Workplace Tech & Software

The Future of SaaS Software According to TED2017

Darin Herle
May 30th, 2017
saas software ted talk conference

Every year, the TED conference brings together brilliant minds to share their stories on stage. Standing for “Technology, Entertainment and Design”, TED examines an array of topics and offers important insights into new research, innovations and discoveries. This year’s TED2017 conference, “The Future You”, took a deeper look at how technological changes affect the way humans work and interact. Here are some key takeaways from TED2017 on how the relationship between humans and software will change in the coming years.


Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence sits at the forefront of TEDTalks this year, with many notable speakers covering the topic, including Siri co-creator Tom Gruber in his talk “How smart can our machines make us?” In this talk, Gruber examines the point of artificial intelligence and suggests that it is in place to collaborate with humanity, rather than compete with it. Gruber notes that every time a machine gets smarter, we get smarter, too. Speaker Stuart Russell builds on this idea through his thoughts on teaching robots human values and common sense. He suggests that developing robots with human ideals will allow them to become more altruistic and suited to the needs of human beings—and that by giving machines these traits, we will in turn learn how to be better people.

Artificial intelligence is already common in software, often serving as a helper or customer aide. Facebook, Slack, Apple and Google are just a few of the major companies incorporating bots and AI into their platforms. These companies have built bots that can answer simple questions, intelligently present information and make suggestions based on data you’ve provided. Companies like Clara Labs have even created virtual assistants that can field emails and set up meetings. As artificial intelligence grows in its complexity and ability to authentically communicate with human beings, it is likely that our workplaces will increasingly incorporate AI technology. For example, AI bots could be used to virtually guide visitors through offices by pairing advanced wayfinding capabilities with companies’ visual directories. The possibilities for incorporating AI into preexisting SaaS products are endless, and will likely help offices to further increase their productivity and efficiency.

Humanistic design and psychology

TED2017 also explored how app design is undergoing dramatic changes. As more and more apps are on the market, there is a race to develop SaaS products that will win users’ attention—and a need to create products that not only capture our interest, but also improve the quality of our daily lives.

In his talk, Tristan Harris notes the immense power of technology to guide our thoughts and behavior by providing us with limited options for interaction. Instead of building software that convinces users to focus solely on their product, Harris calls for a renaissance in how tech engineers create apps, and suggests that software should empower people to live the timeline they want. For example, rather than promoting controversial debate under trending Facebook posts, what if the platform had a “Host a dinner” button where users could suggest a meet-up to discuss politics over a meal? Harris’ talk examines the type of software that will better our quality of living while streamlining our communications.

The ability to appeal to human psychology and provide excellent user experiences is becoming a differentiating factor in how people spend their time. Companies that can build their software to fall in tune with human behavior will be able to better attract—and keep—the attention of users. As more niche software integrations fulfill the specific needs of companies and individuals, the ones that help us remain productive and social will come out on top.

Information integrity

Security analyst Laura Galante notes in her TEDTalk How to exploit democracy, that the world’s interconnectedness and constant stream of information have brought up a number of security risks. Several high-profile political hacks have shown the vulnerabilities of both the internet and the human mind. Companies like Facebook and Google have been consistently improving the security of their platforms—but only recently have they created infrastructure to ensure that information shared on their channels is valid. Galante suggests the strongest defense against misinformation online is a critical mind when considering new information and news.

To help keep users vigilant and informed, software companies providing content and data on their platforms will have to ensure the accuracy of their information. As Facebook experienced first-hand after Trump’s election, popular platforms play a huge part in influencing public opinion, and can be held accountable if they help promote fake news. Companies will have to continue developing sophisticated measures to report and remove fake news to avoid losing the confidence of their users.

As TED2017 made clear, new technologies must be consistently examined from a human context. SaaS companies looking to create or market competitive products will need to adapt by building effective intelligence systems, creating human-centered experiences and ensuring the use of quality information.

Learn more about software that can improve your office and how connected technologies can streamline operations for your workplace. 


Photo credit: Flickr / TED Conference