We’re just over halfway through 2016, and it’s already proven to be a turbulent year in the realm of technology. We’re seeing more and more intersection between technology and other economic and industrial forces. Whether it’s Apple’s refusal to unlock the iPhone for the FBI or the upcoming presidential election adding uncertainty to the future of Biotech stocks, technology is practically inextricable from the other major factors that keep our world going.
These turbulent shifts in tech are catching the attention of huge enterprises, as new products have led to innovative practices in consumer tech, manufacturing, and even politics. There’s still half of 2016 left to go, and these next six months promise to show even more expansion and innovation in enterprise technology.
With that in mind, here are six enterprise technologies to keep your eye on in 2016.
Bitcoin, the digital currency mined through number crunching, and the blockchain, the decentralised public ledger that enables Bitcoin, have seen a huge rise the past few months from a relatively fringe technology to a very serious policy consideration for governments around the world. The Microsoft store began accepting Bitcoin as legitimate currency in late 2015, and the price of Bitcoin has periodically risen soared. Now, governmental agencies, including notable bodies like the EU, are beginning to weigh the options of legitimizing Bitcoin and utilizing the blockchain. While Bitcoin runs counter to many current systems, a number of traditional financial institutions—such as JPMorgan, Citigroup, the Bank of Canada, and the IMF—are examining the potential of blockchain.
2. Internet of Things
There’s perhaps no better illustration of technology’s pervasiveness in our daily lives than the Internet of Things. What began as a catch-all term for devices communicating via Bluetooth and WiFi signals is now a booming industry in its own right, with people even estimating that it’s far bigger than most projections suggest. That’s a rather impressive claim, given that many experts estimate the IoT will have a market value of over US$14 trillion by 2022. Now that major enterprises like Hewlett-Packard and GE are exploring the IoT implications of their own business offerings, it’s clear that 2016 should be a major turning point for the explosion of the Internet of Things.
3. Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality
A science fiction dream has finally become a reality. Indeed, not only is it now a real thing, but affordable virtual reality technology is becoming an increasingly available to average consumers. While it’s mostly garnering headlines these days for its consumer-facing applications, virtual reality and its close cousin augmented reality are also entering the enterprise space. Whether it’s business-facing VR technology offered by HTC for employee training purposes or AR technology used by construction companies to do maintenance and repairs, this blossoming industry is set to really take off in 2016 and beyond, perhaps to the tune of $150 billion by 2020.
It’s funny to look back now and think about how Apple was largely derided when it announced the launch of the Apple Watch. Apple’s probably the one laughing now: Wearable technology has been one of the fastest-growing consumer electronic items, with forecasts predicting total unit sales pushing 275 million in 2016, an increase of 18 per cent from 2015. While wearable tech has been mostly consumer-oriented in recent years, explorations in the enterprise space, specifically the collaboration between wearables and health tech, a huge industry in its own right, are already showing signs of great potential for huge growth in the short and long term.
5. 3D printing
Another one of those tech concepts that at first sounds like science fiction—how exactly can someone print a hip replacement?—there has been much speculation about the feasibility, and affordability, of widespread 3D printing. Economists don’t seem to fear any stunted growth, though; market research estimates that the 3D printed market will exceed $30 billion by 2022. The technology has the potential to be hugely disruptive, not least from a large-scale production perspective. Take, for example, the ability to completely revamp the construction industry, where 3D-printed materials can radically alter the cost and environmental impact of construction projects. Watch for enterprises to make some huge investments in this space in the near future.
6. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning
While AI is not exactly a new concept, 2016 might be its biggest year yet, with no signs of slowing down. Whether it’s the Elon Musk-backed OpenAI, an open source collaborative space dedicated to the development of better AI software, or innovations in machine learning to crack down on financial fraud, the enterprise implications for this technology are continuing to proliferate at an incredible pace. Given that just about every major tech giant has some large-scale machine learning or AI program in the works, many of which are available in open source, it’s clear thatenterprises are taking this technology very seriously. Already seeing increased investment in 2016, some estimates report that the AI market will be worth nearly US$12 billion by 2024.