It’s hard to believe another year is almost in the books, but here we are. and what a year it’s been. We’ve seen a number of important trends emerge strongly in 2016, with no signs of slowing down as we head into another new year.

As such, I wanted to call out a few of the trends we’ve seen most prominently, as they set the stage for many important considerations – and innovations – to come in 2017.

Blockchain – from ‘Buzz’ to ‘Business Critical’

2016 is the year where blockchain firmly moved beyond BitCoin and has become a part of the mainstream. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs claimed blockchain had the potential to ‘disrupt everything’ – a clear sign that the financial giant sees the potential impact of the emerging technology extending well beyond just finance.

2016 will be marked as the year that companies and governments around the world began to seriously look at ways that distributed ledger methodologies can improve everything from payments to identity to security, and begin planning innovative new approaches to the ways we build products for the next generation of online services.

Hacks by the Hour

A new day, again more companies hacked. This year it seemed like no one was safe, with reports of a new breach or data leak surfacing each day.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there have already been 950 data breaches in 2016. That’s nearly three daily. Given that there’s still three weeks left in the year, and that these are only breaches that have been REPORTED widely (which we know isn’t always the case), it’s safe to say that number will cross into the thousands before the calendar turns 2017… if it hasn’t already.

Just a few of the more notable hacks of 2016 included the US Department of Justice, the IRS, Snapchat, Oracle, and Yahoo! (500 million customer records!). Even hacks from the past came back to haunt major companies like LinkedIn and DropBox, who saw records stolen in 2012 surface online this year.

The big learning of 2016? The frequency and severity of major data breaches is on the rise, with no clear end in sight. Investing in new technologies to counteract bad actors is only one piece of the puzzle – it will be new processes and methodologies, like including privacy and security into the core design of new products, that will be core to improving the safety of sensitive information online.

The Year the Password Died…

Businesses and consumers alike are beginning to realize that passwords aren’t the perfect solution to security and fraud prevention that they might seem. The World Economic Forum estimates the average consumers has roughly 130-150 active username and password combinations in use on a daily basis – often reusing the same password across multiple sites.

When the founder and CEO of one of the world’s most successful technology companies is hacked because they used ‘dadada’ as their password for service his company offers to the world, the reality should be clear – passwords have become an outdated method for protecting private and sensitive information.

While newer methods like two-factor authentication are improving the password, the reality is that as a solution, it’s more temporary than long-term. 2016 will likely be the seen as the year that the password as the be-all-end-all failsafe ends, and from it births newer and better ways to protect sensitive information online.

… But Digital Privacy Remains Far From Dead

While many voices have opined that 2016 marked the year that data privacy died, the reality is, to quote Mark Twain, “the reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated.”

Yes, there’s no denying that threats to privacy are certainly on the rise – both in terms of how the operations which we choose to share our information with then use that information for their own purposes, or how frequently bad actors tend to gain access to information we never intended to share with them in the first place.

However, these growing concerns are spawning new thinking about how products and services are designed, with methodologies like Privacy by Design being established to safeguard against current and emerging threats from the early stages. Increased demand from consumers, who today understand the importance of privacy more than ever, will lead to 2016 being the tipping point when privacy moved from peripheral consideration to a core fundamental in the digital space.

Contrary to the popular narrative, privacy (and convenience) is paramount with millennials, too. The trope has been that young-somethings don’t care about privacy anyway. In this article,  Paymnts.com recently wrote about the problems some providers have getting millennials to share the information required to open accounts online.

Looking Ahead

One thing is for certain, as we close one year and move into another – concerns like security, privacy, identity and others are moving quickly from behind the scenes and into the mainstream consciousness. Many of the emerging trends (and threats!) of this year are likely to be watershed moments in breakthroughs that will better service not only businesses and governments, but also the customers and citizens they serve.

With 2016 almost in the books, it’s time to turn our attention from issues past, and focus on delivering the innovations in products and processes that will shape the future of the digital world.

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