Consumer and business technologies have been merging for some time now, but the trend is accelerating. Here are 10 developments worth keeping your eye on.
The 2016 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) was widely covered here on TechRepublic. The expose, which showcases new and upcoming technologies, included a wide assortment of products, ranging from interesting to wild to a bit... strange. While I loved the idea of the Chinese EHang 184 drone, which can carry one passenger (I'm already waiting in line for it), the wearable suit that makes you feel 40 years older seemed odd to me. But that's probably because I feel that old every morning when my feet first touch the ground.
Although the name of the show contains the word "consumer," the devices and gadgets presented also had some valid and obvious business uses. For instance, self-driving cars, roll-up displays, and wireless charging technology could all fit company purposes.
So here's the question: How will consumer and business technology continue to blend? Let's take a look at 10 ways this will happen—or start to make waves—in 2016.
1: BYOD will grow
This is low-hanging fruit and an easy guess. It's clear that BYOD will continue to grow based upon its existing momentum. (A recent Tech Pro Research Report found that "72% of organizations polled were permitting BYOD or planning to do so.") Personal devices will continue to be used in business settings across the board.
The wildcard factor is how wearable devices (think GPS, health/fitness/sleep monitors, and security functions) and the Internet of Things will factor in. These are all fields in which consumers and business can thrive and will do so in conjunction so going forward.
2: Virtual and augmented reality will take off
CES 2016 was rife with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) products. Personally, I think eyewear will be key, and it will work to explore, control, or track items both in consumer and business environments. One cool element at CES was a virtual reality rig that allowed people to "meet" in specialized settings, such as on a beach. That would definitely spice up my next team standup!
TechRepublic"s Erin Carson wrote an excellent piece on virtual reality titled Immersive Journalism: What Virtual Reality means for the future of storytelling and empathy-casting. The article discusses the use of virtual reality in journalism to build "understanding and empathy" among viewers and participants so as to better communicate the details and implications of news events. This concept will apply to numerous fields through both consumer and business applications.
Facebook's Oculus Rift VR headset is focused on gaming. Sounds consumer-based, right? Well, businesses that focus on gaming are also going to get widespread use from it, either by releasing products that work with it or by gaining insights into what they should be doing in the VR realm.
3: The Internet of Me will be big
Not to be confused with the Internet of Things, the Internet of Me refers to a person's overall personalized experience with the web, whether through communications, connectivity, health, shopping, or entertainment. The platform involves an array of devices: smartphones, wearables, and the Internet of Things, of course. It's how we interact with the internet on any given day.
Smart businesses will find ways to capitalize upon it by providing experiences that are customized and tailored to target audiences, which will seek both consumer- and business-based applications and usage models. I'm not talking about mere advertising, though we've seen some of this mindset so far with website ads intended to stoke the interests of target audiences. (For instance, as an avid camper, I'm more likely to respond to an EMS ad than I am to a Jo-Ann's Fabric ad.) This trend involves delivering what people want... or better yet, what they need. Which is why...
4: Identification of needs will become a priority
This strongly relates to #3. The one-size-fits-all business model still works for some companies. Many products and services, such as food or internet access, have universal appeal. However most have a specific customer base. Take entertainment, for instance. While I love Marvel movies, such as The Avengers and Ant-Man, my 68-year old aunt has different cinematic preferences.
The "identification of needs" refers to how to determine what products/services are the best fit for which consumers through technology. Unlike some current product promotions (Windows 10), which are based on ham-handed tactics that don't clearly define the basis for necessity, companies that are adept at identifying consumer requirements and providing solutions will thrive. Of course, this must accompany ease of purchase as well.
5: Connected home devices will rise
Smart homes are coming, and will enable occupants to control lighting, appliances, temperature, and security options. This will tie in neatly with physical security for businesses.
CES featured an announcement by Ford that it is creating smart home technology. Home residents will be able to administer lights, doors, and temperature from their vehicles. It's easy to envision a corporate scenario where an IT manager rushing to the office in the dead of a winter's night can activate the heating system so at least they'll have warmth while chasing down the latest problem.
6: Mobility and social media will lead to bigger big data requirements
This is perhaps another no-brainer—but it serves as a wakeup call to companies not to be complacent about their storage and bandwidth capacities.
According to wersm.com, as of last August Facebook users were posting 250 million times each hour, Twitter users were generating 347K tweets per minute, and Snapchat users were sharing 284K snaps per minute. Now, that doesn't mean companies have to store these items nor expect employees to access all this data via the internet (one would hope not, anyway). But it does signify that devices are going to be thirsty for capacity, and it's better to line it up before it's needed rather than scramble to find it once the limitation wall has been hit. But on the other hand....
7: The thirst for power and connectivity will be quenched
The days of users struggling to charge up their devices or find a signal are on the wane. 2016 will see more charging options, better battery capacity, and more widespread connectivity. Some of this will come in new and inventive ways. For instance, a company called M-Edge International has developed luggage that is wired up to charge devices via internal batteries.
8: "Business class" workstation systems will fade
The days of a mighty and powerful machine sitting under your desk at the office and a humble and unassuming laptop adorning your home are disappearing. Consumer equipment is generally powerful enough to work in business environments now, especially since many thick clients are being replaced with browser-based apps and storage offloaded to the cloud. Of course, some exceptions will still apply, such as servers and ultra high-powered systems intended for multimedia development, graphic design, and such.
9: Transportation will evolve
Driverless cars and Uber were two hot concepts in 2015 and they will continue to expand in 2016 as vehicles become more technological. I've already mentioned Ford's plan for cars and trucks hooked up to smart homes (and businesses). We won't see a combination of the two publicly available just yet, so don't start worrying about whether to tip that robot chauffeur, but we will see steps being taken to get us there.
10: Drones will be up and coming
Drones were featured prominently at CES 2016. A company called Parrot is offering a product called the Disco, which has wings and an autopilot control and can be flown via a specific controller or an app. Other companies, such as Yuneec, DJI and 3D Robotics, Intel, and Qualcomm, featured drone products. Odyssey Toys is even releasing a pocket drone.
Did I mention the Chinese EHang 184 drone is coming... and it can carry one passenger? (And can you tell I'm excited?) Turns out it's expected to cost between $200,000 and $300,000. That's more than a standard helicopter. So while the lines between consumer and business technology may blur, I'll admit some of these products may be geared toward the 1%.
One final prediction
Video games will lose their stigma as merely a hobby for lazy introverts with malfunctioning social skills. Nowadays a video game is almost an ecosystem; it's a complex environment that requires teamwork, cooperation, strategy, and intense dedication. It's almost project management (depending on the game).
As someone responsible for interviewing new hires in a technology company, I've come across candidates who were avid video gamers and who explained to me that much of their love for technology has come from those endeavors. I fully agree and support that mindset. I'd much rather hire gamers, since they likely understand the infrastructure and mindset of supporting technology. So don't be afraid to wear that badge in a business environment.