Business Technologies That Will Have Major Impact in 2017

Articles | Online Master of Business Administration


Wireless technology, ultrafast processors, and smaller, more agile interfaces are combining to accelerate change in business. The past six years have seen remarkable breakthroughs, sparking new product categories and business models.

Today’s business opportunities are so novel and diverse that even the best predictions about the future are sure to fall short. Still, some clear trends are developing. Exciting business prospects are emerging, along with great avenues for anyone interested in technology.

Some of the biggest disruptors on today’s business scene are detailed below.

Machine Learning

Machine learning — adaptable artificial intelligence — is the next big step in developing robotic systems capable of performing complex tasks in fast-paced environments. In just a few years, the field has advanced considerably thanks to new approaches.

Programming tools that serve as an effective basis for new machine learning systems are finally seeing widespread release. At the same time, machine vision has become more affordable. Transitioning from external sensors to vision cameras lets systems “learn” from environmental input.

As machine learning grows, systems will work more effectively alongside humans — and even autonomously — with little or no guidance.


Thousands of industrial automation systems have been deployed worldwide. These are responsible for billions of dollars in savings, mostly in factories that construct automobiles and other large machines. They are perfect for routine tasks where machine learning isn’t needed.

Automation isn’t just confined to the factory, though. Recently, it has been used in agriculture with ultraprecise self-driving farm equipment. Automation that deals with large tracts of land, like farms, is increasingly using data supplied by unmanned aerial drones.

New approaches to automation stand to lower operations costs even more.

Humanized Big Data

Big data made the leap from theory to reality so fast that few tools were around to make its insights work for non-experts. For many business applications, making sense of big data is still like planning a trip to the moon. Soon, though, it will be easier to apply big data to real problems.

A new generation of big data strategies is on the horizon. New software will perform advanced meta-processing using big data to point the way to actionable intelligence. Combined with machine learning, big data systems could gradually learn which information really counts. Visualized, empathetic big data will allow businesses to see and capture opportunities more easily.

Physical-Digital Integration

Consumer Virtual Reality (VR) products like the Oculus Rift have made a big splash. Gamers now have a chance to completely immerse themselves in new worlds that are becoming more interactive by the day. Subtler output, like realistic tactile sensation and body positioning, will soon be available. This could be a big boon to new and traditional media outlets.

As amazing as the entertainment possibilities are, they’re only the beginning. As users gain the ability to interact directly with machines using their minds, new frontiers open up. Advanced prosthetics, accessibility devices, and mental health treatments are on the way. With applications across so many different industries, the commercialization opportunities are limitless.

The Internet of Things and Smart Home Technology

Thanks to the huge expansion in wireless speed and security, it will soon be possible for virtually every home appliance to have online capabilities. By interacting with sensors, every product a person buys can become part of a complete “smart home” experience.

For example, lights can automatically dim or brighten based on occupancy, temperature controls can adjust for time and usage, and refrigerators can even tell when milk is going bad. It’ll be easier than ever to maintain and update products, too. Product developers will have the opportunity to add value in new ways, extending the lifecycle of physical products in much the same way as software products.

Everything On-Demand

Services like Uber have gone one step beyond the “gig economy.” Now, professionals of all kinds can be summoned at a moment’s notice, along with all the tools, equipment, and luxuries they can provide. That’s not all: Two-day product delivery, once the height of convenience, will give way in many cities to delivery in 12 or even six hours.

In hindsight, something like Uber might seem obvious — flagging down service providers with an app you can access anywhere. As drones and other technologies enter the consumer domain, however, there are billions of dollars in untapped potential within the on-demand economy. With creative thinking, startups that can provide near-instant service could skyrocket.

According to Ohio University Professor of Management Information Systems, Dr. Hao Lou, 2017 is an exciting year for smart technologies. “Many consulting firms, such as Gartner, have identified technology trends for 2017. It appears many of the trends are related to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and smart things in general.” He added that, “while some of the tech trends are still in their early stages of development, upper management needs to separate hypes from the disruptive potentials of these trends.” Additionally, Dr. Lou believes that, “business leaders must prepare for the impacts of these disruptive trends on people, businesses/business process and IT departments, and determine how they can help make faster and better business decisions and provide competitive advantage.”

Dr. Lou also notes that “In Ohio University’s Online MBA program, we offer an IT management course, ‘Strategic Use of Information,’ where students will learn, among other current topics, the Theory of Disruptive Innovation (Christensen et al., 2015) and Gartner’s Hype Cycle to help identify new strategic IT trends that may have potential disruption for different industries.”

With the number of remarkable breakthroughs we’ve seen over the past five years, 2017 should prove to be another outstanding year for emerging business technologies. Yet, it’s important to keep in mind how new and dynamic many of these technologies are, and that even some of the top developments may eventually fail. By maintaining a balanced, yet optimistic outlook on emerging technologies, business leaders will be able to leverage a number of exciting products and services as they continue to enhance and improve society.

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