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11 technologies developers should explore now

Paul Heltzel | April 25, 2017
From machine learning to digital twins, opportunities abound in emerging (and converging) tech trends.


Autonomous vehicles, robots, and appliances

New opportunities are seen developing as AI and machine learning smarten up home devices, industrial equipment, cars, and drones. Research firm Gartner estimates that by 2020, automakers will send 61 million data-connected cars off production lines.

“There are entire economies already cropping up in these areas,” says Vince Jeffs, director of strategy and product marketing at Pegasystems. “For example, there are AI startups—and more mature companies—already well-established in the autonomous vehicle space. For example, MobileEye is a company with about $500 million in VC backing that specializes in the little cameras all over the vehicle. Similarly, there are stores for physical robots—for example, SoftBank Robotics specializes in robots used in hotels for concierge. They have about $250 million in VC backing.”

Progress in deep learning has improved computer vision, language processing, and speech, as well as the ability for machines and software to seek a reward and maximize performance, says Wayne Thompson, chief data scientist at SAS: “As a result we will see a new generation of machines that can see the world, hear and read human languages, communicate to humans, and control themselves both mechanically and behaviorally, in an unprecedented way.”

Where some see automation as a job-stealing nightmare, others instead say the technology will lead to a bright, more humane future.

“I’m often asked about the impact of automation,” says Michael Hubbard, global vice president at ServiceNow. “Intelligent automation is a vast opportunity, not a threat. By working hand-in-hand with intelligent technology, we can achieve greater things. It frees us from mundane, repetitive activities—unleashing creativity and letting us build stronger, more productive working relationships. Intelligent automation makes us more human, not less.”


Virtual and augmented realities

After decades of hype, virtual reality and augmented reality finally seem to be having their moment. For those looking to develop products for these technologies, there are opportunities beyond creating isolated gaming experiences.

“While these technologies are not pervasive yet, they definitely have matured in the last few years,” says Anup Nair, VP and CTO of Mphasis Digital. “We see an increasing relevance of [virtual and augmented reality] in the product marketing and immersive selling arenas. The best use cases will come from distribution services [retail, consumer packaged goods, and hospitality], and for a lot of these areas, the surface has just started to be scratched. I think that in the biomedical and health care industries, AR/VR will be really advantageous for both education and communicating complex surgical procedures. We also see AR initiatives targeted toward performing deep analytics in social media command centers of large banks, and on trading floors providing traders infinite real estate for data analysis and collaboration.”


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