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What to Expect from Tech in 2017

It’s tough to say just what the next year has in store, but there are a few areas of technology that are poised to explode in 2017, said TEEM co-founder and CEO Shaun Ritchie in a recent episode of UB Insider.

“There’s so much happening in tech right now. Utah is a fantastic place for a lot of the development of the tech scene in general. People talk about Silicon Valley; I think Utah has a huge presence in helping shape a lot of those technologies that maybe aren’t always consumer facing technologies but there’s a lot of underlying technologies,” said Ritchie.

Most of the technologies set to come into their own next year are best known as their acronyms: IoT, AI, AR, VR. A change is likely on the way for big data, as well.

For the Internet of Things, or IoT, the connectivity is reaching a point of real usefulness, Ritchie said—in manufacturing, putting sensors on different parts of machines can send alerts when the machine begins to malfunction. Had there been such sensors on Deepwater Horizon, for example, he said, the malfunction that led to the 2010 fatal explosion and largest oil leak in U.S. waters might have been prevented.

“GE [General Electric] is doing some pretty amazing things around the industrial world. And there’s all these manufacturing pieces,” Ritchie said. “You know, when we’re actually making things and embedding things and so your elevators or your turbines or things like that can start talking to you and tell you when they’re having a problem. And you can start getting that data more real time.”

Closer to home, IoT connectivity can mean a refrigerator can alert an owner when they’re out of milk, or offices can run more efficiently with the mundane minutia taken care of automatically.

IoT works closely with artificial intelligence, which is more electronic assistants like Siri, Cortana or Alexa, or home security systems than futuristic robots, Ritchie said. Those systems will also further increased efficiency for people at home or in the office.

“This is really where the things like Google Home and Alexa, we’re going to start seeing the proliferation of this kind of interaction. We’ve seen it for a long time with Siri and with other kinds of consumer tech,” said Ritchie. “I think we’re going to start seeing some real impacts in 2017 as far as individual worker productivity. Where I, or you and I can interact with an AI tool to be able to get our jobs done faster and quicker and better so we can really focus on the work that we need to do rather than all of the logistics around work.”

“As workers, we deal with word processing and spreadsheets and things like that. We’ll see a lot of, a lot of intelligence kind of infused into some of those products,” he added.

Augmented reality, such as 2016’s smash hit Pokemon Go! or Snapchat filters that make a person look, say, like a fox, bee or elderly gentleman, will also likely get a boost in the next year, and virtual reality systems will be gaining traction as the hardware becomes more available to consumers. VR’s most obvious application is for entertainment, or perhaps education, he said, but it can also be blended with AI to allow people to work in hostile environments.

“You can be underwater. You can be in a very cramped area. Or you can fix the elevator. And you can actually wear the goggles and it will start showing you which screw you need to turn, which lever you need to pull, showing you right there. Somebody can actually be your eyes and help you do that. That’s kind of a combination of artificial intelligence and also VR,” he said.

It could also be used to help companies with scattered workforces or many branches improve connectivity on par with having everyone at headquarters, he said, where people can be more fully engaged in the material than they can—or tend to be—in a conference or video call.

“It seems like the next level is bringing that into virtual reality so you can actually say hey, I am here. I’m fully engaged in our conversation and let’s make this the most productive possible that we can,” he said.

Big data has made great strides in recent years, but the numbers can be overwhelming—and can be misleading if all factors aren’t considered, Ritchie said, noting the 2016 presidential election as a recent example of how big data led pundits, the media and other forecasters to an incorrect conclusion. By using new ways—including getting a helping hand from things connected to the IoT—to measure this “dark data,” numbers can be used more accurately than ever.

“Big data is kind of identified, it’s the knowns, and this dark data is kind of the unknown. And if we can figure out how to bring that, to make that known, we can see an incredible advancement of not only productivity, but efficiencies as well. And I think IoT is a really big driver of that,” he said.

You can listen to the entire interview here.