Two tools that mean a lot to those involved in the tech world (Blockchain and AI) , but not much outside will dominate the tech news in 2017. Many customers may be seeing the delivery of these two technologies without even realizing it starting next year. Embedding these technologies in everyday systems will be the trend and companies that marry the two technologies may be the winners. But both technologies also can unleash the “dark” side of technology too, as they have the potential of eliminating many jobs currently performed by humans. Like robotics on the shop floor, Blockchain and AI can eliminate many of the functions performed today in back offices. AI is not only back office, but can extend beyond into customer facing systems. What company doesn’t want to eliminate human positions and increase their efficiency? That is why these two technologies will begin to dominate new product rollouts in 2017. They are both maturing to a point they can be embedded in larger projects with very measurable impact.

Why Blockchain? Well Blockchain is the distributed ledger behind Bitcoin. While Bitcoin is having its own impact, I believe that the technology behind the coin, Blockchain will have a much bigger impact that Bitcoin by itself. Blockchain is a tool that allows many processes to be settled electronically that today go through multiple systems and potentially multiple people. Blockchain will allow these processes to shrink and happen in minutes not days. And most importantly Blockchain uses collaborative decentralized agreement and trust. Having many copies of the original and many systems in agreement, accuracy and trust in tough transactions soars. Add in smart contracts that self execute as steps are completed and you have a perfect IT system to trim down back office operations while increasing audit trust in the results. Think this is futuristic? Well there are over 100 large firms in the Hyperledger project working on a common Open Source core set of programs. And daily there are announcements about firms launching their first Blockchain application or a small startup getting funded. Look for this trend to accelerate in 2017.

Lots has been written on AI as it becomes embedded in systems like Alexa from Amazon and Siri from Apple. What is not apparent is how this affects all software systems where decisions need to be made. AI is what makes driverless cars work, take your order electronically in many companies, make sure your credit card is not stolen etc. Overall AI is being embedded in every software system, not just those that you think of as AI like Alexa. AI will be used in every system to give the user exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it.  

So will Blockchain and AI allow new business models to emerge. I would say yes, in a way that one cannot envision as we end 2016. AI will drive transactions to want the end user wants faster and Blockchain will ensure that all parties in a transaction can trust it and that transaction can be settled much faster than today. Together both technologies will make software systems smarter faster and in Blockchains case more trusted. And in both cases fewer humans will be needed to operate these systems once they are built. The twin effect of these technologies in 2017 and beyond will affect every software system being developed going forward. I believe that the effect can is like http was in the early 90’s – apparent that the impact will be huge, guesses are made on what will be impacted, but in the long run the impact will be felt by every business in massive ways as yet unforeseen.