Everyone loves annual assessments. Mine for 2018 are simple: AI is making real progress, IOE is spreading, blockchain is real, lots of digital content is fake, and big, rich companies will eventually be regulated. We also like to talk to machines - especially when everything's connected. The momentum around all these trends is strong and likely to accelerate in 2018 and into 2019.
Every year we look at trends. Lots of companies, consultancies and research organizations do the same thing. Every year many of the trends are simple extrapolations of the previous year's trends. But every year there are also some breakout trends. Perhaps of greatest interest are the rates of acceleration some of the trends experience in any given year. Some trend quickly; some more slowly. Momentum is driven by technology maturity, adoption rates and how well - or badly - the use cases evolve. Momentum scores are as useful as the trends themselves.
Last year I identified 5 technologies that should have made you some money in 2017. I asked you to pretend to you were an Angel investor, a venture capitalist or a company with pilots-on-their-minds with money to invest. I identified five technology clusters that should attract your cash. Here are the 5 clusters I identified for 2017: intelligent systems technology, interaction technology, small software technology, sensor analytics technology and cyber security technology.
This year is no different. There are some old favorites and some new ones. There are some break out trends and applications attracting a lot of attention, and there are some trends that will generate serious momentum in 2018 and beyond. Let's look at 5 of them. Place your bets.
- Conversational Interfaces
- Blockchain Platforms
- Fake Content
- Enabling Platforms for AI & Machine Learning Applications
- Internet of Everything (IOE)
- Regulatory Threats
- Talk to Me
We've known for decades that people love talking to machines, searching with graphic interfaces and immersing themselves into video. It's not the preference that's important, it's the state of the technology that matters. Comcast, Google, Amazon and others led the use of voice interfaces in 2017. HomePod will help Apple erase Siri's problems. Comcast built some of its advertising based on the differentiation their Xfinity voice interface enables. This trend will accelerate in 2018: everyone loves to talk to their apps. People love saying "Hey, Google" and "Alexa." The real impact comes from connectivity via the Internet of Things (IOT) than enables additional functionality. The infrastructure is now in place to enable voice-controlled smart homes, cars, buildings and cites. If you don't feel like talking, you can authorize Alexa (and others) to just manage increasingly aspects of your life. Momentum score? 5 (out of five). This is the killer app because it enables all sorts of interaction, problem-solving, planning and even analytics.
This one is easy - but important. 2018 will be more about blockchain platforms than cross-industry applications. The financial industry will lead the way; healthcare will follow quickly. Blockchain will completely free itself of its singular cryptocurrency identity in 2018. It will become a legitimate transaction platform that mainstream technology vendors and vertical industry leaders deploy. 2018 momentum score? 4. But this one is on the cusp: could be a 5.
This trend is disturbing - and digital technologists must assume significant responsibility for the creation, housing and distribution of fake data, information and news. "Digifake" will continue to explode in 2018 - and indefinitely. There's no technological limit to the amount of fake in the system. Worse, fake is profitable, which means there are incentives around the creation, housing and dissemination of fake. The effects of exploding fake are impossible to calculate, but it's safe to say that the effects are never healthy and will undermine the credibility of democratic institutions and the technology industry itself. The bloom is already off the digital rose. Watch for technology professionals and their companies to at least express resistance to the trend, though Facebook, Twitter and Google have the most work to do. Our beloved technology companies have a genuine conundrum on their hands. If they tighten the truth screws they will lose money and subscribers; if they loosen the screws they lose credibility. Momentum score? 5. (Or maybe it's a 2. Hard to tell.)
AI & Machine Learning
Beyond natural language processing - trend #1 - artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are here. In 2018, they will continue to grow. They will introduce and describe themselves around the work they've quietly been doing for years. Formal AI and machine learning development platforms and applications will debut in 2018. But the most notable trends to watch in 2018 will be AI's attack on knowledge workers. 2018 will launch phase one of a prolonged war against high costs and inefficiencies. Translation? Knowledge-based automation is coming for accountants, lawyers and diagnosticians, among other knowledge workers - while lower/no knowledge task automation continues to grow. Momentum score? 5.
Internet of Everything (IOE)
2018 will encourage more investments in sensors, connectivity and the applications that energize them. Ignore trends that predict the number of connected devices. No one knows. But track trends that describe the impact of device interconnectivity and check your business models at the pre-IOE door. The key trend is not explained by any one piece of technology or a single killer app that someone developed in an incubator. IOE represents the integration of technology trends in much the same way that analytics generates (or fails to generate) ROI around all technology trends. IOE is therefore as powerful as the trends that enable it, so track trends in sensor technology, power technology, integration technology, network connectivity, AI and other trends that accelerate the adoption of IOE. Momentum? 4.
One More Trend
There's one more trend that deserves some attention: the structure of the technology industry itself. There will be significant consolidation in 2018. At the same time, there will be growing, though not yet definitive, legislative pressure to break up the technology giants, especially as digifake continues to explode. Pressure will also mount as more and more technology darlings find themselves described in publications like The Paradise Papers. So, in addition to the volatility of emerging and digital technologies, there will be volatility in the technology industry itself. That may be the most important 2018 technology trend there is. Momentum? A clear 10. Pay very close attention to the companies who provide the services you depend upon - and love - so deeply. Pay attention to how technology is governed and therefore distributed.
Annual predictions are obligatory. Everyone expects them. They're also usually a little vague (thereby providing plausible deniability after the fact). Let's face it, no one wants a client to transform their business based on predictions that could be wrong. Annual predictions should therefore not be specifically actionable. The most important trend is momentum. Ones gaining momentum deserve the most attention. Declining ones can be sent to the back of the line - at least until next year.