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Three key 2017 technology trends to know

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Predictive analytics, voice-activated devices and artificial intelligence will take shape as significant technology trends in 2017. Some still await further maturity.

As we close out 2016 and look at the key 2017 technology trends, some themes have emerged. One is intelligent systems, powered by artificial intelligence. Another is predictive analytics, or the ability to predict future behavior based on current trends, as well as voice as the new critical form factor.

1. Predictive analytics. According to Scott Robinson, SharePoint and BI expert, while we will have tools emerging in 2017 technology trends, there could still be a lack  of understanding of the data required to be successful. Robinson said that the problem is that we don't understand how to contextualize the findings, and this has led to false understandings of data trends, as was the case in the 2016 presidential election; predictive analytics didn't accurately see the strength of the Trump campaign in certain areas.

"The math has been around since Isaac Newton," Robinson said. "But we failed to paint the context of what was going on voter-wise with what we were seeing. We've got the tools. But we don't have the know-how to use them as wisely as we ultimately will."

As Eric Berridge, CEO of consulting company Bluewolf, noted in a recent interview, the presidential election results were skewed because number crunchers only looked at subsets of the data. Robinson agreed, saying that the failure to look at broad swaths of data samples can skew the results.

If you're going to understand your buyer, your supply chain partners, human behavior is not a simple thing.
Scott RobinsonSharePoint and BI expert

"It's a mission-critical problem," Robinson noted." If you're going to understand your buyer, your supply chain partners, human behavior is not a simple thing. You need all the data, so you can ... draw effective pictures of why people make the decisions they make. Only using subsets of the data, not scooping up all the data -- that's a mistake."

Robinson also noted that companies may falsely prognosticate as a result of using only a sliver of the available data.

2. Artificial intelligence. Robinson said that AI is making a pretty solid debut among 2017 technology trends as a means of decision support and not decision-making. To that end, AI software isn't about supplanting human beings, human decision-making or human work, but a way to supplement machines.

"[Major vendors] are leveraging AI as decision support, not decision-making," Robinson said.
"We are beginning to see AI from Salesforce [and] Microsoft that make ways to do work more efficiently, to make decisions more efficiently, but not to turn those decisions over to machines."

3. Voice as the new form factor. As other industry watchers have noted, voice is becoming a critical new form factor for communicating and gathering data. Technologies like Alexa and Siri give users a natural way to communicate, and this voice-based data is also providing companies with valuable data related to consumer behavior, preferences and possible future purchases.

"I use Alexa all the time," Robinson noted. "It is extremely useful data. All this data is piling up in the Amazon cloud from all the hundreds of thousands of people who are using that appliance -- that is a brilliant strategy. It is going to reshape consumer technology. That piling up of data can help us understand how human beings make decisions."

At the same time, Robinson noted that the customer data gathered by devices like Alexa may suffer from self-serving data analysis, so companies may not draw the correct insight.

"Your typical American corporation has a skewed and self-serving view of how people think and behave," Robinson said. "It's easy in a business context to fool yourself about what customers think and why. It's not easy to be objective. There will be some hard lessons learned where this technology gets [incorrectly] deployed because people at the top won't be willing to admit they might be wrong about their customers."

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