13 trends for tech in '17 recapby Lenny Benaicha - January 18, 2018
A little over a year ago, I suggested 13 technology trends for 2017. At the beginning of a new year, let’s have a look at how these trends panned out.
1. Conversational: smart talks
There is no denying it, chatbots were pretty much omnipresent throughout the entire year. Every day new bots appeared with a wide array of functionalities ranging from personal and shopping to sports and entertainment and many more. While these conversational agents are appearing anywhere and everywhere, there is still a lot of room for improvement regarding task automation. The aim is go further than ‘text in – text out’ to have a conversational agent that can actually manage a number of tasks for us.
2. Ethical machines: define morality
While many experts around the world are undoubtedly still working hard to make machines more ethical, the topic has moved into the background a little, probably due to less (mainstream) media attention. As I mentioned last year, it’s an incredibly complex problem, that will require a lot of bright minds in different fields to come together in order to solve.
3. Enhanced listening: the hearing revolution
This trend behaved strangely. On one hand, it performed better than expected. And on the other, it didn’t perform at all. With standard acoustic noise cancellation headphones decreasing in price, the market size increased. However, the configurable acoustic noise cancellation head- and earphones that I expected to see, have not been fully realised. One interesting development to keep an eye on is Google Pixel Buds. These earphones are capable of translating forty languages live, but for now, there doesn’t seem to be much added value over the well-known Google Translate app. With competition picking up, I expect functionalities that ‘live’ in our ears to increase dramatically. After all, it might just enable us to move away from smartphones altogether and have a smaller, almost invisible speaking / listening device to replace our current hardware.
4. Software: where did it all go?
Software and its visibility, or the lack thereof, performed better than expected. Amazon’s Alexa sales are through the roof and the technology is being embraced by individuals and business all over. Other tech giants are likely to increase and accelerate their ‘invisible software’ activities, mainly in the shape of voice technology.
5. Tracking: auto self-measuring of all things
Somehow it appears that smartwatches aren’t evolving as fast as they could, despite the proliferation of Fitbit. It looks like we’re still in the business of tracking more personal health data, however, we still have to make an effort. More and more services have started to pop up to enable people to have their blood analysed. This calls for a whole new privacy debate on top of the ongoing ones.
6. Memory makers: stack overflow
The amount of memories we create is steadily increasing, but we still lack ways of managing them properly. Throwback mechanisms haven’t evolved much, so there is still a huge potential opportunity for services that deliver improved ways to create and enjoy long-lasting memories in a world where an enormous amount of media is created non-stop.
7. Intelligence: cognitive replaces artificial
One of the most interesting developments to monitor in this field is Elon Musk’s Neuralink company, founded in 2016. The company aims to develop implantable brain-computer interfaces. The AI debate has been going on for almost the entire year, with Elon Musk advocating for regulators to step up, while others take a much more wait-and-see approach. We, as a species, have to be careful. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.
8. Crypto: let’s blockchain everything
Not a day goes by without blockchain technology being mentioned. It’s not always referred to directly, but it’s hard to miss blockchain’s presence in the media lately due to cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin gained a lot of exposure lately due to huge ups and downs in its value. This is a cause of both fear and confidence with regards to investing in the technology. We started to see more and more practical applications, however, we also started to run into the limits of the technology in its current format, mostly due to the lack of transaction speed.
9. Autonomous mobility: good riddance
Autonomous driving is here to stay. Actually, the trend developed above our expectations with Tesla launching its Semi and Truck and Uber purchasing an enormous quantity of autonomous Volvos. The result is it’s increasingly difficult to disregard this technological evolution.
10. (Virtual/augmented) reality: synch it
We start to slowly crawl out of AR and VR’s valley of disillusionment. The technologies didn’t evolve as fast as expected, however, there were a few very important signals. With the release of Apple’s ARKit and the recently announced operating system built for and around augmented reality, expectations are high once again for AR – especially when you consider that other tech giants are likely to follow or provide an answer.
11. Social: stranger friends
The trend as originally described, hasn’t occurred just yet. I’ve started to notice a shift between social media networks, but at this point in time it’s hard to say if people are turning actually away from social media networks altogether. However, people moving from Facebook to Instagram for instance, are still part of the Facebook ecosystem. So to evaluate this trend, a distinction should be made between the actual network and its owner or parent company.
12. Connected living: collision detection
There is a lot of room for improvement as the pace isn’t quite as fast as expected. We have seen more and more players enter the market, which is a good thing. However, the need for standardised protocols is increasing all the time, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus between the manufacturers.
13. Technocracy: the importance of affordability
Sadly, we haven’t democratized technology much in 2017. If anything, prices went up slightly. I feel like this is a slippery slope, and both consumers and manufacturers should proceed with caution.
Regardless of the performance of the trends discussed above, 2017 was quite a good year for technology. Naturally, some trends managed to attract much more attention than others. But what’s important to notice here is the importance of convergence. A lot of the value created through and by technology lies in the convergence of different technologies into highly usable and practical applications. Whether you are looking into implementing one or more of these trends, or staying ahead of the curve altogether, feel free shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay on the lookout for this year’s tech trends.