– hits and misses
As we are approaching the end of the year, it is always funny — and a bit scary to look back at how well I did, predicting what would happen on the digital scene in the last year.
For the last 20 years or so, I have each year tried to compile a list of things to happen on the digital scene. It’s challenging and interesting to stick your head out like that but at the same time a great exercise and something where you can be held accountable before it’s all forgotten.
In January 2018, I, therefore, posted an article with The 10 most important digital themes for 2018and now it’s time to take a look at how bad I did.
Where I was completely wrong
Let’s start with the biggest miss. I predicted that Amazon would open in Scandinavia within 6 months, but that didn’t happen, and it might actually take a lot longer than we think before they arrive at our doorstep. There are several reasons for this:
- A low density of people — In Scandinavia, we are currently only 4% of the European population, but we cover 20% of the land — an expensive place to promise same day delivery.
- Expensive labour — An Amazon warehouse is still not fully automated. In Scandinavia wages are high and unemployment is very low.
- Fragmented language — If you want to cover Scandinavia, you still need to cater for four languages, and Finland will always be a bit of a translational nightmare.
- Unharmonized market conditions — Finland is part of the eurozone, where Norway is not even part of EU. Go figure.
Besides that, Amazon also needs to build a complete warehouse and logistics center, which would take them 1–2 years — if they don’t buy an existing operation, and that is a bit hard to imagine. So, for now, retailers might breathe a bit more relieved. But I would definitely still keep my eyes very close at Amazon because it’s still only a matter of time before they launch here in the Nordics.
Cyber attacks are lurking in the dark
From a security point of view, 2018 has been more peaceful than expected, and we haven’t witnessed a breakdown similar to the one that Maersk experienced in 2017. Hopefully, it is because companies have leveled up on their protection. On the other hand, Data breaches have continued apace in 2018. Companies like Twitter, Under Amor and Facebook all experienced huge data leaks. Facebook’s breach came with a price tag of $120 billion!
Unfortunately, I think it makes sense to prolong my prediction for 2018 about more large-scale, coordinated attacks and large, well-reputed companies coming to a standstill because of hacker attacks. Our infrastructure is also still a vulnerable area. But I hope to be wrong here again next year.
Blockchain still has some way to go
Even though this was one of the most debated topics in 2018, Blockchain cases are still mainly being presented as Proof of Concepts. The big commercial breakthrough didn’t happen in 2018.
It is, however, worth following a company like Consensys, founded by the co-founder of Ethereum, Joseph Lubin, that I was fortunate to meet at SXSW in March 2018. Currently, they have 50 different platform projects underway and some of them are bound to launch commercially in 2019. (https://media.consensys.net/enterprise-ethereum-blockchain-use-cases-and-applications-by-industry-3914d1210049 )
He recently made the very bold statement that: “Blockchain will permeate society more than the Internet”. So, stay tuned for the year to come
The year’s biggest disappointment
As I predicted, Magic Leap finally launched their first product: Magic Leap ONE, after 6 years of development. Even though it got reviewed as the best AR kit in the market, it did not meet the high expectations in the market at all, and it seems like they have a very long way to go before they meet the hype, they have built up themselves. One of their biggest challenges is that they have decided to develop everything in-house, in a very closed environment. If you compare that to eg. Amazon Echo and their open API, you get some idea why Amazon has been hugely successful in 2018, even though echo is in a different category. AR still looks very promising, and I expect several exciting new releases in 2019. But we are far away from the original vision of Magic Leap.
GDPR — and so what?
2018 was the year of GDPR. And it ended up feeling a bit like the year 2000 digital crisis, where a lot of energy was spent on being able to comply, but nothing really happened after new years eve. It has been surprisingly quiet in regard to GDPR cases and fines — maybe because the public sector itself hasn’t got its own act together completely. It is also fair to say that the most important changes have happened behind the scene. But this is not to say that we won’t see several big cases being rolled out in the year to come, so expect things to heat up, once we turn the page to 2019.
Intelligence — for the win
One of the key focus areas in 2018 was the improvement of user experiences. A lot has happened but It’s an ongoing case, and it will continue to be a focus area for years to come.
2018 also saw the launch of the Google Assistant speaking danish — both as an app and as a hardware device for your home. Google is right now leading the field with the most advanced AI service. You should definitely try it out.
But when it comes to hardware integration, Amazon Alexa is way ahead with more than 50.000 different skills, and as predicted you can now buy Amazon’s products here in Denmark. A new and interesting runner-up worth following are Samsung’s Bixby platform, which will be released in 2019. None of these speak Scandinavian languages, however, so if your focus is in this part of the world, the battle currently is between Apple Homekit and Google Home.
The most important thing that happened in 2018 was the final commercial breakthrough of AI. This is the start of a new era where AI will be integrated into almost every service we know, and I think we will look back at 2018 as the year where we seriously started to use this technology broadly. The interesting thing is that when it starts to work, we stop calling it AI, then it’s just recommendations, customer service, searching, and navigation. 2019 will bring a plethora of new AI enhanced solutions, and for me, this will be the most interesting area to follow. (if you want to know more, I have written this article: The State of AI).
It wasn’t all right and it wasn’t all wrong, as is often the case. Most of the areas described will continue to be in focus and to be relevant for 2019. But new areas will pop up, so what’s going to be on the list for 2019?
Well, I will let you know as soon as I am done compiling my top 10 of tech predictions for 2019.