As the CTO of a marketing technology company, my main challenge is to keep up with rapid changes in technology and consumer behavior in order to create differentiated growth.
In the last 10 years, mobile and social media have disrupted advertising, software and consumer electronics. Just like the rise of the PC and internet a decade before, these are foundational disruptions.
Multiple groundbreaking technologies are looking to change how we interact with products, companies and each other, and they are being driven by a perfect storm of dependent innovation.
It's an exciting time, particularly in five key ways.
1. Machine learning will exponentially heighten the intelligence of our apps and devices.
Machine learning is defined as artificial intelligence that enables software to learn without being explicitly pre-programmed. These programs can be given general constraints and outcomes and teach themselves to grow and change as they are exposed to new data.
If it sounds vague, that's because machine learning is applicable to a wide variety of problems, often highlighted by complexity or volumes of data. Machine learning is at the crux of language processing apps like Apple's Siri, Google Voice and Amazon's Alexa.
It helps them understand us and even anticipate our follow-up questions. It's also powering marketing and advertising technology by offering personalized products and offers, even in areas as highly subjective as fashion.
For example, StitchFix, an online personal stylist, can accurately predict the chances you will keep their clothing recommendations after receiving them in the mail. In addition, machine learning helps optimize logistics to better route drivers, predict travel times and optimize shipping and manufacturing processes.
That same learning technology also powers the spatial processing necessary for self-driving cars to understand the complex world around them, when to react and prevent accidents, and how to predict the behavior of others.
Those same visual libraries are being used to index images and videos for search, power facial recognition and much more. It's no wonder the term "machine learning" has increased threefold in Google Trends over the last three years.
2. The Internet of Things (IoT) will activate everything around us.
IoT enables everyday objects to have network connectivity to send and receive data.
IoT unlocks all kinds of possibilities: smart watches that record our biometrics; Amazon Dash, a magnet on your fridge that can order household items automatically when you run out; or your Nest thermostat that you can control from your smartphone miles away.
Just as the PC's usefulness grew exponentially when connected to the internet, so too will the everyday objects around you. Realizing the dreams of a truly networked world at the appliance level has required some key advancements.
Because many IoT objects will rarely be connected to a power source, they must use power wisely. Next-generation batteries, energy conservation and low-energy communication protocols are the keys to ensuring devices aren't bulky, inconvenient or expensive.
And because their form factors are often small and tactile, simplified interfaces are important for success. Voice, tactile and highly-simplified screen interfaces like Alexa, Amazon Dash and Nest require extraordinary UX/UI design, as convenience will drive consumer adoption.
The inside story of Amazon Echo is a great lesson on the extraordinary efforts needed to get an IoT product right.
3. Mobile will continue to influence our lives.
The internet advertising industry has grown 20 percent year-over-year and is largely fueled by mobile, which has grown 66 percent YoY. Still, mobile only represents 12 percent of spend versus 25 percent of time spent, which is to say mobile advertising still has room to double.
Entire generations are shifting from watching TV to watching video on mobile. More people watched the MTV Music Awards and college football on Snapchat than on TV. Every aspect of video production, management and delivery will have to improve at lower costs to keep up with demand.
As well, messaging is being adopted in all areas of our lives, especially Asia, which is ahead in this area. It's changing the way people bank, hail a taxi or buy online. In the enterprise space, Slack took just one year to hit a $1 billion valuation. Lastly, upcoming 5G networks will unlock unparalleled speeds that will untether us all from hardline cable and fiber.
There will be a huge investment in infrastructure over the next five years, and traditional hardline vendors, like cable companies, are going to struggle when the internet is truly mobile. When data is ubiquitous, inexpensive and lightning fast, data-heavy services will become completely unshackled.
4. Augmented and virtual reality will become reality.
The popularity of Snapchat and MSQRD prove that we inherently want to create augmented digital versions of ourselves, and MagicLeap has shown that we are not too far away from groundbreaking realism in augmented reality.
After a decade of talk, we are finally close to the "Minority Report" experience. In its first week, Pokemon Go, has experienced more daily active users than Twitter, demonstrating a mass market desire to have fun in an AR/VR environment. However, there simply isn't enough AR/VR content to fulfill projected usage, which represents a huge opportunity for content creators.
There is a tremendous amount of processing power needed to fuel these apps, and a new wave of consumer hardware with AR/VR at the forefront will help reinvigorate flat smartphone sales. Networked 360-degree cameras made popular by Google Maps will now be in our hands and will help make the mapping of physical-to-virtual worlds photo-realistic.
VR will force society as a whole to reevaluate our role of the physical world, how much time we spend "plugged in," and how we can spend time creating a better reality.
5. Security will underlie all big changes.
We are in an extremely fragile state in terms of security. Enterprises are underprepared for cyber attacks, the director of the FBI calls cybercrime a top threat, and news of hackers stealing millions of personal records has become commonplace.
We are enabling the objects around us to collect more intimate data, like where we are, when we sleep, what brands we buy and how often, and whether or not we exercise.
Beyond new transactional and authentication protocols like Blockchain, security needs to be embedded as a primary layer in every application. That's a daunting challenge for governments, enterprises and individuals, and it will be interesting to see how much fraud and cyber crime we are willing to tolerate as part of our systems.
With these five key trends, our world is changing faster than ever before. Prepare yourself -- and your business -- for what's set to have a huge impact on the way our lives operate.