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Tech 5 Trends to Watch in 2017

The Future Today Institue, formerly Webbmedia Group, recently released their annual tech trends report for 2017. This year's report is a massive document covering a whopping 158 trends.

We've pulled out just 5 of the 158 that we think are of interest this year.

1.) Robots

Think manufacturing, shipping, stocking.

From MIT's Technology Review comes a story about Ocado, the world's largest online-only grocery store, located in the UK.

Ocado's current warehouses are highly automated, though people are still required to select items off shelves. But, "...its third warehouse - currently in live trials near Andover, west of London - is being designed from scratch. Its main floor is laid out in giant grid about the size of a football field, split into washing-machine-size squares. Beneath each square is a vertical stack of five crates of groceries. On the surface of the grid are up to 1,000 robots, each able to lift crates from below.

The robots scuttle around, passing within centimeters of each other, at up to nine miles per hour. Orders relayed via a specially designed 4G network instruct the robots to grab crates and shuttle them to the edge of the grid, where pickers can grab the needed products. The robots work as a swarm: if the required product is four crates down in a stack, say, several can remove boxes to open the way.

The Andover warehouse, which is likely to enter full service in 2017, is a trial for an even larger facility in Erith, just outside London, which will begin construction next year. Its storage area will be three times the size. That means working out where to store goods and retrieve them, using thousands of robots, is incredibly complex. Clarke says that the computational demands of this optimization problem are bearable, but he adds that the company is investing in GPU-based systems and keeping a watchful eye on quantum computing for the future."

Robotics will become more common in manufacturing and supply chain applications as they become more sophisticated and affordable. Will that be in 2017? It looks like we could get a lot closer this year.

2.) AI

AlphaGo's historic victory against one of the best Go players of all time, Lee Sedol, was a landmark for the field of AI, and especially for the technique known as deep reinforcement learning.

Think about AI as the next layer of technology that will be integrated into everything you do professionally. AI is an extremely large, broad field that is, generally, working to program computers to do things that normally require human intelligence. The field will continue to grow and the technology will progress, though 2017 may not be the year of big breakthroughs.

3.) AI, Part 2: The Hype

There is real underlying value to the technologies being developed, but the publicity is getting a little crazy. And with the heady rise, comes a long fall. Hype leads to disappointment and disillusionment when big breakthroughs don't happen and reality doesn't match up. Perhaps in 2017 we'll see a backlash against the AI media hype frenzy.

4.) Bias in Algorithms

During 2016, we saw a number of cases in which the algorithms got it wrong: they misidentified innocent people as criminals and predicted that certain city blocks were likely to see a spike in violent offenses or drug trafficking. All of these cases had one thing in common: they involved people of color. Investigations from a number of universities, media organizations and activist groups revealed bias in the software.

While you won't see a complete reversal of how these systems work in 2017, you can expect to see more investigations into bias.

5.) Organizational "Doxing"

"Doxing" is mining and publishing personal information about a person, and organizational doxing is when this happens to an entire company. It's a term introduced by security expert Bruce Schneier. WikiLeaks has published troves of data. Hackers broke into Hacking Team, publishing a massive amount of internal data. Sony has been breached, and so have various branches of the U.S. government and the Democratic National Committee.

Because of the success hackers had in 2016, we can expect more organizational doxing in the year ahead. Every organization ought to shore up security and to develop a worst-case-scenario/risk management plan for how to handle it when, not if, they find themselves doxed.

Download the full 2017 report from Future Today Institute, here.