Telstra's technology boss predicts the top 5 tech trends of 2017

Drones will play an increasing role in how we do business. Photo: Flirtey

It’s been a massive year for Telstra, with Australia’s biggest telecommunications business, facing some major ups and downs and pledging to invest $3 billion on its network over the next three years in the wake of a series of embarrassing outages.

CEO Andy Penn announced the spending in August, saying the telco’s focus is on retiring old and slow technology and systems, and laying foundations for the 5G network.

Of course one of the most important parts of making such a massive investment in the future is finding the best possible crystal ball to gaze at – and that job in a large part falls to Telstra’s director of technology, Andrew Scott, a 20-year veteran of the mobile industry whose understanding of the Internet of Things dates back to building software for an internet fridge back in 1999.

With a big year ahead, Scott’s been thinking about the enterprise tech trends for 2017, and the impact they’ve have, and has shared his predictions with Business Insider.

Here’s what Scott says are the five key things to expect next year:

1. Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence
We have already seen that connected machines making decisions are increasingly commonplace in large enterprises and the mass introduction of Artificial Intelligence systems will enable greater interaction between these systems to deliver improvements in for resource management and utilisation.

Human to robot interactions will start to proliferate in business process as inroads to voice response technology create more sophisticated human-like ‘chat bots’.

2. Digital transformation
Acceleration of digitisation will be a top priority for many business leaders, including Telstra (in FY17-FY19 we will be spending approximately AUD$1 billion on digitisation), in 2017 to meet the ever growing demand for customers for a digital first experience, respond to new disruptive competitors and take advantage of new technologies like cloud and software defined networks.

As business interacts with the new digital world they will need to draw value from data and improve decision making, consuming and analysing the large amounts of data, including interactions between complex interconnected systems (such as Machine to Machine platforms) in order to provide a better experience to their customers.

3. Narrowband networks and the Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT is increasingly a reality and as narrowband technology is deployed it will enable a wide range of new devices to be connected to the network, and may improve power consumption of devices, system capacity and spectrum efficiency.

As devices and uses proliferate the need to make quality and real time decisions will become acutely important.

Collections of data sets will need to be maintained for accuracy and compliance with governance and policy enforcement regimes. Security technology will play key role in verification of data trust across IoT ecosystems.

4. Drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Automated Vehicles
As technology and the accompanying regulation approaches continue to evolve, industrial automated vehicles will go beyond the agricultural and mining verticals where they are common place today.

In 2017 we expect to see new use cases emerge in transport, logistics, and the maintenance and inspection of infrastructure. Autonomous vehicles will extend the functions of IoT devices, machine learning and automated decision making.

5. Augmented Reality enters the enterprise
Broad market directions around Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) are starting to form as products become “good enough” in the consumer applications space particularly for entertainment.

However, AR is rapidly finding practical use cases within enterprises. AR is particularly useful in “hands-busy” tasks such as many design and maintenance scenarios, where instructions can be overlaid on the physical thing being serviced. As device durability improves, AR will find a wide variety of use cases in pre-sales, field service, maintenance and training.

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