2017 was ‘The Year of Intelligence’, and it brought with it great strides in technology.
But just as we were starting to get comfortable with one iteration of something, a new and improved system was unveiled, which has turned 2018 into what’s being dubbed ‘The Year of Transition’.
We’ve been seeing some unexpected trends arise, while old-timers merge with each other, expanding the horizons of their impact. Here are five of the main trends that have dominated this year.
The promise of blockchain and Bitcoin is no longer new to us. At its core, blockchain technology is a way of securely managing access and information. It’s hinged on the idea of decentralisation, which essentially distributes power and risk equitably across players in a network.
Blockchain start-ups are finding niche and clever ways to optimise industries by replacing intermediary parties (brokers, agents and so on) with smart contracts that automatically verify actions without compromising data security.
Platforms like Gameflip and Filecoin are solving fundamental marketplace challenges that run into the billions of dollars.
Other companies, like SparkleCoin are driving blockchain adoption at scale by empowering everyday consumers to purchase products and services from the world’s largest online retailers using cryptocurrencies.
2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
The constant development of machine learning and AI technologies promises a future where business is data-driven and industries are smart.
We’re heading towards ‘smarter’ everything: smarter products, processes, consumer goods, tech solutions and even cities.
With years of background work on prototypes and ideas done so far, the future is expected to be breathtaking.
From healthcare to construction, banking and finance to manufacturing, almost every industry will be reshaped. Things that were difficult to believe are poised to become reality. There are many more applications for automation, robotisation and data management.
However, there are some issues with AI. One of its dirty little secrets is that it’s bad at dealing with ambiguity, grey areas and understanding the context of data.
This means companies still have to hire armies of human beings to do the sorting, cleansing and preparation that’s needed to feed algorithms the data they need to do their work.
3. Immersive tech
This is the year we could see immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) make a move from gaming into other areas.
AR, in particular, is having an impact in hospitals through initiatives like the Patient’s Virtual Guide. This is an AR app that guides children through a hospital environment before they’re admitted as patients to ease their stress and anxiety.
4. The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is turning everyday devices into products that are capable of smarter interactions with people and the environment. These gadgets operate semi-autonomously or autonomously in real-world conditions.
A BI Intelligence report notes that nearly $6 trillion (Sh600 trillion) will be spent on IoT solutions over the next five years. This deluge of cash is expected to turn once science-fictional notions into reality.
Connected to the web and combined to each other through wired or wireless communication channels, devices will become part of one big integrated system, driving a shift in human-machine interactions.
We can already wake up in ‘smart beds’ where a bluetooth-connected alarm clock communicates with our wifi-enabled speakers to turn on the wake-up music. Fridges can make orders for stock refills from online stores, and vacuum cleaners can be programmed to clean a house even when the owners are away.
When it comes to IoT, it appears only our imagination will limit us.
If you read tech headlines across the web, the topic that often sucks all the oxygen out of the room is cybersecurity.
It could be about the latest breach of a company or Government agency, a new vulnerability in popular software or lax security practice from a company that should have known better.
One of the downsides to IoT is that it makes gadgets extremely insecure, increasing the threats to our privacy.
The problem is that the tech industry has been so focused on innovation for the past several decades that security has too often been an afterthought.
Luckily, that’s being fixed, with great improvements being made in data protection in recent years.
Blockchain, for instance, brought our attention to a new technology called Zero Knowledge Proof, which enables transactions that secure users’ privacy using math.