“Digital” has already become passé and a somewhat overused term, yet many companies are still struggling to fully embrace the digital shift. Yet machine learning, AI, blockchain, AR/VR, the IoT, robotics, cloud – just some examples of digital 2.0 technologies – are here to stay. Here are five of the biggest trends businesses should be prepared for in 2018.
1. An holistic digital approach
In 2018, the narrative around digital transformation will begin to change significantly, with companies taking a more holistic approach. Digital transformation is not about executing a few random projects (updating a website, launching a new mobile app etc.), it requires a complete overhaul of the entire business. Ultimately, it requires cultural change, new skills and the courage to leave behind legacy business models.
GE, for example, has made hard decisions about what businesses are most important; divesting many of its financial services businesses along the way. It doubled investment in R&D, re-emerged as a technology company, and went global with its presence. GE essentially became a 125-year-old startup by focusing on the industrial internet; generating $7 billion in new software sales in 2016.
2. Living life on the edge
As adoption of next-generation devices such as drones and autonomous vehicles continues, the demand for real-time processing will increase. It will no longer be possible to send all data collected from devices over a network to a centralised cloud. Instead, to support the volume of data and the requirement for real-time insights, it will need to be processed at the device itself (i.e., ‘the edge’). Data will be synthesised and actioned at the device itself before sending some aggregated information to a central cloud. In 2018, expect to see many architectures emerge where intelligence moves to the edge.
3. Blockchain goes beyond the lab
Blockchain, particularly in recent months, has created much buzz with its promise to transform entire industries. However, beyond cryptocurrency, it has struggled to find mainstream applications. This is beginning to change as adoption happens elsewhere. For example, the State of Delaware enacted a law that lets corporations maintain shareholder lists and corporate records using blockchain technology. And, UK-based Revolut is launching a virtual bank based on blockchain; all its banking happens online, and its assets are built on blockchain. It just hit a million customers and plans to arrive on U.S. shores by 2018. Expect targeted blockchain applications to continue to emerge throughout 2018.
4. Surrounded by ‘smart’
Almost every application and device will now be powered by AI. This means we will see a significant shift from stand-alone intelligent objects, to more of a connected ecosystem of things. Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home are already changing the ways we interact in our homes by integrating things like lighting, home security, heating and AV-devices.
Furthermore, in 2018, AI will significantly improve the interaction model between human and machine. Emotional recognition will deeply enhance the bot-human relationship; for instance, a chatbot will be able to sense when a person is getting angry and adjust its responses accordingly. These advancements will undoubtedly conjure more heated debate on the ethics of AI, but this is another trend that will continue to gain traction – providing a more cohesive way for us to interact with our surroundings beyond the home environment.
5. Reality becomes virtual
Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) have long been a technology looking for a solution. Adoption has been slow due to the high cost of devices, lack of content and the fact many people who use such devices suffer from motion sickness. While some industries such as travel and leisure have made progress, VR is still missing its killer app.
This will change in 2018 – companies such as Apple and Google will put more emphasis on pushing the technology into the mainstream. AR is currently evolving more rapidly than VR, with Apple updating its iOS 11 with the ability to run AR apps, and Markets and Markets estimating that AR will be worth $61 billion by 2023. In addition, apps are now moving beyond basic entertainment. For instance, the Sky Guide AR allows people to overlay images in order to view constellations in the sky, and PLNAR replaces allows users to take rapid measurements through their phones.
As Digital 2.0 takes root, expect to see some exciting shifts in our computing landscape over the next 12 months. What’s more, we’ll start to see some of the innovations long talked about as having potential, becoming a reality.