2016 is rapidly coming to an end; I can see the telltale signs all around. Is it because there are holiday-themed decorations at every turn or is it the grande-sized peppermint mocha clutched in my hand? Well, that’s one clue, but another clear indicator is that blogs and online newsletters alike are chock-full of technology predictions.

That’s right — everyone’s favorite 2017 technology predictions — are here!

Is there a better way of toasting the end of the year than cracking out the crystal ball to look at our predictions for 2017? Rather than take the helm as Zoltar, the chief fortune-teller, I asked my fellow team IoT-ers, who also happened to be named Chris, to share their infinite wisdom to help craft the IoT predictions for 2017.

Please welcome Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering; Chris Fleck, VP of Emerging Solutions; and Christian Reilly, Citrix CTO for Workspace Services. The four of us — The Citrix Chrises, as we’ve come to be known — are happy to present our top predictions for the Internet of Things in 2017.

A Laser Focus on IoT Security (Chris Matthieu & Chris Witeck)

Chris Matthieu: The Mirai DDOS attack in October 2016 exposed us to the potential havoc that unsecured devices and botnets can cause to the Internet. The Jeep IoT hacks from the BlackHat security conference exposed us to the safety issues related to unsecured vehicle APIs.

Even though IoT platforms, like Citrix Octoblu, secure end-to-end IoT communications, devices at the edge of the network are always at risk to vulnerabilities exposed by device manufacturers. To make this matter worse, not all IoT device manufacturers place an emphasis on security. This creates opportunities for new IoT startups focusing on device security or IoT anti-virus/anti-ransomware attacks.

It also creates new opportunities for new IoT edge networking platforms coming to market. Amazon just released Greengrass, a platform for local compute, messaging, and data caching for connected devices. HPE just released its series of Edgeline IoT servers ranging from 2-64 Xeon cores per server.

Chris Witeck: I agree that the attacks you highlighted above will put IoT Security into focus for 2017, and this deserves to be number #1 on our list. To further elaborate on this, I believe you will also see a clear delineation between consumer IoT security and Enterprise IoT security. Consumer security will be more device centric, since many of the consumer IoT approaches start with a thing or device focus, and how those devices connect to cloud services will be the point of focus for security.

However, on the Enterprise side, I think you will see the emphasis very much on the edge, and that edge can be focused on more of a hub approach that serves as an intermediary between the device and cloud service, or also on an application/cloud service edge. Here, I am thinking of how Firewalls and Application Delivery Controllers (ADC) evolve to focus more on securing IoT traffic and events, and applying analytics to traffic to look for anomalous traffic and behavior. These approaches won’t be mutually exclusive, and I think you will see plenty of traction in 2017 where the Enterprise invests in multiple layers of security at the device level, hub level and at the application/cloud services layer. Really not that different in how the Enterprise applies their security strategy today, just that each layer will be more IoT aware in terms of device type, protocol understanding and traffic patterns.

Rise of Artificial Intelligence/AI (Chris Matthieu)

Artifical Intelligence (AI) has moved from hype to reality. IBM seems to be leading the race with their Watson cognitive computing platform; however, many companies are doubling down on AI as well.

Amazon’s Echo product has been extremely successful in the consumer market. They have captured the attention of developers worldwide and recently released the Echo’s infrastructure components (Lex and Polly) to allow developers to build their own AI platforms. This Echo excitement is now moving into the enterprise with applications such as Citrix’s Ask-A-Doctor demo. On a competitive note, Google recently acquired API.ai, a conversational user experience platform, and released Google Home, its Echo-like platform.

AI chatbots are also the new rave these days. New chatbot platforms are being released to make it easier for developers to connect bots to Slack, Twitter, Email, SMS, etc and interact with people using AI and cognitive reasoning to answer questions or facilitate business transactions via text-based chat. As AI (and machine learning) continues to mature, it will be difficult to distinguish whether you are interacting with a human or robot online.

Citrix VP Steve Wilson recently wrote a spot on article about IoT and the Dawn of the 4th Gen User Interface.  This article highlights huge user experience shifts underway in this new era of artificial intelligence.

The Rise of the Enterprise IoT Use Case (Chris Witeck & Chris Fleck)

Chris Witeck: I’ve written before that IoT is both overhyped and underestimated, and I think that still holds true today. However, what I am expecting to see in 2017 is that much of the IoT hype will fade, and we will start to see reports of real Enterprise use cases emerge (which is where I believe most of the IoT opportunity exists). A good barometer of this is the Gartner Hype Cycle — in the 2016 version you see a number of different technologies related to IoT (like Machine Learning, Autonomous Vehicles, Cognitive Expert Advisors, IoT Platforms, etc) sitting at the top of the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and ready to plunge into the “Trough of Disillusionment,” and it is often in that trough where much of the hype is weeded out and real innovation happens.

So, what type of innovation will we see in 2017? I think it will be spread out into multiple areas, but where I expect to see Citrix focus our efforts on is how we can extend the delivery of contextually relevant content into an intelligent Workspace: a Workspace that recognizes who is in it, what devices are in it, and what content is relevant for that space. That extends to making a conference smarter for handling onsite and remote participant, making a patient space better at presenting the right information to care givers, making the office better at optimizing work conditions for collaboration.

Chris Fleck: I agree that 2017 will be a pivotal year for enterprise IT to understand and embrace IoT, and Enterprise IoT use cases. What we will see is IT organizations will assign forward thinking IoT champions to identify and implement IoT initiatives like customer engagement and workplace of the future projects. In addition, cyber security organizations will be increasing their scope to identify risks associates with IoT, many will also be leveraging IoT to improve and act against cyber threats.

Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality in Demand (Christian Reilly)

The Enterprise use cases Chris Witeck mentioned above will be augmented (pun intended) by augmented (AR), virtual (VR) and mixed (MR) reality capabilities that add real value to the Enterprise. Pokémon Go has captured our imagination on how augmented (AR) reality can be used in our daily lives, and it is widely speculated that we will see native AR capabilities added to the cameras in the iPhone and the iPad in the near future.

Just imagine if you could apply the Pokémon Go experience to enterprise apps! That is where I see mixed (MR) reality coming in. Many argue that MR is a subset of AR, and they both allow for overlaying a virtual world that is specific to the context of the real world around you. However, with MR the main difference is how virtual content and real world content can interact with each other in real time, which is the real experience that Microsoft has been aiming for with the HoloLens.

Just think of what the intersection of IoT and MR would look like: What if any Citrix XenApp could run as an MR app? What if anything you look at on a factory floor can have real time contextual information overlaid onto it, and allowing you to use that context to make changes to both the real and virtual reality in real time? As AR, VR, and MR hardware gets smaller and more power-friendly, its applications will become more practical and immersive as well. There is already plenty of experimentation happening, and you will start to see some really cool uses cases will work their way into the Enterprise. This is where you start to anticipate a new business reality that enhances how employees leverage the amazing amount of information available to them to improve how they live and how they work.

IoT will help kill the desktop (Chris Fleck)

The release of Windows 10 Migration was an inflection point to reconsider alternatives to the standard PC refresh for desktop PCs. And these alternatives include affordable IoT devices, such as a sub $100 HDX-Pi that serve as a thin client and can now provide great performance with a virtual Windows 10 upgrade. Combine this with the fact that the back-end costs of VDI have also come down and now you have a very affordable alternative to deploying standard desktops, and the increased security and manageability of app and desktop virtualization no longer require the premium price tag.

Looking to the future, these Raspberry Pi devices can easily support functions in addition to serving as a thin client, opening up a whole world of new Enterprise use cases where these devices interact with sensors and the user’s personal devices to personalize how they interact with the thin client, such as automatically pointing users to the nearest available thin client when they enter the office, automatically loading applications that they need to use or allowing them to switch application sessions from their personal device to the thin client. Adding in user context to the affordability and manageability services to change the entire PC paradigm, does a corporate desktop PC even make sense anymore? Maybe only for a niche few.

IoT as a term begins to fade (Chris Witeck)

IoT, as a term, has receive a tremendous amount of hype and buzz, but often times there is a belief that there is more hype than substance. But that is not what I am talking about here. This is a continuation of my prediction above that we will see the rise of the Enterprise use case. As IoT focused business use cases rise, IoT as an enabler will fade to the background. In many cases, users will not know that IoT is making their office smarter — their meetings will happen more smoothly, their applications start pushing relevant information to them — all without the mention of IoT. IT and Security admins won’t necessarily know that it is IoT that is pushing the right alerts to them, correlating large sets of data to find security breaches and optimize their marketing campaigns. The focus will be on workflows and business outcomes, and if IoT solutions are doing their job they should be transparent. And that will be a good thing because it means much of the overhead to run the business, to run IT systems, to do your job will get that much easier.

Summary: IoT reaches critical mass, provides real business value

So, our crystal ball delivers a pretty clear message for all — 2017 will be ripe with IoT as the hype remains but it will lend itself to a more impactful focus on driving business value. The year will include the discovery of game-changing enterprise use cases, security and IoT-influenced technologies creating a unique narrative of their own. As the focus moves from the technology itself towards real business outcomes, much of this will happen in the background. This in turn will lead to diminished hype that we are all accustomed to which will be replaced by real innovation and demonstrable value-add to business.  For IoT in 2017, the best is yet to come.

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