While there's no denying the enthusiasm surrounding the incredible technological advances of 2015, the real question is: How will these innovations dovetail with emerging trends in tech and continue to transform our world in 2016?
Fitbit and the Apple Watch, for instance, both paved the way in wearable tech--but this is only the beginning. Tools that allow users to track vital metrics and get instant feedback on their health and wellness will only grow more popular. That comes as no surprise when 79 percent of early adopters say wearables will be key to their companies' future successes.
What's more, digital payment systems like Apple Pay are highly disruptive. But if the goal is for people to not have to carry money anymore, what does that mean for credit card companies? How will they respond?
Exactly how these advancements will evolve remains to be seen, as are the inevitable, impending breakthroughs. However, if the past few years are any indication, four trends will help entrepreneurs find success in 2016:
1. Virtual reality: The world of virtual reality has been blossoming for years, but in 2016, it will go big on a mass commercial scale. That means broader audiences will get to know VR tech better and, in turn, will desire it more--and startups should take advantage of the boom.
Magic Leap, for example, is a company exploring virtual reality--or, more specifically, augmented reality. The brand first caught attention in 2014 with a $542 million funding round led by Google. Its technology one-ups Facebook's Oculus by projecting digital images into the real world for its headset wearers. Games appear to be the organization's key focus, and virtual reality is mostly conceptual as it relates to music today--but, by the end of the year, I predict its impact will be huge in both verticals.
2. Consolidation tools: Devices or software that can help improve both business and individual productivity will explode this year.
Solutions like Hootsuite, a social media management system that consolidates all of a user's social accounts into one dashboard, and Charlie, an app that syncs with your calendar and creates a spreadsheet of related info, are gaining a lot of traction in this space. And this trend is only going to continue to flourish--after all, the tech that consumers love most makes their lives easier by saving them both time and money.
3. Increased security solutions: From identity theft and data privacy to counter-terrorism efforts, improved security tech will remain an area of tremendous growth and focus in the coming year. If you attend security-related conferences, chances are you'll find a lot of bright entrepreneurs being recruited by credit card companies (and even the Transportation Security Administration) to develop security systems that will help deter identity theft and fight terrorism.
In fact, the U.S. federal government has taken steps to improve cyber security and anti-terrorism by actively engaging with startups. Following 9/11, more startups built safety and evacuation technologies than ever before, and the recent attacks in San Bernardino, California, as well as in Paris, are likely to catalyze further efforts in this arena.
4. Conversion of aggregate data into useful information: It's one thing to possess data, but it's quite another to access the right data and make it useful to leverage. Today, company leaders need to identify the most valuable information before they can steer their organizations toward meeting their goals. Software that breaks big data down into actionable, meaningful intelligence will allow stakeholders to move more efficiently toward achieving their business objectives.
These cutting-edge, scalable trends are attracting not only lots of investment, but also great talent--which are two of the key drivers behind any successful startup. It will be interesting to see how big-name companies like Uber and Airbnb expand and enhance their offerings in 2016, but it will also be exciting to watch how new startups in these other categories innovate alongside them.