Tech in 2016. What’s the deal? (Part 1)

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. It’s a New Year I work in tech. Consequently, I’m duty bound to make a series of half-informed industry predictions for the year ahead, which I can then crow about/ ignore throughout 2016 depending on how right or wrong I am.

With that important duty in mind, I’ve read an old copy of Wired, sent an email round the team, chatted with my mate down the pub and Googled ‘tech predictions for 2016’, and I’ve come up with a list of 13 things that will definitely, definitely either happen or not happen in the next 12 months.

But before I get into the big list, however, there’s a couple of things that are sufficiently buzzy to expect inclusion in the list but which I left out, contrary to my expectation – drones and the Internet of Things (IoT). First up, no-one seems that excited about drones any more, it’s basically just ‘we’ll use more drones’. There’s no ‘drones will fuse with AI to become self-aware transforming robots in 2016’ or talk of drones massively changing industries. It seems 2016 is not the year of the drone (there’s the first prediction I’ll live to regret). Secondly, pretty much no one expects the Internet of Things to become a coherent working ecosystem, but to remain as hot mess of competing standards and fridges talking to kettles with nothing to say.

With those two glaring absences from the list explained, let’s dive in to my big wacky out-there predictions for 2016:

  1. Blockchain! Where Bitcoin made it onto predictions lists three years ago (maybe four for the more daring) and promptly changed the world for no one except nerds, forward-thinking drug dealers and warehouse owners in China who could suddenly convert their sweatshops into Bitcoin mines, its underlying concept has the ability to transform industry after industry, and, as the Economist pointed out, even the concept of trust. It won’t do it this year though. Organisations are only just waking up to the possibilities created by Blockchain ledgers, so real world usage examples and coherent approaches will remain a rare beast for a while yet. Consequently, block chain will be 2016’s big data – the tech that every company’s talking about but no-one’s really using.
  1. eSports! eSports had its ‘oh, wait they’re serious’ moment in 2015, with ESPN airing a Heroes of The Dorm competition on ESPN 2 in the states and hiring an eSports editor, as well as the world collectively gawping at the prize pots ‘suddenly’ on offer (the latest being the $6.6 million that Evil Geniuses took home from, DOTA 2 tournament, The International). 2016 will be the year it normalises. The sponsors are starting to flood in (sponsorship revenue will top $100 million in 2015, $140 million in 2016), the players are beginning to work like athletes (many teams began to pay their staff and players full time salaries for the first time in 2015, and are bringing on training and health staff to keep their players on form) and transfer fees are ramping up (Team Dignitas just sold a LoL team for near a $1 million). In short, eSports is professionalising at an incredible rate, people are watching it (more people watched last year’s LoL Championship than the final round of the Masters), and brands are getting involved. So, this year, you’ll hear and see it regularly, you may turn on the TV and see a DOTA tournament in progress and you’ll see interviews with gamers, hopefully female gamers, in magazines way beyond gaming, you’ll adjust, and it will become part of everyday life. Like Kim Kardashian in 2008, but with more of a point.
  1. Hacking will put a company out of business. Skipping breezily from the frivolous to the depressing, the past few years have seen data loss and hacking move from a reputational issue to business critical and now CEOs are being sacked because of it. Problem is, CEOs and boards are still under-educated on cyber security. No doubt inspired by the audacity of the Sony breach and its very visible damage to that business, data breaches throughout 2015 have been increasingly audacious and damaging on a business level. It’s seems bonkers that Ashley Madison is still operating after hackers stole its main USP, and Talk, a company with £912 million in revenue (6 months ending Sept. 2015) braced for £35 mil in costs directly related to its own data breach. The threats are becoming more sophisticated, IT funding isn’t keeping up (IT security budgets actually fell last year), and boards by and large still need education. Consequently, in 2016 we’ll see the shock moment of a notable company being put out of business by a major attack.
  1. Silipocalypse: Silicon Valley suffers a unicorn purge, all those over-valued SaaS companies suffer. The big ones lose value but mostly survive, lots of the middle ones burnout or get gobbled, and the bottom end of the market freezes as cheap and easy investor cash dries up.
  1. Disney gives the wearables category a big ol’ confusing slap round the head. Whilst the Apples of the world have been pushing iterations of the same feature that have failed to excite the public, Disney, the most exciting tech company in the world, has rolled out its own wearable, the Magic Band, across Disneyland resort in Florida to tremendous effect and announced some pretty spectacular touch, gesture and wearable technologies in the past few years. The most recent one is literally a smartwatch. It knows what your touching and will change its functionality accordingly. You can keep your heartrate monitor, I want one of those. So you’re a much loved global brand with the financial strength to go toe to toe with anybody, more marketing nous than anyone (let’s not forget that Disney was pushing brand stores long before Apple) and the ability to offer something unique in a budding but undifferentiated market. You’d give it a pop, wouldn’t you? I hope so, at least. I’m a little bored of the Apple/Google duopoly (unless either has an RFP out soon, in which case I’m really excited by it and the prospect of perpetuating their dominance long into the future).

Stay tuned for the rest of my long list of technology predictions for 2016 – in your next helping, 3D becomes cool, VR becomes boring and biometrics affect us more at work and at play.

@PaulCrouch

Paul Crouch

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search