There's rarely a dull year in the world of tech, and 2017 has brought us some truly groundbreaking developments. We've seen explosive growth in artificial intelligence, virtual reality and blockchain, revolutionary technologies that will continue to impact our world for decades to come.

What's most exciting about these advances is that they're not just happening in coastal hotbeds like New York City and San Francisco. I've worked with innovative companies in rising tech hubs like Indianapolis, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Kansas City and Cincinnati, and I've seen a few trends emerge throughout the year that I think will drive change for the industry at large.

Here are my biggest predictions for the coming year in tech, including how you can use these Midwestern trends to your advantage to grow your business in 2018.

1. Non-tech industries will embrace the power of their data

Some industries--such as healthcare, legal and education--are well known for their slowness to adopt new technology. However, progressive companies in these spaces are beginning to understand the value of their data and are using it to save money and improve efficiency.

"The massive amount of data already housed within these types of organizations poses a unique opportunity to leverage existing knowledge in new ways. Not only will these industries see a seismic shift in their current offerings, but data analytics will also open up completely unexplored opportunities," said John Valiton, CEO of Reemo Health in Minneapolis.

A lot of the innovation in this space is happening between the coasts (Nashville is becoming an important regional hub for the growing health tech industry), but I expect demand for automation, collaboration and analytics tech to increase across the country. If your company produces this kind of software, consider building specialized solutions for these traditionally non-tech industries in 2018.

2. Logistics companies will double-down on tracking tech

Although physical retail is far from dead, online sales are at an all-time high. As consumers begin to expect prompt home delivery on a wide variety of goods, shipping companies will likely beef up their tracking tech to minimize in-transit losses.

"Security and GPS tracking of high-value goods will become a more prolific part of the supply chain. Logistics providers will need to look to new technologies and consider how [they] can be incorporated at every stage of the supply chain process to remain competitive," said David Williams, President of Minneapolis-based Pelican BioThermal.

I think Midwestern logistics companies will soon start looking to big data analytics and cloud computing for solutions to their problems. These companies will likely turn to third-party solutions before building internal technology, opening up a huge opportunity if your company can create software to address their unique needs.

3. Human-to-human connections will see a resurgence in marketing

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have changed the face of digital marketing, enabling the art of sending automated communications to the right person at the right time. But for many consumers, the novelty of targeted messaging has started to wear off.

"Customers have wised-up to automated messaging and are burned-out on irrelevant mass communication. Everyone thinks AI will take over, but I believe technology that can empower real, authentic communication will be in high demand," said Bryan Wade, CEO of Sigstr in Indianapolis.

I have no doubt that AI will continue to be an important tool for digital marketers, but I foresee it being used in 2018 to intelligently connect consumers to living, breathing marketing reps--not chatbots. If you're in the marketing tech space, start brainstorming ways your technology can power real human interactions. (Personalized video is a great place to start.)

4. Quality will emerge as a leading business differentiator

In our modern, on-demand consumer culture, the tech products and services that are available the fastest are sometimes perceived as the best. But as technology and its applications become more advanced, I predict we'll see a shift to quality over quantity.

"Quality products lead to better advancements and better lives. It won't just be about new products anymore; instead [companies] will focus more on the quality of the product," said David DeRam, co-founder and CEO of Indianapolis-based Greenlight Guru.

As we head into the new year, savvy tech consumers will reward companies that put in the effort to make their products truly stand out from the crowd. If you place your focus on delivering quality products, I think you'll see accelerated growth by way of greater customer loyalty and increased sales.

Based on the developments I've witnessed this year, I predict we'll see Heartland values and business interests create some big changes for the tech industry next year. Take these trends into consideration to give your business a competitive advantage in 2018.

Published on: Dec 27, 2017