It is an oft-stated cliché to say we live in exciting times but when it comes to IT trends for 2017 it rings true. You’re likely to be surprised by the changes afoot, though perhaps also intrigued and maybe even a little daunted by what these shifts and trends represent in the marketplace. In some cases, they’re still to be tested.
To say that there is a lot going on would be an understatement. While those in the tech world have known for quite some time that the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer the province of science fiction, it’s just hitting home for many emerging economies and how they could or will be entering its enticing orbit. The same goes with Virtual Reality (VR).
As an emerging computer technology, VR is gaining ground in areas such as manufacturing/business, leisure activities, training, healthcare and let’s not forget where it all began – in the gaming industry – among others.
All these trends in technology have the potential to open countless doors for industry as long as they understand the benefits and complexities of change and keep up with them. Many companies, globally and in Australia, have had the foresight to realise this as they can see it could well determine their future survival.
Take the steps General Electric (GE) has recently made, including buying about $2 billion worth of tech startups. It has also stepped up its desire to invest in software to wirelessly connect wind turbines, trains and jet engines as well as embrace the latest algorithms and machine learning capabilities to monitor them. GE’s goal is steadily transform itself into a digital company and grow its software sales from around $6 billion to $15 billion in the next three years.
One organisation based in Australia who has embraced VR and is singing its praises is MYOB. In July last year it introduced a company-wide induction program for its new staff. Its Immersion Program, says MYOB, is a high tech, on-brand experience with a focus on connection, culture and clarity. Alla Keogh, MYOB’s head of people and performance, says the company has recognised the benefits of VR. “Because we’re constantly looking to integrate the latest technologies into our workflows, we recognised the value that virtual reality would have on our internal processes,” she says.
Through VR, new starters are immersed into our business culture from day one, explains Keogh, outlining that the newbies put on a pair of googles and watch a video which includes a message from the company CEO. She says the feedback has already been so positive that MYOB is looking at the possibilities of integrating high tech virtual reality experiences in other elements of business.
Other Australian companies are also embracing VR. Qantas, for example, joined forces with Samsung 12 months ago to offer its first-class passengers on certain routes an in-flight VR entertainment “experience”. The airline, eager to showcase a new form of marketing, said it’s a new way to connect with customers.
Similarly, the Marriott hotel chain has offered its customers a VR experience to “teleport” guests to different destinations including beaches in Hawaii and downtown London. The aim was to give the next generation of travellers the idea that more amazing travel experiences are coming and to encourage them to co-create the future of travel with the hotel chain.
According to market research firm TrendForce, the Virtual Reality hardware and software market will reach around $70 billion by 2020 which is huge when you consider that in 2016 the figure was expected to be closer to $7 billion. Recent surveys suggest that the education sector will be the first to see the biggest impact from VR with the potential for virtual classrooms and VR-enabled textbooks being frontrunners.
Automation will continue to make its presence felt. We’ve already seen this happen with music, book publishing, online shopping, transport and accommodation, but now the rise of professional services such as medical, legal, accounting, insurance and HR to name a few will be accelerated.
Automation will move into many “traditional” professions such as law and will change the status quo. For example, automation is already working in areas such as checking for compliance and soon it will be able to predict judgments by using court case documents, so lawyers will be able to accurately determine the outcome of a commercial matter.
And while manufacturing in Australia is certainly going through a tough time, many companies are recognising the benefits of global collaboration. Some multinational companies, for instance, do source components from the best suppliers anywhere in the world and in that scenario there are promising opportunities for Australia. Local manufacturer ANCA Tools, for example, sells parts to Japan which are made using multi-axis grinding machines. They’re locally made and designed to provide precision manufacturing, and they’re automated.
Many IT experts believe 2017 is going to mark another benchmark year, including in the VR and automation domain. While some businesses have embraced these newer technologies, there are plenty of companies who are on the sidelines. It would be a pity if they missed the bus altogether.