The Christmas markets have sprung up and 2018 is nearly over. No, really it is, 2018 has gone that fast. With that being the case, it’s that time when people begin to look forward to the new year, and what it might hold. In this blog, I’ll go over some areas within the sphere of technology that I think we’ll see emerge and develop.
The rise of human-tech interaction
In terms of human- tech interactions, we are getting more and more comfortable using assistants like Alexa or Siri to help manage our lives. Whether it is asking Siri to call contacts through Apple Car Play, or asking Alexa to control your home through an Amazon Echo, tech is advancing enough that we can be understood more by machines and use our voice to control machines.
Earlier this year, Google took the voice assistant one step further – they enabled their assistant to not just take a command and interact with other technologies, but to interact with other humans. The ability to interact with tech has grown way beyond just with a computer with a keyboard and mouse.
This trend of increasing ways to interact with technology will accelerate in 2019. AI will enable more interactions and more complex interactions via voice. But I don’t think we’ll be limited to just voice. With the growth of VR and AR, I can see interactions coming on a more visual and gesture-based level as well, although maybe not at the level of the famous ‘Minority Report’ computer scene. This could be limited by hardware capabilities, but it may not be too far away (I hope)!
The Growth of IoT
2018 was the year that IoT became more mainstream, especially with the growth of the Smart Home concept. Apple released their Home Hub device, Amazon’s Echo Plus comes with the ability to control smart home devices through an in-built ZigBee connector rather than requiring hubs for each of your smart home ecosystems – whether that be to control your heating, lighting or any other system in your home.
So what will happen in 2019? I can only see the concept of IoT spreading through even more aspects of our lives. Not only will it grow in terms of number of devices and systems which can be hooked up, with more backwards compatibility to fit into existing systems, but I can imagine with the increasing use of AI, which I’ll discuss in the next point, it will also get smarter and be able to better manage itself without human interaction.
Platforms are getting smarter, and as previously mentioned, Google has extended the capability of their AI platform to handle a contextual conversation. Check this out with the Google Assistant booking a hair appointment.
One of the main things I’ve heard in 2018 when talking tech and platform ideas, is how can we get AI and machine learning into platforms to help make them more personalised and “smarter”. And it is happening, whether it’s more targeted advertising campaigns to push the right content to the most appropriate people, or being able to set complex routines to manage your home, AI and machine learning are having an impact in applications and platforms we use every day.
The abilities of AI could become even more interesting over the course of 2019. Looking at the previously mentioned topics, IoT and human-technology interaction, the amount of data that AI will be able to access and act upon will increase. The ability of machine learning will also improve and increase. How long will it be that a home-based AI, harnessing the power of IoT in a smart home and smart vehicles (not the brand), will know your routine well enough that it can manage your life for you?
Imagine your car not just telling you that need to fill up with fuel or charge the battery, but where and when taking into account factors such as price, distance, traffic, time and picking the best place – and that’s before your self-driving car takes you to it. Then knowing that you’re going to be back later to account for the journey, the car lets your house know to delay putting the heating on or preheating the oven.
These possibilities all raise data security concerns and in some cases some legal challenges, especially with self-driving cars, which mean that these won’t be realised in 2019. What we may have, however, is much of the groundwork being laid technically and advancements being made, so that the above scenario is less of a technical pipe dream and more something we could see in the very near future.
Development of Blockchain
One of my biggest takeaways from the FIFA World Cup this year wasn’t that England had improved massively as a team, but that I saw my first advert for a Blockchain company.
2018 didn’t start too well for Blockchain technology. It was caught in the crossfire of the hype and fluctuations of cryptocurrency. A lack of understanding meant that for many people, Blockchain and Bitcoin were the same thing. Obviously, they aren’t and over the course of 2018 understanding grew, culminating in some of my friends asking me about Blockchain (prompted by the advert in the World Cup) without mentioning Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency.
In 2019, I can only see this continuing with an increasing number of practical applications away from cryptocurrency coming to the fore. This could be through a growth in the use of smart contracts or through the tracking of consent through the ledger as focus increases on personal data through laws like GDPR.
Mainstream Augmented and Virtual Reality
For a long time AR and VR seemed the stuff of science fiction, whether it was Star Trek’s ‘Holodeck’ or Mission Impossible level gadgets giving overlays of where the baddies were heading, I have grown up with a vision of completely escaping this reality or subtly adjusting it to whatever end.
As time has passed, we’ve had some close calls with AR and VR. There was the less than successful Google Glass which was pulled by Google in 2015. Google Glass gave hints as to how AR could be used but at the time the technology was immature and costs were prohibitive. Then in 2016, hoards of people raced through cities to catch Pokemon in Pokemon Go, in a global race to catch them all. AR had entered the mobile domain aided by the growth in smartphones.
Over a similar time period, VR also saw significant hype beginning to build. From Facebook’s staggering $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift, the development and release of Playstation VR (which when I first wore it did make me look a little like Geordi La Forge from Star Trek according to my dad) or HTC’s release of a full VR room kit with the Vive, it seemed VR had arrived, at least in the entertainment space.
I envisage this trend continuing and extending beyond just entertainment during 2019. With improvements both in hardware and software and increasing ways to interact with a virtual environment (we’re not quite a holodeck levels yet), strides can be made in fields such as medicine, where doctors can practice virtually before on real patients with the VR based on actual patient scans to get a better idea of what they could encounter. Equally, with AR, I can imagine that more and more applications will become apparent, whether that be using a phones camera functionality or something more custom like the google glass. These could also be combined with the increasing use of voice controls, especially while on the move with something as simple as directions!
In putting this list together, I realised just now many technologies and ideas have been coming to fruition over the last few years. Even in their infancy, these technologies have begun to radically reshape how we see and interact with technology, both on a human interaction level and at a deeper implementation level.
More interesting was how intertwined these technologies become – AI enables IoT to flourish, while IoT enables new and different ways to interact with technology, which then allows AI to better understand and adapt to our uses.
If some of these predictions come to pass during 2019, it could be an incredibly exciting year to be involved in tech! Is there anything that you think will happen in tech during 2019 that I haven’t mentioned? Please let me know. Who knows, this time next year, we can review these predictions as to what we thought would happen and what actually happens.