Looking back on five of 2017’s tech predictions: What came true, what didn’t Looking back on five of 2017’s tech predictions: What came true, what didn’t
As 2017 winds down and 2018 looms large on the calendar, it can be fun to look back on the tech and trend predictions... Looking back on five of 2017’s tech predictions: What came true, what didn’t

As 2017 winds down and 2018 looms large on the calendar, it can be fun to look back on the tech and trend predictions made in 2016 to see which were right, and which ones missed the boat completely.

So that’s what we’re about to do. We have rounded up a selection of predictions from a wide range of sources to show you that even the smartest amongst us aren’t always right, and also that there are trends – like the bitcoin price – that can take us all by complete surprise, including well-paid analyst types.

On to the predictions!

The “Augmented Reality” explosion

2016 saw the huge success of Pokémon Go, a game for smartphones that used a combination of augmented reality and the phones’ sensors to send people on Pokémon-hunting excursions in real-world locations. On the back of this, it made sense for experts to predict the rise of other augmented reality applications and/or games in 2017.

But that hasn’t happened: there was no AR craze in 2017, not even from Pokemon Go creator Niantic, whose next AR game based on the Harry Potter universe is only due out next year.

There has been some use of AR in the retail space in the US, though – big stores like Home Depot have apps that “…let customers place virtual items into the real world via their phones. The feature works for patio furniture, vanities, doors, faucets and other items, allowing customers to preview what products will look like at home.”

And while Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am used AR in the band’s graphic novel “Masters of the Sun” to illustrate the story in new and fun ways, AR usage is still not as widespread as it was thought it would be this time last year.

Don’t worry, though: trends show that companies are investing in and experimenting with augmented reality, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and others; it’s just that 2017 hasn’t been quite the banner year for the technology it was hoped it would be.

Prediction: Wrong.

Cybercrime a major concern

This one was perhaps the easiest to make, and the most likely to be true come December 2017: many experts proclaimed that cyber threats would continue to pose a major problem to organisations of all sizes.

That was definitely on the money. The world saw several big data breaches this year, with big organisations in the news like Equifax, Deloitte, Uber, and even Heathrow airport for experiencing hacks, data breaches, or theft of data. Wikipedia lists an additional 238 data breaches in 2017, as of December 15th.

And all of these events happened thanks to either poor security, determined hackers, or both, so while the prediction was very much accurate, it would appear that some organisations didn’t take it quite as seriously as they should have.

On a side note, next year probably won’t be any different, because people.

Prediction: Right.

Bitcoin’s value would double from $600 to $1200 in 2017

Cryptocurrencies, how they work and what affects them are all still largely unknown, even for smart tech people, so it’s no surprise that this particular prediction was on the right track, yet still spectacularly wrong.

In late 2016, analysts at Wedbush Securities said they believed Bitcoin would rise from $600 per coin to $1200 in 2017. They were wrong. As of this writing, a single Bitcoin is worth a whopping $17 836.42, which in South African terms is a staggering R238 001.10.

Whether it’s a bubble or not – this year’s hot prediction among analysts, it seems – remains to be seen.

Prediction: Wrong.

Blockchain takeup would increase in 2017

In early 2017, Forbes’ Technology Council writer Chalmers Brown predicted that blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies, would find its way into other applications and see wider adoption across business and government.

On the surface, this was a sound prediction: blockchain technology is a permanent record of transactions that is used to transparently create contracts between parties, in a way that the agreed-upon rules of those contracts cannot be violated. That would be useful in any situation where contracts are required, and contracts form the foundation of modern civilisation.

However, the newness of the technology and the lack of trust that unfamiliarity inspires, combined with the reticence of governments to create regulations around it, has led to its slow uptake.

Companies with a bit of vision, meanwhile, are jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. For example, IBM has developed a suite of services for supply chain management that uses blockchain technology as its foundation; Microsoft offers blockchain-based Azure functionality for developers to build their apps on; Apple has filed a patent that hints at its interest in the technology, and a bunch of companies are investing in blockchain tech as the basis for secure online cryptocurrency transactions via their web browsers.

So this one’s a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, there was some takeup of blockchain technology in 2017, but it wasn’t what anyone will call “widespread”.

Prediction: Right and wrong.

Digital Twins

The idea of a “digital twin” is a digital recreation of a real-world object, down to the smallest of details. Digital twins are built from the data generated by the real thing (whatever it is), allowing programmers to create accurate digital reproductions of objects and use them to predict the future behaviour of said “real thing”.

For example, Boeing uses the data generated by the engines of its aircraft to create digital twins, which is then used to predict future breakdowns. It’s so accurate, it’s able to predict breakdowns a full month in advance, giving engineers plenty of time to address issues before the worst happens.

The principle can be applied to everything from supply chains to product design and testing to services to internal business processes, simulating those things in a virtual space and allowing decision-makers to see how changes affect their outcomes before implementing anything concrete.

It was predicted that in 2017, digital twins would become more common, and that’s exactly what has happened according to Arabia Inc.’s Avi Savar.

Until recently, data was not available in sufficient quantities to allow anyone but organisations like Boeing and NASA to create these digital twins and use them in their businesses. But in this age of the Internet of Things, where sensors are all over the place and generating useful data, cloud-based processing power is but a click away, organisations of all sizes can use digital twins in their product design and testing. And that’s exactly what they are doing.

Prediction: Right.

These are but five of the tech predictions for 2017 and how they turned out. If you had any inkling as to things that might happen this year that came true, please share them with us. And if you have any predictions for 2018 that you’re confident about, we’d love to hear about those as well.

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