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The biggest tech & digital trends we're getting excited about this year
Mon, 20th Feb 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

I love the new year. I love making plans, looking back at the year gone by, and setting new goals. Most of all, I love spotting the biggest trends and trajectories in the year ahead.

We're at a huge moment in time for the digital and technology world. With new ideas and products testing the boundaries, we're entering an exciting new phase.

In 2016, we saw hints of the future. The potential of artificial intelligence, the fun of augmented reality and the first real forays into automated vehicles.

Next year, these technologies (and a handful of others) will grow larger and more important. If you're building a business or creating a product, it's a particularly exciting moment, with countless new industries emerging almost out of nowhere.

Without further ado, here are 9 trends that I predict will dominate 2017:

1. Augmented Reality

It was impossible to avoid the excitement around Pokemon Go this year. It ushered in a whole new era of gaming, allowing players to interact with the world around them to catch Pokemon

It was the most popular - and arguably most important - moment in the mainstream tech world in 2016. In 2017, we'll see even more companies embracing augmented reality technology.

There are already whispers of a Harry Potter AR game, which could prove even more popular than Pokemon. In other industries, Jaguar are testing an augmented reality windscreen in their cars which may see the light of day in 2017.

2. The Need for Speed

In every aspect of our lives, we are demanding more and more speed. Our attention spans are growing ever shorter and our tolerance for delays diminishes.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with eCommerce deliveries. Amazon have begun piloting ‘same-day deliveries', in some cases using drones to fulfil orders. 2017 will be the year when same-day delivery becomes the norm.

Elsewhere, our demand for speed will force websites and apps to improve their performance. According to Bitcatcha, a DNS speed checker, faster cloud hosts will become more accessible in 2017, pushing loading speeds to new levels.

3. Smart Home Technology

In 2016, Amazon launched ‘Echo', it's smart home device complete with virtual assistant, Alexa. It's perhaps the most powerful piece of home technology yet. It connects with your lighting system, thermostats, and digital media to create a seamless experience.

It's the first major step towards ‘the internet of things'; a concept that has been buzzing around tech blogs for years. Apple are also building a similar device featuring Siri. We should see some exciting competitors (and upgrades from Amazon) over the coming twelve months to connect our homes even better.

4. Artificial Intelligence

I don't mean AI in a ‘robot takeover' way. I mean simple AI systems like virtual assistants and chatbots. These rudimentary artificial intelligence systems have started to appear across all sorts of industries this year, and will grow even smarter in 2017.

Already this year I've booked a holiday through a travel agent chatbot. And AI chatbots deliver news through innovative apps like Quartz. It's early days for the technology, but we'll see more experimentation next year.

5. The World on Demand

At the end of last year, I visited China for a Techcrunch event, and I was amazed at the online-to-offline experience. Uber is a great example of this (order a taxi online, it arrives in the real world). But in China, everything operates in this way (hotels, restaurant orders, coffee etc.)

In 2016, we began to see ‘on-demand' food delivery with companies like Deliveroo. But next year, we'll see even more on-demand services available from our mobile devices.

6. Drowning In Data

Big data is perhaps the biggest movement in digital marketing and tech innovation right now. Companies can now tap into customer data to offer tailored recommendations. Advertisers can get uber-specific about their target audience using data mined from social media and browsing habits.

On the flip side, some companies are using data as part of their marketing. Check out how Spotify mined its enormous data reserves to create advertising billboards this year:

Expect to see a whole lot more creative uses for data and statistics in 2017.

7. Live Streaming

This one might seem a little outdated. After all, live streaming has been gathering steam throughout 2016. Twitter, for example, bought the rights to live stream NFL games and the presidential election debates. Facebook is prioritizing live streaming in its timeline algorithm.

However, there's a huge amount of room for growth yet. And next year will see even more opportunities for live streaming. In 2017, live streaming will become the new normal.

8. Virtual Reality

Almost every tech blog highlighted VR as a major trend for 2016 last year. Especially as the much-hyped Oculus Rift prepared to launch. However, we didn't exactly see a mainstream adoption of VR technology this year.

So, perhaps 2017 is the year we really see it explode. Truth is, Oculus Rift is just a piece of hardware. It still needs some fantastic and imaginative software to unlock its full potential. Here's hoping 2017 brings us some phenomenal VR games and virtual experiences.

9. Autonomous Vehicles Take To The Roads

It seems every tech company on the planet is jumping into the autonomous car bandwagon. Even Blackberry is developing self-driving technology.

With Uber launching their first autonomous car onto US roads this year, the big ‘first move' has been made. In 2017, we should see more companies testing and launching self-driving models. According to Business Insider, we should see 10 million autonomous cars on the road by 2020, so there's likely to be a steep increase over the next twelve months.

Ellie Martin is co-founder of Startup Change group. Her works have been featured on Yahoo! , Wisebread, AOL, among others. She currently splits her time between her home office in New York and Israel. You may connect with her on Twitter