From Brexit and Trump to celebrity deaths, 2016 has been labelled as the 21st century’s own; ‘Annus Horribilis’. It’s also been a big year in tech, with exploding phones, high profile cyber-attacks to fake Facebook news to name a few. But has it really been all bad?
2016 hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the year in tech, there have also been some great innovations achieved this year in relation to health and the human body. Technology has always had a part to play in improving human health and it will continue to do so as there are more advancements being made. In sci-fi movies of the past, predictions for 2016 have always seemed way out of humans reach but this year has proved us wrong. Highly intelligent technology has made a major difference to human health, with studies showing that Artificial Intelligence can help with cancer research by bringing deep learning into the equation. The aim of using AI will help researchers understand how patients respond to drugs, determine the best treatment for patients and learn more about how the body hosts cancer cells.
As well as intelligent AI, 3D printing has also come a long way since its inception making new strides in technology and blurring the boundaries of what it is expected to achieve. Back in August a research institute created a ‘bio-printer’ that prints human tissue, designed for transplants to fit a person’s unique condition. In the same year, L’Oreal announced that hair follicles created by a similar process to 3D printing could one day be used as implants.
It’s safe to say then that 2016 has been a big year for 3D printing, not only in science but also the sporting arena. The Rio Olympics and Paralympics again showed that are humans pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve in fitness with the help of technology. GB were big winners at this year’s prestigious sporting event, winning 67 medals at the Olympics and 64 at the Paralympics. So was it the help of technology that helped them achieve this success? Looking back at our blog on the Olympics and tech we found that to be the case, from wearables that enhanced a boxer’s punch to data analytics that improved a sailing team’s performance on the water. The same can be said for the Paralympics with prosthetics that were created for runners and cyclists that not only fit them perfectly but were made with lightweight material to enhance their performance as an athlete.
The rise and fall of major tech players
2016 has been a big year for Google; not only did it launch its first phone Pixel which so far has received positive reviews, it also released their latest Android operating software Nougat 7.0. It also marks the 7th year that their programming language Go has been running. Only last December Go ranked at 50 in the Tiobe index of language popularity and has now has achieved quick success by rapidly climbing to the 16th spot for December 2016.
The opposite can be said for technology giant Samsung, hopes of its Galaxy note 7 to rival the iPhone crashed and burned (literally). When multiple customers phone batteries started to combust and burst into flames Samsung decided it was time to accept fate and issue a global recall, learning the lesson that safety trumps swanky features. Although the Galaxy note 7’s reputation may have gone up in flames, tech giant Apple didn’t exactly have a squeaky-clean year. They began 2016 by becoming tangled in a legal battle with the FBI by refusing to help them unlock the phone of a shooter in the US. Then back in August, it was announced that Apple had profited from illegal tax benefits in Ireland which led to the European Commission announcing that they must pay back ‘Illegal Aid’ worth $14.5 billion.
Another tech giant to suffer an Anus Horribilis of a year was Yahoo; their downfall can be attributed back to 2002 when they narrowly missed out on the opportunity to acquire Google. But their biggest fail of the year that equally led to their demise, is the announcement of two data hacks that happened back in 2013 and 2014. It only came to light this year that the 2014 breach compromised data of 500 million accounts and in 2013 1 billion accounts had been breached. On the flipside, Microsoft had a positive year with its move towards the open source/.Net market by buying mobile software specialist Xamarin in February. This collaboration shows Microsoft’s interest in bringing value to developers, making it easier to build cross platform apps on any device and in turn filling the void in Microsoft’s mobile strategy.
A big year for Big Data
To put data into perspective one study quoted by tech radar estimated that “by 2024, the world’s enterprise servers will annually process the digital equivalent of a stack of books extending more than 4.37 light-years to Alpha Centauri, our closest neighbouring star system in the Milky Way Galaxy.” That’s no small task. This year Big Data was declared as “Sexy” and the term Data Scientist was the unicorn of the job market, with everyone wanting to study to become a one and companies wanting to get one on their team. But you can’t have an effective Data team without an engineer and this major shift in popularity has led to the talent pool of top engineering talent to dry out.
Back in 2015 data professionals were getting seriously interested in what AI and its many concepts such as machine learning and deep learning could achieve. Even more so in 2016 has this been applied; with many companies utilising AI to help analyse masses of data and derive predictive insights.
Amazon is constantly launching new products and initiatives at the end of this year they have pushed the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning by creating ‘Just Walk Out Shopping’ in the form of Amazon Go. A physical store, staffed by robots and sensors where Amazon shoppers can simply walk in, take food and walk out again with the swipe of their phone and without the nuisance of checkouts or queues.
The rise of big data and AI has also prompted a shift towards cyber security software, with researchers looking to AI for help with reducing cyber-attacks. Chances of catching cyber threats can be improved by 60-70% by developing an AI software that will spot and steal vulnerabilities in programme software before the hackers even get a look in.
Cyber Security – are we secure yet?
A major talking point of this year in tech was, of course, the vast amount of cyber-attacks to high-profile businesses across the world. As predicted by Snowden, 2016 was expected to be a big year for cyber security activity, and it certainly beat 2015 for the numerous times private and personal data was breached.
You wouldn’t think in the 21st-century cyber security would be a problem for businesses but where there is great technology available to the masses, there are also threats to online security.
In case you missed any, we’ve put together a list of the most talked about technology hacks of 2016;
- Linux Mint- one of the most popular Linux suppliers was a target of a hacker who inserted a backdoor into the operating system, hacking the website so users were tricked into downloading malicious version of the software.
- LinkedIn account passwords were stolen back in 2012, but it only came to light in 2016 that over 117 million accounts had been hacked.
- Donald Trump found that his campaign website leaked resumes of prospective interns who had applied to work on his presidential campaign. Let’s hope his cyber security is better when he becomes the leader of the divided states of America.
- Blogging site Tumblr and the age-old social site Myspace were both victims of cyber-attacks in 2016. With Tumblr leaking 65 million account details and Myspace a huge 427 million accounts.
- The biggest high-profile hack that came to light this year was, of course, Yahoo with over 500 million of its user’s details being compromised from a hack back in 2014
- Three mobile was also another victim later this year, admitting a data breach of two-thirds of their 9 million customers.
Despite attempts to protect online data over the years, cyber-attacks are a regular occurrence and so the government decided it was time to double spending on cyber security, and ultimately step up its cyber defence. There are also plans in place to make sure cyber-attacks don’t keep happening in the future; by transforming the infamous Bletchley park into the UK’s first ever cyber security school. So we have two options for our cyber security to improve, AI smart software or the cyber talent of the future, which would you choose?
Brexit and UK tech
Despite serious predictions, everyone was shocked by the Brexit result back in July. Now after finally getting over the surprise decision of having to leave the EU and dragging our heels in doing so, there have been many differing views on whether the result has and will impact various industries, job markets and the economy.
It undoubtedly affected the value of our money with the fall of sterling which in turn, affected UK tech firms. Who suffered as a result of using services and tools built and run by US companies that charged in USD – meaning tech businesses had to start to tighten their purse strings.
But of course, the concerns didn’t stop there, with businesses also worrying about Brexit’s impact on recruiting bright tech talent within the EU. In the aftermath of the Brexit result, LinkedIn warned that there would be a talent block with professional services, finance and technology likely to be the worst hit. To combat this over 50 tech entrepreneurs came together to sign a letter that urged the government to consider access to tech talent and reinforce that the UK needs to remain an open economy.
Despite concerns the UK tech scene has remained buoyant in the face of Brexit. London has remained well above others in the top spot as the number one city in Europe for start-ups, along with Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol and Manchester all in the top 20. This buoyancy has seemed to spread across the pond with Japan’s Softbank acquiring UK’s Arm Holdings and American tech giants deciding to expand their sights within the UK. This shows that the UK hasn’t lost its appeal from international investors despite the decision to leave the EU. With Apple announcing its move to Battersea power station, Google building a new headquarters at Kings Cross and Facebook opening its new UK headquarters next year, there are predictions that hundreds of new tech jobs will be created.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the year in tech
As a final anecdote to further quash any additional gloomy thoughts on UK tech and Brexit, Balderton Capital also announced findings this year that show UK and London remain as the top destination for engineering talent outside of their home nation for almost all countries in Europe.
I agree with many in the tech industry that access to tech talent should be a priority for us to remain the digital capital of Europe. If you agree, sign the petition set up by Head of Open Source recruitment Rick Deller, to allow freedom of movement to continue within the tech sector.
As we wave goodbye to the year in tech, 2016 has undoubtedly had its ups… and some pretty big downs. But on a positive note, there is hope for the future of UK’s cybersecurity, Big data and tech innovations including artificial intelligence that can only increase in 2017. As for the outlook on London’s position as a leading tech hub? Its fate is currently in the hands of international investors and the decision to continue with the freedom of movement of tech talent from the EU, But at Eligo we remain passionate about the UK tech market and positive of its future.
So long 2016! Here’s to a hopeful 2017!…