I have a feeling 2016 is going to be a really interesting year for technology. This could be the comeback year for the bellwether brands as they try to claw back the focus from the fast-paced, new kid sparkle of the Uber and Airbnb style brands. We’ll see more M&A activity as established brands try to leapfrog the newer players, and if you want to get specific about one technology area just look at the cloud computing space – we’re going to see the likes of IBM, Oracle and Microsoft re-establishing dominance with smartly thought through enterprise solutions that embed real resilience and security. IBM’s SoftLayer acquisition is going to start paying off in a big way in 2016.

Some of the hyped technologies of 2015 will evolve in 2016. For example, the real game in 3D printing is the potential to transform businesses and sectors through downloadable plans for all manner of products, parts and solutions. It is all about IP and enabling access to that IP by the end user. It is not unthinkable that a mechanic in a small bodyshop can download and 3D print the exact auto part he needs to get his customer back on the road. 3D printing has the potential to radically disrupt the manufacturing sector for good.

Wearables have had a mixed 2015, with some amazing hype and some less amazing sales figures. According to CCS Insight the sector is going to boom from $12 billion in 2015 to $25 billion in 2019. That growth is likely to be driven by both consumer and enterprise sales. Wearables offer enterprises a realistic way of tracking teams and of providing data that can aid productivity long term.

However, the two stand out technologies for me are virtual reality and AI.

VR is yet to go mainstream but 2016 could be its year. There are three highly anticipated VR product launches in 2016 with the Oculus Rift CV1, HTC Vive and the Sony PlayStation VR. Microsoft’s HoloLens headset launches its devkit early next year and I’ve now acquired three Google Cardboard promotional headsets from three separate events. We’re going to see more mainstream VR content whether that’s news stories, ads, films or gaming. What will be more interesting and offer more fundamental transformation is how VR is applied to the enterprise environment for things like immersive training for high risk jobs, three dimensional data visualizations, immersive product demonstrations, modelling and scenario mapping. In the public sector the use of VR for medical or defense purposes will fundamentally change our rules of engagement.

IBM has dominated the AI story in 2015 with its Watson cognitive computing system. We’re now at a point where the whole picture needs to be pulled back to smaller scale, but no less impactful, services and solutions that can connect into the cloud via APIs. We need to make AI real, and take some of the fear out of the equation. 2016 should be the year where we start to see more policy and regulation around AI and its use across the globe.

Sara Gourlay, Global Technology Practice Director, H+K Singapore

Web Summit, the annual gathering of tech start-ups, entrepreneurs, investors, corporates and media, took place from 3rd to 5th November. It’s an incredible event – huge, churning, tightly packed, a slight sense or organised chaos and so many (too many) things to see and listen to.

I was there two days and could have chosen 20 but here are four themes that stood out for me:

So. Many. Ideas.

If you’ve not been to Web Summit or its sister events, the first thing that hits you is just how many ideas and start-ups behind them are on show. Healthcare, social, fintech, recruitment, education, science, even furniture. Every conceivable avenue to use the internet and technology more broadly was on display. And the geographic breadth was fantastic – ideas on display from over 100 countries, everywhere from Costa Rica to Indonesia. Technology entrepreneurship is booming beyond just Silicon Valley.

“Hi. We’re the Uber/Instagram/Stripe of XXXX.”

This was a recurring theme I saw time and again. Familiarity wasn’t just a crux to lean on, but a whole branding strategy for many start-ups. I debated this with several branding types and our conclusion was “negative.” I can see the value for describing yourself that way as part of your pitch to an investor. But as the centre of your brand? Not so much. The ideas that really stood out, as ever, were simple in ideation and critically, in description.

Payments? Yes. Wearables? Maybe.

There were dedicated Fashion, Health and Money mini-summits but even beyond them, both these topics were discussed again and again. On payments and the potential for them, the conversation was overtly positive, whether by working with existing companies or pursuing new avenues. That includes Bitcoin, the tone for which seemed more positive than six months ago (no doubt The Economist helped with that).

Wearables was a more guarded story – perhaps my favourite observation of the whole Web Summit was that too much of the industry “is stuck endlessly ideating around the same three sensors”. The next step is being cried out for, but no one yet seems confident of what that is.

Universal banks or profitable banks?

Financial services pervaded the whole of Web Summit. Technologists are focused on it and it felt like every other conversation or idea was about how to break into it. Two points caught my attention in particular.

Argument 1: existing players will remain the dominant force in anything long-term, be that mortgages, loans, retirement saving or insurance.

Argument 2:existing players will specialise, some becoming technology companies, others credit houses, to better meet the demands of their customers.

Many of the entrepreneurs interviewed or presenting were open in confirming existing backing from today’s large institutions. The City, the Street and every existing financial services company in-between is keenly aware of both the challenge and the opportunity coming from the Valley.

David Chambers, Associate Director, Financial+Professional Services, Hill+Knowlton Strategies London

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