The train of technological innovation never stops chugging. Every few years, old tech is replaced by emerging and more advanced variations.  In Singapore, the 2G mobile phones of yesteryear will completely be phased out by 2017, making it one of the first countries to be fully dependent on a 3G/4G network. This means non-smartphone users will have to, ironically, regress to using the few payphones left in the city to make mobile calls.

Besides the mobile communications space, emerging technologies are also marching on many other industries, causing waves of disruption and sparking new innovative models in traditional businesses. New trends are always on the horizon; some will be passed off as mere fads, others will cause seismic upheavals.

Industry analyst firm Juniper Research has released a white paper detailing its findings on what it believes will be the top 10 tech trends that will define 2017.

E-sports goes mainstream

While the history of e-sports goes all the way back to the days of dial up modems and CRT monitors. Juniper predicts that 2017 will be the year e-sports joins the mainstream entertainment club. It estimates that there will be over 190 million unique viewers across mobile and online platform such as Twitch tuning in to e-sports.

With online games such as League of Legends commanding an audience of 14 million in 2015, advertisers will undoubtedly be flocking to this avenue, significantly boosting ad spending in this arena.

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One unintended but unsurprising by-product of e-sports growth is the proliferation of gambling activity. But Juniper thinks more regulations will be introduced to curb such incidents within this arena.

PSD2 as the next big thing in fintech

First, what is PSD2? No, it is not a robot from Star Wars. Rather, it is a Payment Services Directive commissioned by the EU to improving, standardising and integrating e-payment efficiencies.

Essentially, banks will open their PIS (Payment Initiation Services) and AIS (Account Information Services) to e-retailers or other third parties in the form of APIs directly. As a result, retailers will directly be able to receive payment from the customer’s bank (after they have given permission) without any intermediaries such as third-party payment gateways. Consumers will also be able to conduct other financial affairs such as applying for credit much more seamlessly.

The challenge here will be to ensure that the security protocols in place are airtight and advanced enough to deter any cybersecurity threats.

VR is going to take off in a major way

This year, the tech world saw the first wave of console and PC VR headsets such as Playstation VR and Oculus Rift enter the market, and the selection of mobile VR headsets expanded. However, the selection of VR content remains limited and only a few AAA game developers have released VR titles.

But now that the technology has been rolled out across all platforms, expect a broader range of VR content next year. In addition to high quality VR-supported games such as Capcom’s Resident Evil 7, media and tourism companies are expected to dive deeper into creating VR content to enhance the consumer experience. VR’s immersive 360 degree view capabilities will help tourists get a more intimate sense of the places they visit.

Blockchain will become more integrated with the financial sector

Over the past few years, cryptocurrency Bitcoin has become synonymous with its technology enabler blockchain. But blockchain applications goes well beyond the financial sector.

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In 2017, Juniper expects blockchain-enabled technology proof of concepts to be developed to automate and speed up business processes as well as cut down on fraudulent activity in other industries. For example, with blockchain, contracts becomes unalterable, thus ensuring their integrity.

Tech disruption may lead to more M&A’s in the fintech space

To reject innovation is to go down a path that leads to obsolescence. With tech disruption happening in all areas of financial space, banks need to hop on the fintech bandwagon and take pointers from a new breed of digital challenger banks.

But while challenger banks are agile, they lack the financial capital to scale and remain profitable. So for incumbent traditional banks who chose not to launch innovation in-house, they will simply acquire these digital players. Juniper expects to see more M&As and consolidation in this arena in the next year.

2017 will also see tech giants such as Apple, Google,Facebook and Apple direct more investments into fintech such as e-payment tech (contactless and mobile). They are expected to acquire fintech startups to boost and expand their payment tech across other verticals including remittance and money transfer.

Insurtech is the future of insurance industry

Technology innovation in the insurance industry will become more prevalent in 2017. Using machine learning, new entrants will be able to accurately calculate customers’ risk approach and thus offer more personalised and tailored insurance plans.

Insurtech investments have ballooned to US$2.6 billion in 2015 from just US$800 million in 2014, according to a report from Accenture. Tech giants will no doubt take a greater interest in this vertical as it becomes more lucrative. With their huge customer base and resources, they might have more leverage over incumbent players.

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Established insurance companies such as AIA, Allianiz and Aviva have launched VC funds to invest in insurtech, and they will likely partner with more insurtech startups in the future.

Another new trend that may emerge in 2017 is p2p insurtech.

Voice assistants will become more ubiquitous

There are now three main voice assistants in the market: Cortana, Siri and Google Assistant. In 2017, these voice assistants will battle for dominance in the market. One way to achieve that is to bring consumers into its own ecosystem. For example, Google Assistant is integrated with its smart home device Google Home, and it will also be integrated/ Thus, users will likely be using one voice assistant across all devices.

Juniper believes that companies will also introduce exclusive features, brand discounts such as inclusive subscriptions to content channels to entice customers.

Legal framework of autonomous driving to be worked

With self-driving technology gaining steam, the legal framework to protect both drivers and manufacturers will need to be set in place.

In the US, the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a lobby group that consists of major autonomous driving developers including Google, Lyft, Ford, Uber and Volvo, was set up this year to prepare for the influx of self-driving vehicles.

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Juniper predicts that technology providers and car manufacturers will focus on designing and implementing autonomous driving regulations and legislations in 2017. The launch of a marketable fully autonomous vehicle (unlike Tesla) will still be a while away.

The reinvention of video game consoles

For a long time, video game consoles have followed a predictable six- to eight-year life cycle before a new generation is launched.

But now, the pace of technology has moved at a speed that has forced developers to integrate new technology midway into a console’s lifespan to increase its longevity. This year saw the development of new iterations of the same Playstation 4 console such as the PS4 Pro, which is capable of 4K, as well as the expansion of technological capabilities with the launch of the PS4 VR headset. Its main rival, the Xbox, also launched a 4K-capable Xbox One console called the Xbox One S this year.

Rise of the bots

In place of a multitude of apps, businesses and services can streamline their customer-facing services by launching chatbots on major social media networks. For e-commerce apps, they can also integrate bots that will allow customers to conduct transactions such as booking flights, ordering goods, simply by speaking with the bot. Additionally, chatbots can also deliver personalised services and offers.

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According to Juniper, Asian markets are more advanced in their usage of chatbots compared to the West. China-based social networking giant WeChat has already been actively leveraging on chatbots to improve its services while Facebook is only beginning to tap into this technology. Expect to see chatbot interactions becoming more mainstream in 2017.

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