5 tech trends that will change the world in 2017

IFTTT
Control4
2016 was a year many would rather forget. From the never-ending stream of bad news to a brutal election that seemed like it would never end to the dozens of celebrities — including a few in the tech world — that passed on, it was a tough year.

But 2016 also had its share of important technological breakthroughs that changed how we live, work, and play. Virtual reality made a big comeback in 2016 and is sure to get even hotter this year. Virtual assistants moved out of our cell phones and into our homes, and smart home technologies may have finally broken through to the mainstream.

So what do we expect in the new year? There’s a myriad of tech trends we’re watching that will change the world once again in 2017; here’s the top five you should keep an eye on.

Internet of Things (and the Death of the Hub)

honda smart home inside us dp6v4710

The Internet of Things has been on just about everybody’s list for years. So why hasn’t it caught on? The issue lies in interoperability. In theory, the IoT is supposed to connect all our devices together, making them sing in a glorious technological harmony. Thing is, we’re not at that point yet — at least in a usable manner, and in a way that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out.

We’ll use the smart home as an example here. Much of the work in the past several years has revolved around the idea of a “smart hub,” in layman’s terms a souped-up wireless router with extra communications technologies built in. But ask any smart home system owner, and they’ll tell you it’s not a perfect solution.

A multitude of wireless technologies now exist to serve your smart home needs — Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and more. And there’s more smart home platforms to consider than ever before too — Wink, SmartThings, Iris by Lowe’s, even systems from security providers like ADT and big brands like Comcast. While centralization in theory should make things easier, it’s made it worse.

Smart home tech may have finally broken through to the mainstream.

Some smart home gadgets won’t work with certain smart home platforms — for example, your Philips Hue lights won’t work with your Iris by Lowe’s system (likely a business decision as Lowe’s doesn’t carry the Hue product line). Plus if your smart hub goes down, your entire system typically goes with it.

Expect a refocus this year when it comes to smart homes. Wi-Fi is a tested and true wireless networking technology, and routers are serving up ever larger amounts of bandwidth, so there’s plenty of space to handle your connected home. Also, new smart home devices are choosing Wi-Fi to maximize compatibility.

Instead of using a centralized hub, device manufacturers will focus on interoperability between themselves. This might have the consequence of shrinking the number of directly compatible devices, but it may not matter. Ither technologies can take the place of the hub, and likely do a better job of it.

IFTTT can connect those devices in any way you see fit, and Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home can control them by voice. The hub just isn’t necessary anymore, and that might be a good thing.

AI and Automation, Everywhere

technology trends 2017 smart home automation 0002

Automation is nothing new — at least on the business side. Our experiences with automated technologies primarily comes in the form of those pesky automated customer service systems we’re forced to call every time we need help. But it’s only going to get more commonplace this year.

Automated customer service won’t go away, but it will get better. At the same time, online customer service will be automated as well, thanks to better AI and chatbots that understand context a whole lot better than ever before.

More and more jobs will also be automated — even journalist’s work on writing the news (don’t worry, we aren’t going anywhere). We’ll also see smart devices gain from increased automation, learning your patterns and preferences without you needing to tell them and making better and more accurate suggestions and recommendations.

Here’s one interesting area to watch: fast food. 2016 saw a lot of talk of removing the human component from food service; will self-serve kiosks make an appearance in the year ahead? On top of that, automated drone delivery should also see wider-scale testing by the end of the year — especially by Amazon.

Are there negatives? Of course. We’ve heard complaints for a long time about the lack of interpersonal communication these days. And jobs may be lost as a result of the move away from humans. No doubt, the discussion surrounding how far we’ll let automation run our lives will only get louder in the New Year.

Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Gaming

Call up Durr Burger and grab some lunch with our Fortnite weekly challenge guide

The Fortnite week 8 challenges are now available in season 8. One of the big challenges this week has players dial the Durr Burger number on the big telephone. We've got everything you need to complete this weekly challenge.
Features

Exclusive: The Surface Hub 2S will revolutionize work. Here’s how it was made

Exclusive interviews with the designers, futurists, and visionaries behind the Surface Hub 2 paint a dramatic picture of how Microsoft thinks collaboration will change your office.
Product Review

You won't buy Microsoft's Surface Hub 2S, but it could still change your life

The Microsoft Surface Hub 2S wants to change the way you collaborate at work. That’s a lofty goal most devices fail to achieve, but the unique Hub 2S could be an exception. And trust us – you’re going to want it.
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
1 of 2