2016 Software Industry Predictions… And Anti-Predictions

Author

Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor

December 30, 2015

By golly doesn’t the technology industry love a prediction story at the end of the year? Didn’t Albert Einstein teach us something like time is just an abstract illusion of a distinction between the past, present and future? He also said that it was a “stubbornly persistent illusion”; so existential reasoning notwithstanding, we had better realize that now is a good time to look forward.

The tech community’s annually observed somewhat self-indulgent penchant for predictions is often its own worst enemy. Prophecies are all too often tied to vendors’ road maps and when they’re not, they tell us what we already know. So you say 2016 will be hot for commercially adopted open source, hybrid cloud models and mobile computing? No way? Big data analytics, cognitive computing and quantum breakthroughs are around the corner? You must be joking.

An Internet of Things awakener

Let’s try and look for something fresh and at the same time let’s try and dispel a few prophecies.

The truth is, getting big data working and bringing Internet of Things intelligence into play quickly is a tough job. What the industry is starting to tell us (some would use the word ‘admit’) is that it is neither humanly or machine-ly plausible to interpret all of the data being thrown up by the Internet of Things. Even with machine-learning systems, we can’t do it all.

What we also need realise is that we can’t just bolt on the Internet of Things i.e. it’s not a plug-and-play technology. The amount of ‘total IT stack’ re-platforming and re-architecting needed for the IoT to flourish is immense. This is our trend for 2016 i.e. the IoT takes a step back and assesses the whole tech landscape before it throws another sensor at us.
If you can’t visualize data, does it exist?

Looking at other technologies — data visualization is on the rise, this we already know and Tableau’s work in this area has stood out for some. Sencha CEO Art Landro argues that the continued explosion of connected sensors, wearables and devices, also known as the Internet of Things, will force enterprises to find elegant solutions to visualize large sets of complex data.

“There will be a requirement to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with ‘multiple nested dashboards’ that effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from real-time actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting to ensure accurate insight into competitiveness and viability,” suggests Landro.

But conversely, Ajeet Singh, CEO and co-founder of ThoughtSpot argues the following:

“Prettier visualizations won’t make smarter decisions. Your charts and images are only as good as the data underneath them and the decisions people make because of them. While they may look good and answer your first answer, how do you answer the follow-up questions? Many traditional BI tools nail the visualization piece of the puzzle, but fail to guide the average, non-technical user to meaningful answers,” argues Singh.

The problem is, they’re both right. Data visualization is cool and makes life easier, but not that much easier. The question is, is any technology like this that sits on a fulcrum (and most of it does) still worth doing — and the answer is of course yes.

Virtual Reality gets real?

Scratching around for more futurology commentary is hard work. The majority of vendors still think it’s interesting to tell us that mobile and desktop computing will become one single platform consideration. Most of us probably already accepted this at the turn of the decade if not before.

Ripe for disagreement is the thorny subject of Virtual Reality (VR). This is because 2016 is supposed to be the year that VR really becomes useful. In truth we have seen amazing deployments in areas like the military where it is being used to train medical staff on trauma situations by allowing them to experience virtual scenarios.

We also see VR being used to treat phobia and paranoia patients with virtual exposure therapy, so real developments are looking good. Despite this progress (and despite the Oculus Rift and the Microsoft HoloLens), the headsets still often cause a fair degree of nausea in some users and many industry watchers don’t think the time is quite here yet.

You see, it’s easy run ANY technology down… just like this. “Big data will not be big after all,” insists ThoughtSpot CEO Singh.

According to Singh, “The term big data will soon be history and 2015 officially marks its death. Gartner has removed big data as a theme from its hype cycle reports. At the same time, big data projects aren’t getting any better. Gartner Predicts 2015 reported that failure rates can be as high as 60 percent for some big data projects, yet another reason big data isn’t living up to its name.”

Autonomous drones on the way

Among the better ‘come on now you can’t be serious’ predictions thrown around this year were comments made by Maarten Ectors, VP of Internet of Things at Ubuntu commercial services company Canonical. Ectors is happy to state that in 2016, drones will become 100% remotely operable so that that site inspections and maintenance can be achieved entirely remotely.

“Through the use of cloud technology, operators can handle complex tasks from the other side of the world. This enables remote sensing and surveillance without any human involvement on field, dramatically reducing costs for companies in need of surveillance or technical monitoring on industrial sites. This is the first step towards full autonomy, which will see the drone market explode. Autonomy will also begin to limit where drones are able to fly legally. A permanent Internet link means GPS equipped drones will be constantly updated with no-fly information,” asserts Canonical’s Ectors.

Actually, when you hear it explained, Ectors might well be correct.

The one thing we all agree on

The one thing that the software industry does appear to sit in complete agreement on is people. We all agree that there aren’t enough software application development professionals, not enough students going into ‘traditional’ software engineering studies and not enough women in IT. We’re getting better at redressing the gender balance to increase team diversity and build a more fairly balanced workforce, but the age of technology still needs you.

We also need more data scientists, more DevOps engineers, more penetration testing specialists, more security evangelists and so on. According to Forrester, only nine million jobs are actually at risk of being replaced by machines over the next 10 years, that’s only six percent of all US jobs — the need for real people is strong.

Back in the day, the most assured professional you could ever enter was the undertaking business — there was never any risk of demand and supply letting you down — today, the software industry needs more hands on deck too.

This article was written by Adrian Bridgwater from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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