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5 Tech Workplace Trends to Watch in 2017

It’s time to look forward to what technologies will be shaping the research and development for business and consumer software alike. Here are the top technologies your organization should be looking at in 2017:

1. Cloud software and services

As web apps become more and more robust, more and more companies are moving to subscription based software as a service (SaaS) models – also known as cloud computing. And, as on-premises IT costs skyrocket, more organizations are opening up to the idea of storing their data and software off-site.

However, moving to the cloud successfully requires finding the right partner and having a plan. Planning how systems need to interact is critical, as well as thinking ahead to understand how and when your users will need to access those systems.

To achieve all of these needs, organizations need cloud systems that have dynamic infrastructures, high uptime guarantees, easy integrations with on-premises and other cloud systems, and excellent security track records. Which brings us to the next tech trend…

2. Security

A few years back, massive hacking and breaches had security of banking information on everyone’s mind. Whether it’s banking information, healthcare charts, or public infrastructure, security is not simply a feature of software anymore, but a mission-critical piece of functionality.

Organizations should be on the lookout for vendors with excellent track records, both internally and independently tested and verified. But it isn’t enough to rest on your laurels. Companies must also show how they continue to cope with developing threats through secure development lifecycles and processes as well as being open and willing to discuss their ongoing enhancements and what it means for the organizations they work with.

3. Phones as mobile workhorse

Over the last few years, phone screens have gotten bigger. Devices have become more powerful. Interfaces have become more robust. And as tablet sales slip away, phones dominate the mobile workforce, especially in newer and developing markets.

Nowadays, phones can do nearly all of the same things as tablets can anyway – and then some. There are phones you can plug into monitors and use as desktop machines as well as phones that use add-on parts to become powerful cameras, projectors, and more. There are even dozens of devices on the market that make phones into virtual reality headsets. (More on that in a moment.)

For organizations to leverage these capabilities, they need to consider two things: What do they need in a phone, and what do they need in their software? Then prioritize those features.

Are your users taking photos in the field? Then make sure they have an excellent camera, even if the screen or other specs aren’t prefect.

Maybe your users are reading a lot of documents, in which case they need the brightest, largest, crispest screens available, even if that means getting average camera capability. In the same way, organizations need to look for software that prioritizes mobile-specific use cases, allowing users to complete the most common tasks quickly and easily, without getting bogged down with extra UI that steals precious screen space.

From the phone hardware to the software it runs, being honest and realistic about priorities helps organizations rollout mobile solutions that work.

4. Augmented and virtual realities

With the advent of the Hololens, Microsoft’s augmented reality platform, as well as a commitment from Dell, HTC, and Samsung to continue pushing into the virtual reality space, it’s clear this is a technology that is here to stay. And organizations are already beginning to explore how to apply these technologies to their needs.

Whether tethered to a computer or as a standalone unit with a cellphone or built-in computer, augmented realities (AR) and virtual realities (VR) allow us to escape the constraints of screens. Data no longer needs to be crammed onto a flat rectangle to be viewed. Users now can expand, manipulate, share, and understand their data in 3D-space at any size or scale they choose.

This technology also changes how we collect data, enabling 3D and spatial scanning. It also allows users to leverage more and more advanced sensors in everyday objects that allow for creating “digital clones” that can reflect a snapshot of the state of the objects and world around us. They can also be updated live and in real-time to be manipulated by the user and the system alike.

5. AI and the “Intelligent Mesh”

Having recently moved into the world of home ownership, there’s nothing hotter in the housing market right now than smart homes. Not just connected homes where you can flip switches from your phone, but homes that use sensor data and input to actively make decisions about everything from what lights to turn on and off to setting off alarms and calling fire or police to your home.

This kind of artificial intelligence (AI) uses a network of sensors and large data sets to create an “intelligent mesh” that users can mostly trust to run the more mundane tasks of their lives.

And this isn’t just limited to home-bound appliances. As cars get smarter and have more automated capabilities, we’ll see our transportation systems getting a dose of AI to help route traffic, moving people and goods through our cities and towns more efficiently.

Retailers can use not only sales information, but information from occupancy sensors, Bluetooth beacons, and other technologies to manage stock, store layout, and staffing. This lets them concentrate on more important things, like customers.

Healthcare organizations are pooling data across hundreds of thousands of patients so doctors can use powerful algorithms with an individual patient’s data to better determine treatments, outcomes, and possible side effects. Even when the computer doesn’t make the final decision, it does the leg work of analysis and comparison to make the most appropriate suggestions. That allows people who leverage that data to focus more on the work they’re meant to do.

These are the technologies that will be evolving in 2017. Your organization can act on some of them now to push your IT efforts to the next level. Meanwhile, others still need some growth, but are definitely on their way in. All the while, we’ll be here watching and interpreting them as they grow.

What technologies are you watching for 2017? Tell us on Twitter.

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