Despite thousands upon thousands of years on Earth, it apparently wasn’t until the year 2016 became a meme that humans realized that everyone gets old and dies. Even Willy Wonka.

In the tech world, however, impermanence is the point, even if art preservation is the task at hand. From cinema reels to VHS to DVD to Limewire file to streaming service app, Gene Wilder has never looked so crisp, his songs never so clear. Most of this media transformation took place in the last 20 years, with the digital end of it accelerating in the last 10. If you consider the roughly 125 years that motion pictures have existed, the majority of disruptive innovation has occurred in the last quarter of that time span.

And so, as arbitrary as the flip of a calendar page may be, the hyperspeed of tech ingenuity requires us to frequently assess the directions in which we’re heading. In 2017, tekMountain plans to further solidify itself as southeastern NC’s premiere incubator-accelerator, and, in doing so, will refine its focus within the med tech, ed tech, and HR tech spaces. Below, we’ve listed some of the exciting trends that innovators in each space should be on the lookout for.

MEDTECH

Bioelectronics/Electroceuticals. When implanting tiny devices that harness the electrical activity of the nervous system to treat patients with chronic diseases, two major issues must be resolved: the material durability of long-term implants and their power sources. Also, while this branch of medtech is often seen as an answer to pharma-centric treatment, the discussion is now shifting to how bioelectronics and pharmaceuticals can be used in tandem, combining neural and molecular treatments.

Artificial Intelligence. Innovators here will continue to define AI’s role in the future of medicine, and much like bioelectronics, the question right now is a matter of combining forces–here, how humans and AI can achieve a sum greater than their parts. In a recent study, where participants were required to diagnose cancer cells in lymph nodes, humans achieved 96% accuracy, while AI only 92%. But when human and AI efforts were combined, they hit 99.5% accuracy.

Cybersecurity. As we move into the age of the Internet of Things, medical identity theft is no longer the lone cybersecurity issue within health care. The more devices, like cardiac implants and wireless insulin pumps, that we connect to mobile apps and clouds, the greater the chance a hacker could cause malfunctions or battery draining, or even skew the data transmitted to remote health care providers. This provides opportunity not only for cybersecurity software innovation, but also for device designers to develop contingency protocol in the event of a breach.

EDTECH

Makerspaces. K-12 institutions are slowly shifting their tech resources from lab spaces into ubiquity, while increasing the use of collaborative learning models and redesigning classrooms to student-centric orientations. The biggest questions here are at once pedagogical and technological: how do we enhance instruction with tech that teaches just as much as it excites? How can we best leverage an everyday reliance on media as an impetus for scholarly discovery?

Digital equity. This has evolved beyond the issue of 1:1 computing vs. bring-your-own-device programs. It’s not just a matter of access, it’s also a matter of usage–whether or not traditionally underserved groups are granted enough time to create, rather than solely fulfilling standardized requirements. Even neuroscience is stepping in, tying the need for digital equity together with building up the cognitive blind spots of those coming from poverty, rather than simply accommodating a deficiency as unchangeable.

Digital professional learning communities. Instructor evaluation is rapidly changing by using video as a self-reflective and collaborative tool. Not only can an instructor review recordings of his own instruction, but his peers can also utilize it to offer advice and to improve their own approaches. More simply, audio too can enhance this strategy, as instructors can review student responses up-to-the-minute and address learning issues much more quickly than waiting to grade a test or essay assignment.

HR TECH

The Voice of the Employee (VoE). There is a push to replace the time-honored employee engagement survey with a more sophisticated, language processing-based approach. This would require open-ended responses, rather than the usual rating system-based response format. The notion is that, just as Voice of the Customer (VoC) metrics have become increasingly complex, so should VoE. Thus, customer and employee satisfaction essentially become a combined metric that gives a company a much more comprehensive view of its everyday culture.

Workforce fluidity. Think identity politics translated to the workplace. But, rather than solely a question of racial or ethnic or gender identification, this term extends to job fluidity and organizational fluidity. The former eschews a fixed job description for the ability to translate one’s talents and curiosities to a variety of initiatives, depending upon the company’s needs. The latter hopes to replace traditional workplace hierarchies with flatter, more democratic input and delegation. In a sense, this focus overlaps with edtech in that HR leaders can seek out e-learning and competency training modules that fit this shift from traditional to progressive workplace dynamics.

Recruitment systems. Simple applicant tracking will soon become a thing of the past. One of the last frontiers for brand continuity, recruitment systems will translate inbound and outbound marketing concepts into their own methodologies. AI will also allow for metrics to be developed to help replicate the hard and soft skills sets of an individual, current employee with those of a job candidate, and for predictive analyses to determine the likely career arc of a particular candidate and then function as a measuring stick post-hiring. Like many other spaces, it could be the year of the algorithm for HR tech in 2017.

Is This Your Year?

So much of tech is about timing. As a startup, it’s easy to misjudge the best time to leap, whether it’s a matter of seeking investment, adding staff, or even relocating. In a town full of transplants from all over the U.S., tekMountain knows all about lugging The Dream inside a suitcase. As the premier tech incubator-accelerator in southeastern NC, day by day, year by year, tekMountain continues to help build the burgeoning tech scene in Wilmington and NC at-large. Join us today to hop the train before it passes you by.

This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesBill DiNome, and with lead writer Zach Cioffi.

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