2017 rewind: Wiper viruses, blockchain, and tech trends galore

January 29, 20185 Minute Read

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Anyone who says 2017 tech trends were a snooze wasn’t paying attention. Here’s just a taste of what happened last year: Connected “things” and office hardware got smarter (even though the security threat vector got scarier), anyone who dumped a lot of money into bitcoin is probably having a great start to 2018, and while robots aren’t mass-produced and offices aren’t 100 percent VR-powered yet, we do have chatbots.

Let’s fast-forward through a jam-packed 12 months of 2017 tech trends, big hacks, even bigger hackers, and new, jaw-droppingly awesome tech. Buckle up.

Cybersecurity isn’t getting simpler

In May 2017, hundreds of thousands of computers were infected with the WannaCry ransomware virus. A month later, the Petya wiper virus entered the ring—a new type of scary that may have been politically motivated, sans a kill switch. But don’t forget about the almost half-million pacemakers that were left wide open to hack attacks, too.

Basically, it all boils down to this: By July, 13 percent of the IT pros who attended Las Vegas’s 2017 Black Hat security conference had “no doubt” their organization would suffer a major security incident this year, while 69 percent worried about how state-sponsored security threats would impact their businesses.

If you’re a security pro who feels like you’re drowning in endpoints, shadow IT, and an expanding threat vector, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are glimmers of hope. A 2017 Black Hat briefing by HP security advisor Dr. Kimberlee Brannock revealed that you’re not doomed to choose between compliance and innovation. The US government has officially recommended that IoT device manufacturers engineer security. To all endpoint manufacturers, the message of: “Innovate, or get left behind” rings loud and clear.

The bottom line: A self-healing printer may not solve the entire security crisis, but it’ll make managing your endpoint vulnerabilities a lot easier.

Let’s talk about blockchain

Bitcoin hit an all-time high in 2017, but the distributed ledger technology behind it—aka blockchain—was one of the 2017 tech trends to watch. Did you know that Estonia is one of the most “digitally advanced” countries in the world? It’s true—the Estonian government used blockchain to create a transparent and secure national health records system, rocketing them to this esteemed position.

Harvard Business Review predicted that blockchain could disrupt the very foundation of technology. We’re talking entire economic systems and industries. Despite that, the technology is leaving 2017 in a weird, hyped-up state of purgatory. Cryptocurrencies are soaring, but your company’s legal counsel is probably worried about the possibility of regulatory change.

The bottom line: There’s regulatory uncertainty surrounding blockchain, and it’s anyone’s guess what lies ahead.

The coolest tech breakthroughs—from face pay to DNA wine

Every year, MIT Technology Review releases a list of breakthrough technologies. The biggest headliners were cool, for sure: medical implant technologies that could reverse paralysis and “paying with your face” tech—a combination of mobile payments and facial recognition capabilities headed by Chinese billion-dollar startup Face++.

But some tech breakthroughs didn’t get as much fanfare. Adidas, for instance, started using 3D printing for big-time manufacturing, and soon, it plans to offer custom kicks on demand to customers. And don’t forget about Helix, an app that gives you DNA-based wine recommendations. Who doesn’t love when cheap and accessible human genome intelligence comes in a glass?

Last but not least, memory editing technology took some serious steps forward in what seems, at first, like something straight out of Black Mirror. But, in reality, memory prosthetics could revolutionize the quality of life for people with traumatic brain injuries or dementia.

The bottom line: If someone claims innovation slowed to a halt in 2017, they’re just salty they don’t own an autonomous car.

Virtual reality moves forward, slowly

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is the coolest thing you could buy yourself for the holidays—or any other IT pro on your gift list you’re willing to spend $199 on. It’s a virtual reality experience bundled with a headset, lightsaber, and tracking device. Add a compatible smart phone, and you’re ready to go head-to-head with Darth Maul.

The game’s been described by reviewers as 8/10 and thrilling but flawed—a concept somewhat synonymous with VR tech in 2017. While tech analysts still can’t agree whether 2017 was or wasn’t the year of VR, it’s clear that virtual reality isn’t quite ready to take over the office, but it’s getting closer. Despite the dramatic rise and fall of Pokémon Go and a disappointing consumer response to $400+ VR headsets, the field is advancing daily.

The bottom line: VR isn’t dead—and we’ve got lightsabers.

How 2017 tech trends changed IT

If your IT job hasn’t changed in the last year, you’re in the minority. Mobility increased the percentage of remote workers for many firms, even though it compounded endpoint security fears. While many companies don’t actually have a “no collar” workforce of AI, chatbots and conversational interfaces are definitely becoming a reality in the workplace.

Embedded tech is becoming undeniably smarter, too, so IT pros no longer need to make the difficult decision between security and user experience when shopping for new office tech. Even better, intelligent apps and analytics have made it slightly easier to harness IoT data streams, find files, and solve the data science talent crisis. Not bad, right?

As the tech industry teeters on the edge of 2018, it’s unlikely that any worst-case scenarios or extreme best-case scenarios will come to pass. You probably won’t gain the ability to work without pants via a hyper-realistic VR app in 2018, but on the bright side, you most likely won’t be replaced by an android.

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