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2016: technology for the people

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This year, the tech landscape will shift its focus to the individual rather than the masses, says Martin Walshaw, senior engineer at F5 Networks.
It’s that time again – when we look back at the year that has passed and throw our predictions into the ring for what lies ahead. If anything was clear in 2015, it’s that advancements in technology showed no signs of slowing down. Apple Pay launched in the UK, smart watches took off and 3D printers were made affordable for the average consumer to use – to name just a few innovations.
But one of the most common events to hit the news headlines in 2015 was data breaches and hacks across various industries, such as the Ashley Madison hack. The mutual feeling among business leaders was that no company, organisation or country is safe, and consumers are only getting more wary about the risk of their data getting into the wrong hands.
So what does 2016 hold for the technology landscape? I believe it will focus on the individual, rather than the masses for a start. Much investment has been made into building technology that opens up new business opportunities, but now is the time to refocus on the user and how it fits into the everyday cycle. Technology and software will be only one part of the picture, but will lay the foundations for more great innovations to come. Here’s what the year ahead could hold:
* Network performance boost with roll out of HTTP/2: Rolled out in 2015, HTTP/2 promises faster transfer of information between browsers and servers for the World Wide Web. It’s an update that’s very much due because the last one – HTTP/1.1 – was rolled out in 1997. As we all know too well, your typical webpage has changed a lot since then. Now you’ve got the likes of websites like BuzzFeed, with gifs, flash animation, graphics and more loading on every page. This means that the architectural and structural debt that exists on the servers with HTTP/1.1 will be significantly lighter – so if you haven’t started already, start looking into it for your site.
* Securing people, not devices: It’s not something new, but we are almost at the point where the majority of enterprises will stop trying to secure their devices, and start focusing on securing identities. BYOD will continue into 2016, but the security policies will move away from being tied to the device, to being tied to the combination of the user, the application and the data being accessed. It’s a natural step for enterprises, given employees are using a whole host of devices to work from – and it makes for better accessibility and user experience.
* Overhaul in security operations: As we see an increase in Dev-Ops’ control over the network, I think we will see a similar change in security operations. In this sense, people with security skills and development will begin to include orchestration and automation where possible in the delivery of software and infrastructure. Similarly, we will see a huge increase in the use of analytics in the area of security. Streams of data points will be interrogated to make more informed decisions on the security posture of users connecting to applications. This insight will not only mean providing a better experience, but also understanding usage and application performance.
* Better-educated consumers: If there’s one thing we’re learning time and time again, it’s that any organisation, no matter how large or small, can be a target for hackers. Last year saw an unprecedented rise in cyber-attacks – from telecoms and retail companies, to government and the Internet of Things. Often it’s the customer data that has been breached and fallen into unsafe hands. In 2016, consumers will be more selective about what information they’re giving up for companies to look after, and potentially put more pressure on them to have stronger security measures in place.
* The rise of state-sponsored cyber-attacks: The information revealed in the Edward Snowden leaks suggests that state-sponsored hacks have been going on for a while. It’s surprisingly easy to get hold of the tools needed to launch a state-sponsored attack, paired with the increase in data being stored online and in the cloud, which could leave it at higher risk to hackers. The challenges with these types of attacks are that hackers have the almost limitless resources of an entire country – making it practically impossible to prevent them! But by following best practice, determining risk, identifying the mission-critical elements you need to protect, and implementing appropriate countermeasures, countries will have a much better chance of repelling or stifling an attack.
There’s much to look forward to as we get ready for the tech improvements and innovations to come in 2016. But we shouldn’t forget what experience has taught us, and how we can learn from it – particularly around cyber security breaches, mobile working and network infrastructure. The world around us is changing at a rapid pace, powered largely by the possibilities of technology. It’s easy to get carried away with the latest innovation, and forget about the risks involved or what the user actually wants and needs. The key is to anticipate what’s coming, and put a clear strategy in place to ensure your business stays a step ahead.