Five big tech trends to watch in 2017

1. Food tech changes food preparation, delivery and consumption  

We saw managed food delivery escalate in 2016 with the arrival of Uber’s on-demand service UberEats. Since launching a year ago, the service has expanded to 56 markets worldwide, and is showing no sign of slowing down. In December, UberEats announced a partnership with McDonald’s, allowing 200 of the fast food chain’s Florida restaurants to deliver food to customers’ doorsteps.

Across Europe, recent deals indicate that soon only the most scalable and cost effective food delivery companies will survive. In December, Just Eat, Britain's largest food-delivery firm, agreed to buy Hungry House for £240m.

Alternative – ie lab grown – food will continue to gather pace in 2017. Tyson Foods just launched a $150m VC fund to develop ‘meatless meat’, and Sundrop Farm in Australia has harnessed the technology to turn seawater and sunshine into crops.

Tech designed to address food waste is also gaining more traction. Approximately one third of all the food produced in the world gets wasted. Fortunately, like most things that are trackable, there’s an app for that. The app Olio is one example of a food sharing tool that allows people and businesses to alert one another when extra food is available so it doesn’t go to waste. Similarly, the app Too Good To Go shows users local restaurants that will sell left over, high-quality meals for between £2 and £3.80.

Expect to see more food delivery deals and food waste solutions next year.

2. The mainstream popularity of AI  

Amazon is one of many players in the AI-for-home space. In December, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a teaser video of an AI application he built for his home. Named Jarvis and voiced by Morgan Freeman, Zuckerberg’s AI assistant is already getting buzz.

Another industry evolution pushing AI forward is the manner in which platforms are using messaging as an interface. In April. Facebook made its AI-powered virtual assistant Facebook M available as a bot engine for developers, allowing them to create human-like responses that can lead to conversations.

We predict that more businesses will use platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers. These platforms are appealing because messages are more likely to be read than email, and it’s so much easier to see whether a message has actually been read. However, due to end-to-end encryption and the need for an audit trail, fintech businesses can’t legally use WhatsApp in the UK, for anything other than marketing fluff.

In addition to commercial uses, machine learning algorithms and AI are breaking new ground social good. Nineteen-year-old Joshua Browder, aka the chatbot lawyer, launched the chatbot-driven platform DoNotPay to help people contest parking tickets. The free service was used to appeal more than $4m in two years.

3. IoT soars to new heights  

AI has been able to cover more ground thanks to the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT). Conversely, in order for the troves of big data generated by IoT to be analysed, AI is a becoming more necessary.

According to Machina Research, the IoT market is expected to reach £2.3tn by 2025. In 2016 we saw smart, connected devices and sensors exploding across multiple industries including healthcare, farming, sports and sanitation.

IoT is also making its way into more households via smart home devices. This is being done through voice-controlled smart systems like Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana – perfect examples of the convergence of IoT and AI that we’ll definitely see more of in the new year.

As IoT platforms go mainstream in 2017 and beyond, they’ll be enhanced by sentient tools, intelligent technology that’s aware of its surroundings and is socially cognisant. According to Frost and Sullivan, these tools are not meant to replace humans. They’re designed to work alongside humans in the labor force. The automotive and manufacturing industries will inevitably be more disrupted by this next phase of AI and deep learning more than they already have been.

4. Fintech 2.0 comes of age  

The digital revolution in the finance sector is ascending, and thanks to EU regulators actively encouraging fintech growth and more banks setting up fintech accelerators and incubators, financial institutions and startups are collaborating, rather than competing. In other words, fintech 2.0 is just around the corner.

In August 2016, global fintech funding hit $15 billion with the US, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) attracting the most investments. The surge was due largely to funding rounds by Chinese fintechs, as we well as growing interest in fintech verticals, such as insurtech and regtech.

While London has been at the forefront of fintech innovation over the years, Berlin and Frankfurt, Amsterdam and major cities in the Nordics aren’t far behind. According to the German Finance Ministry’s report, there are a total of 433 fintech companies with a business activity in the Germany, 346 of which are active.

Meanwhile, the Nordic countries have accounted for half of Europe’s billion-dollar exits, with trading and banking making up 39% of total revenue. Building on Sweden’s deep financial history and fintech boom, the Stockholm Fintech Hub will in early 2017. Copenhagen and Oslo have also developed accelerator programs.

5. VR to penetrate multiple sectors  

Virtual reality and augmented reality hit the gaming market first, but 2017 will see them impact a number of industries beyond helmet making and hardware. Some of the most groundbreaking VR/AR experiences are enhancing health, journalism, professional recruiting, the military and workplace safety.

On the health front, VR is being used to alleviate pain in burn victims by taking patients into immersive games and worlds designed to calm anxiety and reinforce relaxation.

Speaking of immersive worlds, a number of mainstream news outlets have jumped on the 360 storytelling bandwagon to give viewers and readers the closest version of a first-hand experience technology can provide.

For companies looking to hire new employees, VR platforms like Capp’s VR Assessment Lab allow recruiters to create VR scenarios, and predict what a job candidate would do in real-life situations.

As for the military, VR training simulators have been used to train soldiers for a number of years. We predict that more money from the government and the armed forces will go into such projects in 2017.

Following the lead of the military and job recruiting platforms, the industrial and manufacturing sectors are using VR to create emergency situations for workers to respond to in preparation for taking on potentially dangerous tasks.

You can read more from us about VR and AR trends here.

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About the Author

Phil Cox is the Chief Operations Officer of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and is responsible for SVB's core operations, enterprise project management, client service and information technology teams. Since joining SVB in 2009, Phil has led the establishment of SVB’s UK Branch banking business, as well as its operations in Ireland, Israel, and Germany.

Phil brings a wealth of experience and leadership to SVB. Previously, he was the Head of Commercial Banking at Bank of Scotland in London, a division of Lloyds Banking Group.  In this role, Phil was responsible for relationship management, origination and operational aspects of the business.

Prior to that, Phil was with the NatWest/RBS Group for 23 years and held a variety of positions, including Managing Director of Transport and Infrastructure Finance, Regional Managing Director of the North of England Region and the same position for the South West and Wales business.

Phil is both ACIB (Chartered Institute of Bankers) and AMCT (Corporate Treasurers) qualified. He enjoys travel, photography, fishing and skiing and is a qualified coach in both Rugby and Cricket.