB 3.1 will be of great importance in 2017, and expects advanced products to be launched around it. "Tech enthusiasts across the globe looking for superfast performance have been anxiously waiting for USB 3.1 because of its ability to shuffle data between host devices and peripherals at speeds of up to 10 Gbps - which is two times that of the existing USB 3.0 protocol." Type C interface, which is yet to go mainstream, will also gain some traction this year. New devices boasting USB Type C interface across smartphones, tablets and laptops will be launched, and it is expected to become the universal port in future. In the wireless connectivity space, Bluetooth 5.0 is creating buzz. Rumour has it that Samsung is adopting the same for its upcoming Galaxy S8. Bluetooth 5.0 can offer up to double the speed, of up to 2 Mbps, without consuming much power, and can offer a range of up to 200 metres, which means paired devices need not be in very close vicinity.
Autonomous Cars: Significant advancements are being made to not only further the operation of driverless cars, but also every part of the infrastructure - from connectivity to use of AI to data processing. After successful testing of its self-driving car project last year, Google aims to offer it to consumers in 2020. Companies are now looking at developing fully automated cars over semi-automated cars which will not rely on a human to take over the wheel in an emergency. Advanced systems such as LIDAR are also being considered to scan the area and generate a 3D map to avoid any collisions. Tesla's Model S, Model X, and future Model 3 - all under production - will have hardware that can enable them to be fully driverless, though a regulatory approval is pending.
Machine Learning: A variation of AI, machine learning is attracting investments from enterprises and IT players. Machine learning is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. Using algorithms that iteratively learn from data, machine learning allows computers to find hidden insights without being explicitly programmed where to look. Banking, supply chain management, healthcare, consumer services, etc, stand to gain extensively from machine learning. Manish Choudhary, Senior VP, Global Innovation, and MD, Pitney Bowes India, explains, "Machine learning can help companies take the billions of data points they have and boil them down to what's really meaningful. It includes technologies such as deep learning, neural networks and natural-language processing, and is supporting to encompass more advanced systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously. Machine learning has been helping to creating intelligent systems that learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously, rather than simply execute pre-defined instructions, and that is going to be the primary battleground for technology vendors through at least through 2018." There will be many industry wide applications that could enable process innovations and efficiency of organisations. ~