Vodafone has given its two cents on what it thinks is in store for the tech scene this year, with cyber security, data, augmented reality and mobile commerce expected to make waves. The telco firm also believes the days of the middle aged male-dominated tech arena might be coming to a slow end.Vodafone's top tech trends for 2017
When your fridge is held hostage
As more people become aware of cyber-security threats and how they can improve their safety online, Vodafone says 2017 will see the tech industry respond by further improving security tools and minimising risks.
Data theft and basic phishing scams are becoming more sophisticated and cyber criminals are instead using data manipulation for their attacks, the company says.
“The rise of ransomware, for example, means hackers are looking at all your connected devices, such as targeting your smart TV or fridge, and demanding money to unlock it,” explains Colin James, head of Security at Vodafone.
Linked to this is improved regulation here and overseas, which James says is where the rubber will hit the road for cyber security.
“Due to the fast-moving and growing sophistication of cyber-security threats, this year it'll be more important than ever for regulators to keep up with cyber criminals,” he says.
“Cyber-security will also hot up in 2017 due the growth of Internet of Things, especially amongst Kiwi businesses which is where connected technologies have had the most impact to date,” adds James.
“It's likely this will be amplified as more consumer-orientated IoT offerings reach the market,” he says.
Speed meets need
Vodafone believes 2017 will continue to see a data explosion as people stream more video, businesses embrace IoT and fast-developing technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) really start to make inroads.
“We know people's consumption of data this year will surpass last year, as we've previously seen a 100% growth in data year-on-year,” explains Sharina Nisha, head of Platforms Design - Delivery at Vodafone.
“Streaming video is a major component of this thanks to the massive popularity of on-demand television,” she says.
“We really are living in the on-demand era, as consumers continue to set the pace for when and how they expect to watch content,” adds Nisha.
Nisha says mobile experiences are becoming richer and more immersive and this, in turn, requires more bandwidth and ever-faster speeds.
“Vodafone New Zealand is committed to continued investment in our networks and we have a bold vision to take wireless technologies further and faster for New Zealanders,” she explains.
“Our focus for 2017 is to continue to increase 4G leadership and utilise carrier aggregation to produce higher speeds.
Nisha says, “Vodafone customers were the first in New Zealand to experience faster and more reliable mobile data speeds when we introduced carrier aggregation (CA) technology into our 4G mobile network in October 2015.
“This is part of Vodafone's longer-term journey towards a 5G network and we already have a large percentage of our sites supporting speeds of up to 260Mbps downloads today on commercial devices,” she explains.
“I think 2017 will also see more devices capable of the higher speeds that carrier aggregation can offer.
Tech changes for both click and brick
According to Vodafone, there's no question that m-commerce will further revolutionise consumer shopping behaviour.
Technologies including mobile wallets, virtual fitting rooms, personalised and geo-targeted online shopping offers and placements as well as enhanced connectivity through near field communications (NFC) and Bluetooth are transforming the way consumers interact and rely on their smartphones, the company says.
Angus Wilson, head of Commercial at Vodafone, says online marketplaces continue to increase the importance of the click as opposed to the brick in a retail sense, with Facebook launching what it hopes will be the next Ecommerce heavyweight in Marketplace in 2016 and all the major mobile device players offering their own version of the mobile wallet (e.g. Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay).
“I think we'll see more demand from consumers for businesses to make shopping from your mobile readily available,” says Wilson.
“Mobile is becoming the new standard for consumers to make purchases, and the convenience factor means we should expect significant demand coming from consumers who agree that cash isn't going to be relied on into the future,” he explains.
More diversity in tech
Long the domain of middle-aged males, Vodafone claims the face of the tech industry is changing fast.
Kirstin Te Wao, diversity lead at Vodafone explains, “We'll see the conversation on diversity in tech fundamentally change in 2017.
“We're no longer debating the benefits, we are now moving towards expanding collaboration amongst the industry and cross sectors to make tangible progress,” she says.
Te Wao says Vodafone is particularly concentrating on three key areas for the year ahead; youth employment, women in leadership, and Maori and Pasifika engagement.
As an example, Vodafone has had a ‘Plus One' target programme in place for a number of years, in an effort to hire more females across its teams, aspiring to a 50% female representation within Vodafone, ideally by 2020.
“I think we'll see more businesses actually walking the talk this year, and more specifically, STEM industries connecting with groups who may be underrepresented within their organisations, such as women and ethnic groups at primary and secondary school level,” says Te Wao.
“It is widely accepted that organisations have a responsibility to make diversity and inclusion as much of a focus as other core reporting lines and, because of this, this will extend to more investment in growing the talent pipeline from a much younger age,” she explains.
When reality hits
As far as new, exciting consumer technology goes, virtual and augmented realities were quite the buzz last year, Vodafone says.
According Vodafone head of Terminals, Todd Hardie, this coming year the popularity and excitement of what these types of technologies can deliver will be at the forefront, especially around growing the quality of the user experience.
Hardie says, “Pokémon Go in particular did a great job in showing and educating people about what augmented reality is and how engaging it can be.
“Last year proved there is significant consumer appetite for wanting to experience these environments,” he explains.
“We can expect that 2017 will bring us more announcements around related hardware, more likely on the display side, and advancements in the quality of the visuals,” Hardie says.
“People want the video to be top-notch and as immersive and real as possible.
Hardie says there's already much hype around major device manufacturers investing in the VR and AR space as seen with acquisitions of multiple AR and VR companies, signalling a move to take on existing competitors such as Oculus Rift and Microsoft's HoloLens.
“As a result, better content creation will appear as up until now it has been somewhat in its infancy with the majority of the content simply 2D visuals or 360-degree footage placed in a VR environment,” Hardie explains.
“New uses of VR and AR should begin to emerge such as ‘mixed reality' which combines the best of both technologies – meaning real and virtual environments co-existing and interacting at the same time,” he says.
“Imagine objects getting bigger as you get closer and the changing of perspectives as you move around an object.
Hardie says the market is ready for more mainstreaming of AR and VR and the commercial and marketing opportunities these technologies can bring.
“I believe this is the year when we'll see things really take off and the use-cases of both AR and VR rise across a variety of sectors,” he adds.