At the beginning of 2016, the Middle East’s IT spend was projected to grow to USD 212.9 billion by the end of the year – a 3.7% increase in spend when compared to the previous year – and would be driven, according to analysts, by the region’s increasingly connected environment. Analysts in fact forecasted a positive growth in the region’s tech market in spite of growing economic uncertainty in world markets, owing to the Middle East’s predilection for smart city initiatives and the projected adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT).
While the region’s tech spend grew in line with this forecast, some technologies did not generate as definitive an impact as they were predicted to at the beginning of the year. As the start of 2017 brings with it a fresh slew of tech predictions, we examine some of the tech trends that did not take off last year and whether this year could see them come to fruition.
With the launch of the Apple Watch 18 months ago the wearables market generated much anticipation last year, with many predicting soaring sales and the evolution of more sophisticated devices. Although the Middle East’s wearables market did see heavy growth in 2016, it was fitness trackers that made up much of the market’s volume.
Outside of fitness tackers, the region’s wearables market is growing, but there are hurdles to overcome on the technical front: a lack of apps, security issues, attractive designs and high price points limit mass adoption. Additionally, there is still considerable ground to be gained in convincing more price-conscious consumers that these products have a valuable role to play in everyday life beyond fitness. The onus lies on vendors to develop new applications, increase the use of historical data to simplify the user experience and enable interaction between multiple gadgets in order to push the market’s growth.
This year could see a change in pace as businesses continue to build their infrastructure around the cloud. Hospitality, logistics, aviation, banking and construction are potential sectors that app developers should look into. For example, DHL is already using augmented reality glasses to improve its pick-up process and Dubai Police has introduced the use of Google Glass to some of its patrol officers.
Google is set to dominate the Wi-Fi market
Last year saw much speculation over Google’s entrance into the Wi-Fi market with many predicting that their Google OnHub routers would hit the mainstream. These routers automatically connect your device to the band that will be fastest, based on the device’s location, and each router effectively switches to the best available channel in the spectrum to provide the fastest Internet connection for your devices.
The Google OnHub router didn’t make a splash on the international stage in 2016, but with more mobile devices appearing in organisations, the demand for better Wi-Fi standards will rise. We can also expect further improvements as the number of people using Wi-Fi to make audio and video calls are expected to increase.
Working from home initiative
The traditional office, with its fixed hours, back-to-back cubicles and often stressfully noisy environment, will soon be laid to rest, replaced by portable hardware, mobile devices and cloud-based apps. Working from home allows employers to save on the costs associated with a large central workspace and increases employee productivity, while negating commuting costs and time. While the trend to work remotely is gaining ground in the Middle East, it hasn’t seen large-scale adoption just yet.
To capitalise on the benefits of remote working, mobile workers require top-notch connectivity solutions to access information and resources effortlessly. Businesses are now, therefore, adopting a ‘mobile-first’ mind-set when planning new content and collaboration tools, which should boost remote working over this year.
The virtual office
Each year more ambitious predictions are made about the future of virtual reality for both businesses and consumers alike. It was suggested that 2016 could be the year that virtual reality would allow businesses to communicate and collaborate more creatively. Whist virtual and augmented realities are currently being used for a number of purposes, from optimising the designing of products in the engineering and manufacturing industries to enhancing educational experiences in healthcare, sadly 2016 didn’t see this technology enter the workplace.
However virtual technology does have huge potential to strengthen communications within enterprises. With most workplace interactions happening online, whether they be via e-mail or video conferencing, virtual reality has the ability to bring employees from remote offices together, making them feel they physically occupy the same space. Although the costs associated with VR headsets are still relatively high, key players in the market are introducing solutions. Most recently, Mark Zuckerburg hinted that a wireless Oculus VR headset is in development – if this is coupled with more accessible price points there could very well be an increase in the rate of adoption.
Industry analysts projected massive growth in the virtual assistant market and last year, Gartner predicted that two-thirds of consumers in mature markets would use these tools regularly by the end of 2016. While a rise in virtual assistant technology – such as Siri or Cortana – is already adding a more human touch to communication, it hasn’t made the hoped for impact just yet.
Cognitive computing and artificial intelligence allowing us to interact and collaborate with machines is right around the corner. But how quickly will users adopt it? Will it slowly grow like the landline before being eclipsed by something better, or will it mimic the mobile phone as the next biggest thing? We’re betting on the latter.
We’re currently seeing a convergence of new technology entering the market and going mainstream faster than ever before. In reality, 2017 is much more likely to be the year when many of these concepts, such as flexible working, virtual offices and assistants, are adopted more fully and hit the mainstream.
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