2017: a year of abundance

Thanks to the power of cloud computing, 2017 promises to bring huge breakthroughs in data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Welcome to 2017, a time when things that were once impossible to imagine are becoming a reality, thanks to the power of cloud computing to eliminate physical barriers and increase access and capacity for all, regardless of race, culture, location or socioeconomic position.

Last year proved to be a rich testing ground for cloud-based resources, with their limitless digital storage and previously unimaginable computational power. This year promises to be the tipping point, as more than half the world’s population will have an Internet connection and access to shared information. Cloud computing does not require large capital investments in local computer equipment and provides an all-inclusive approach to accessing and sharing information. We are witnessing astounding results for the newly connected as they acquire access to problem-solving, healthcare diagnostics, education and, most importantly, financial services. Everybody will win.

The cloud has laid the foundation for huge gains in data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. So, what can you expect? You’ll see autonomous cars, building on the successful pilot of self-driving Ubers (albeit with a safety driver) in Pittsburgh. You’ll see home deliveries by drones, thanks to Domino Pizza’s successful drone deliveries in New Zealand.

And this year, it will become the norm and not the exception to work with both on-site and remote colleagues — something that fewer than half of CPA firms currently do, according to research by Convergence Coaching. Firms would be wise to take their cue from the North American businesses that have already adopted cloud solutions and are reaping the benefits. A study of 750 companies by Exact and Pb7 Research shows these companies have doubled their profits and increased revenues by 25%, largely because their employees now have the ability to work anywhere with anyone.

In 2017, teams that do not share a common language will collaborate, in real time, using voice-to-voice translation based on the speech recognition, automatic translation and machine-learning technologies used last year to bring together elementary school children in Tacoma, Wash., and Mexico City.

This year will also see the continued deployment of enhanced telepresence options for real-time human interaction between distanced team members via robotic, holographic or virtual presence. Double, a robot company, allows employees the game-changing experience of attending meetings, walking hallways and hanging out at the watercooler from a distanced location.

Of course, 2017 will also bring unwanted disruption across many fronts. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report noted a 90% probability of job loss in the accounting, tax preparation, administrative support, real estate brokerage, farm labour and restaurant service sectors. But those disruptions will also bring opportunities we can’t yet imagine.

History teaches us that with each new age it takes years for the most important transformational innovations to unfold. It also teaches us that each new development provides a transitional period for the rarely foreseen future advances to be developed. Steam power introduced mankind to mechanization. Electricity, the telephone and combustion engines opened the door to the global marketplace. Digital communications launched the age of collaboration. And now the cloud is the platform for powerful new capabilities that will continue to be revealed.

I am hugely optimistic about this new year. Cloud computing will lead to increased productivity, reduced costs and new innovations. It will continue to establish new marketplaces in advanced analytics, mobile devices and connected sensors via the Internet of Things, DNA sequencing, 3-D printing and geolocation, to name just a few opportunities.

Stick around. We have lots to talk about in 2017.