It is a brave person who plants their flag in the ground and says, “X technology will rule the roost this year”. I do not intend to do this, not least of all because I hate being wrong!
Instead, I would like to share some thoughts on the trends that I think (read: hope) to see cascade through the technology sector in the coming months. These are focused around two key themes; pervasiveness and ‘tech for good’.
Over the past year, we have seen some significant steps forward in the usability and deployment of new technologies; think how far voice recognition in the home has come. This technology has captured the public’s imagination in a way that should now set the scene for what were once quite futuristic technologies to become main stream.
2018 will, in my humble opinion, see state of the art technologies becoming more common place in the home, causing a worldwide disruption to lifestyles not seen since the microwave oven changed the way most people cook. There will be those who choose not to adopt voice recognition tools in the home, myself included, but millions who will take the first meaningful step toward the immersive home, be it via Amazon, Google or Apple platforms.
This acceptance of new technology in the home will make us more willing to accept innovative technologies on other settings, such as school, work or even hospitals. Let’s take Augmented Reality as an example; at the moment, this is a ‘geeky’ technology mainly deployed in gaming scenarios. Or at least this is how many people currently perceive it. As I write this in a coffee shop, I ask the barista his thoughts on AR; “Those glasses with the phone in, right?” is the response I receive.
This is about to change; the predominant application for AR will remain gaming, but we will see increased penetration into the retail and consumer driven markets; Ikea have recently launched their AR app and many more will follow. Increased use in these ‘soft’ situations will also make us more accepting of ‘serious’ use cases; Medaphor, a Cardiff based medtech company, are developing an AR solution to aid and radically improve needling operations.
The same can be said of IoT devices; until now, this is a quirky idea that will let us switch the kettle on from the next room. The pervasiveness of the voice search tools (Alexa etc) in the home will enable consumers to better optimise their home appliances, creating energy efficiencies and heightened awareness of the environmental impacts that they are having. By the end of 2018, I hope that we will see the beginnings of a new generation of home appliances, driven by consumer demand for better energy efficiency, that are able to optimise their energy consumption to align with peak generation periods of renewable energy.
This leads me onto my greatest aspiration for technology in 2018; the ethical push-back. Technology has an incredible potential to do good, however, the greatest disruptions are normally created in the pursuit of profit. This has led to some of the world’s largest, most successful corporations, but it has also come at a cost; these great technologies are often being used to stoke hatred and provide anonymity for criminals. As we all become more aware of the potential that these new technologies hold, we will push for a more ethical approach from the technology giants; this may be in the pursuit of fair and transparent payment of taxes or more transparency in how our data is used (maybe we should get a personal data dividend?).
Ultimately, it is not the technology that has questionable ethical beliefs (not yet anyway), but the people with the power to manipulate it. No matter what we do, we cannot eradicate this feature of technology, what we can do is more proactively support technology with a positive impact. As more of us question the integrity of the technology giants, I think that we will see more support for the smaller organisations trying to do good in the world. This might be through researching the supply chain of our next handset, the data protection policies of the dating app we use or, more directly, through companies such as Disberse who are leveraging the potential of DLT to provide much needed transparency to international aid.
2018 will see more cutting-edge technologies become pervasive in everyday applications and I hope that it is the year that technology changes direction from being driven by profit to being focussed on good.