2015 was big. In the same year Smartsheet celebrated its 10-year anniversary, game-changing tech developments surfaced at a faster rate than ever before. But 2016 promises to be an even more riveting year for anyone interested in tech. Hand in hand with new technologies, sweeping cultural shifts will change the way work gets done both on and offline. Let’s take a look at a few key trends shaping the very near future of work as we move into the new year.
1. Wireless energy
One of the most anticipated technological developments right around the corner is wireless energy transmission. In a world where wifi is almost seen as a regular utility, it’s about time we lose the cords and embrace wireless electricity as well. It harnesses the power of a magnetic field — an idea that’s been around for quite a long time. However, the large-scale deployment of wireless energy in a corporate headquarters, factory, or hospital is yet to be seen. Along with use at work, wireless energy also expands horizons everywhere from solar energy in space to medical devices.
2. 3D printing
3D printing has been around for a while, but is still in its infancy considering all of its potential applications. 2016 could bring a huge surge in customized 3D-printed goods, personal-use 3D printers, and larger-scale efforts like 3D printed vehicles.
One thing this new frontier brings with it is a growing discussion of intellectual property and copyright law around 3D printed products. While some companies rush to develop legal protections to keep competitors and consumers from replicating their work, others are focused on open-source consumer solutions that profit designers and put more power in their customers’ hands.
3. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The level of buzz around the IoT increased week-to-week in 2015. Purchasing new supplies with the click of an (actual) button or receiving email alerts on wearables gives tech experts and laymen alike something that feels definitively current. Inter-device communication makes for more seamless navigation of home and work life, and can be scaled to the point that entire cities are running on smart technology.
4. Brain-computer-interface (BCI)
With more and more communicative interplay between tech devices and regular household objects, we’re also amidst a sharp increase in the development of brain-to-computer connection. Headsets that pick up on brain activity let anyone navigate a digital space, and some can even recognize user emotion. While these advancements are set to make powerful successes in medicine, they might also become more common in the workplace as they break into the mainstream.
5. Virtual reality (VR)
If you haven’t taken Google Cardboard VR for a spin yet, expect to see it in a friend’s hands soon. 2016 is shaping up to be virtual reality’s biggest year yet in the consumer market, with many headsets primed to launch. VR headsets can be used for training purposes, such as surgery practice. They can educate in the form of location tours and interactive documentaries. But the main anticipated use of VR is entertainment in the form of social media, gaming, movies, and more. There’s even talk of workers taking VR daytrips for an immersive sense of travel and a quick brain break during a workday.
6. Sensory tech
This year, expect to put more of your senses to use when interacting with tech. Even subtle shifts like the advancement of visual search tools suggest more to come. But is it too soon to consider sending olfactory information via text? Once-fantastical possibilities, such as video games triggering smells or sharing scents through devices like oPhone, are now within reach.
7. Artificial intelligence (AI)
2016 should be a year of surprises for AI. In-home robotic assistants are closing in on mainstream use. Google is succeeding with AI that can casually debate the meaning of life (or just reply to your emails for you via “deep learning”). Robot investors, doctors, and even creative artists are joining the workforce both in industry implementation and personal apps.
8. Blockchain transfers
The way we transfer money, stocks, and even votes is becoming outdated. The middleman role played by banks slows down transfers, which has made governmental and corporate organizations look to the controversial Bitcoin model as a potential for the future. It’s not Bitcoin itself that’s under examination. It’s the public ledger by which it is transferred, also known as the blockchain.
Blockchain transfers process instantaneously and leave less room for error. This means it’s much less likely that the same unit (be it financial or electoral) could be accidentally accounted for twice. It’s still unclear exactly how blockchain transfers will upend the traditional system, but chances are good we’ll be finding out soon.
9. Reimagined workspaces
The line between work and home as physical locations is becoming more nuanced. Global workforces can connect from anywhere, meaning work-from-home employees are a more common occurrence in even the most change-resistant of enterprises. Freedom from work as a place means the mobile, cloud-secure digital workspace is king.
New types of physical workspaces proliferate to keep employees focused and help them balance their lives beyond work. Shared office spaces are popping up in urban areas where work-from-home professionals can rent access to well-designed offices for others like themselves. Some companies are following suit in the form of hot desking, the practice of encouraging employees to roam an open floor plan rather than an assigned desk.
10. Collaborative work management (CWM)
In order to rise to the new opportunities all of these developments provide, companies in all sectors are transforming and updating the ways they operate. In order to do this externally, they also need to reimagine the way work gets down internally. Enter collaborative work management.
Using Smartsheet, an easily-adoptable work management tool, employees discover increased transparency and collaboration without being anchored to a physical office. Instead, their shared digital workspace keeps everything from globally-coordinated projects to departmental administration to app-integrated file sharing on track. Try a free 30-day trial of Smartsheet to experience the 2016-ready CWM tool that works the way you do.