5 digital trends to keep an eye on in 2017

Blockchain technology will create a basis for a whole new economy, artificial intelligence will enter our daily lives, and the responsibility of media giants will come into focus. We have asked five researchers at the IT University to take a peek into the crystal ball and predict what digital trends will shape the coming year.

1) Blockchain enables new business models
“I believe blockchain technology will be one of the most important technologies of 2017. Blockchain allows people to transfer information, goods and money in a secure and non-manipulable way. The technology might not just enable new business models, but could mark the beginning of a new economy. There has been heated debate about whether the first completely blockchain-based, virtual organization, ‘The DAO’, is a success or a failure.

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[Blockchain] technology might not just enable new business models, but could mark the beginning of a new economy.

Professor Roman Beck
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Either way, it is the first example of a new kind of economic institution, and we will see many more emerging in 2017.  If we then consider other innovations such as 3D printers or the Internet of Things, and combine those to create new products and services, then it is not a far stretch to claim that we will witness totally new ways of value creation in the next one or two years.”

Roman Beck, Professor, Business IT department.

2) AI starts penetrating our daily lives
 “I believe artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to be a trend in 2017, even more than in 2016. Companies are investing more and more heavily in AI, and the technology starts to penetrate more aspects of our daily lives. With speech recognition becoming more and more reliable, voice controlled interface will increase in popularity. Especially deep learning, which is a machine learning method that is inspired by how our brain processes information in a hierarchical way, will continue to be the main trend in this field.

AI tools will become more accessible, allowing more researchers and companies to use them. As a result, we will see an increase in companies looking for AI experts, and more people studying AI-related subjects such as Data Science and Machine Learning. AI methods will innovate a variety of different sectors such as healthcare and the automotive industry but will also offer novel solutions in the field of education. Also, as AI systems are becoming more ubiquitous, research on how humans and intelligent machines can collaborate efficiently and in a safe way will have increased importance in 2017.”

Sebastian Risi, Associate Professor, Digital Design department.

3) Media responsibility is up for discussion
"One discussion that will definitely influence 2017 is about ‘digital intermediaries’ and their democratic responsibility (or lack thereof). Players like Google and Facebook are at the heart of our society's communicative infrastructure - but the question is whether they are neutral actors who simply provide a platform for intercommunication between citizens. Or whether these services, because of their automated sorting and selection of the content that users are exposed to, are responsible for the quality of the highlighted content.

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Players like Google and Facebook are at the heart of our society's communicative infrastructure - but the question is whether they are neutral actors who simply provide a platform for intercommunication between citizens.

Assistant Professor Aske Kammer
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This discussion has been simmering for a long time, but in the wake of the US presidential election and the circulation of ‘fake news’, it has exploded, and the considerable interests at stake suggest that the debate is unlikely to end anytime soon."

Aske Kammer, Assistant Professor, Digital Design department.

4) More experiments with big data analysis
"2017 will show a further rise in interest from companies and public institutions in how to create value through the analysis of large data volumes. Many new experiments will probably lead to an awareness that there is a lack of knowledge about how to best, efficiently and ethically, to conduct such experiments with large data quantities.

Organizations will increasingly consider how to adapt their work flows and organizational structures. IT and digital data will no longer be seen as neutral tools that support the organization, but as a life nerve - not just tech, but also ethics and values ​​blended together. This is something management must deal with in more direct and involving ways than before. It will be clear that methodological innovation is essential for creating value with big data, such as the ability to understand patterns in metadata and analyse based on data visualizations."

Brit Ross Winthereik, Associate Professor, Business IT department, and head of Data as Relation, a VELUX-funded research project on big data in public organisations.

5) The year of deep learning
“2017 is the year of deep learning. The past half-decade has seen an explosion in research applying deep learning algorithms. While some of this research has been excellent, there is a large pool of rather substandard research, which had many of us asking whether deep learning was just hype. In 2017, there will no longer be any doubt.

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Deep learning is allowing machines to solve problems more accurately, perhaps soon even better than we humans.

Assistant Professor Natalie Schluter
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Data giants like Facebook and Google are rapidly buying up technical brainpower in deep learning for one reason only: progress. There are problems for applied machine learning like machine translation, playing the Chinese board game GO, and much more, that had seen very little progress for many years, until deep learning came and squashed the error rates, and this is very exciting! Deep learning is allowing machines to solve problems more accurately, perhaps soon even better than we humans.”

Natalie Schluter, Assistant Professor, Computer Science department and Head of the BSc in Data Science programme.

Further information

Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email viar@itu.dk