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From the Techies: Tech Roundup 2016

Happy New Year everyone! Before we get cracking on 2017, we’re hearing from our fab RnD lads, as they rounds up the top tech of 2016 (and maybe adds a few predictions for the year ahead too).

Top Tech Trends 2016

In the year the brought us the demise of 7-second videos and the explosive debut of the Samsung Galaxy Note, this year was one of the most memorable in recent memory. So, as 2016 comes to an end, now seems like a good opportunity to jump on the retrospective bandwagon and take a look some of the bigger stories in the world of web technologies.

Containers

Not to be confused with Tupperware, software containers are portable components that combine with others to create a virtual machine like a digital jigsaw. You could take an Apache container, a PHP container and  a MySQL container and you’ve suddenly got yourself a LAMP stack. Typically requiring fewer resources, this year saw the industry adopt containers with offerings from Docker and Google’s Kubernetes leading the way. Want to test your software on different versions of the same web server? No problem, simply swap one container for another and you can carry on development effortlessly – so it’s easy to see why it’s becoming the tool of choice for many developers.

Machine Learning

A technology so hot right now it’s off the Scoville scale and you’ve probably been using it without even realising it. Integrated into a wide range of technologies ranging from Siri to online shopping recommendations, machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that learns about a particular problem when exposed to new data. Over time the system evolves, thereby allowing for the creation of smarter, more bespoke products. There is a strong belief in the industry that this is the just the start of a new era of technology, starting with Google announcing in October that they were shifting focus from being a “mobile-first” to “AI-first” company.

Chatbots

Although chatbots have been around for years as researchers strive towards creating a bot that can pass the Turing Test, this year saw them move further into the mainstream as they started to pop up on social media. Companies such as Facebook and Twitter began to offer chatbots with the ability to hold a conversation – ideal for people seeking information on the move. Powered by a range of technologies such as keyword analysis to natural-language processing, these bots are intelligent enough to interpret what the end-user is talking about and attempt to provide relevant information or perform the desired action, all from within a Facebook Messenger window or a Slack chatroom.

JavaScript Frameworks & More

Perhaps the biggest release in the world of JavaScript this year was the long-awaited, somewhat controversial release of Angular 2. The release saw an easier learning curve, greater performance and a number of backwards incompatible changes, which meant some Angular 1 applications will have a bad time trying to migrate to the latest version. While the team was busy working away on the comprehensive redesign, other frameworks also began to gather pace and Github stars in equal measure such as VueJS (which has recently been adopted by Gitlab) and React which is now arguably the JavaScript framework to beat. For the language itself, transpiling (converting cutting-edge JavaScript to an older, more widely-supported version) became an essential part of the tool chain for many developers, as they began taking advantage of ECMAScript 2015 and 2016 features such as arrow functions and modules.

Internet of Things

At first it was only computers that were connected to the internet, quickly followed by mobile phones and televisions. Now however, every refrigerator, kettle and dog comes with its own IP address and a whole range of smart functionality. However, as this technology is now being harnessed for nefarious means, DDoS attacks such as the one in October that reduced services to the likes of Github and the PlayStation Network will become increasingly common. Since the number of IoT devices is unlikely to slow any time soon, there are big questions over security are going to need to be answered.

Of course technology never stands still, and with internet a-buzz over static web generators (again) and the next evolution in responsive design to address cutting edge interfaces such as virtual reality – 2017 promises to be another exciting year of new and shiny things for us all to play with.

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