Top Five Tech Trends for 2018

What will be the biggest and most disruptive technology trends of 2018? We talk to industry experts to find out.

Expanding the Immersive Spectrum

We expect 2018 to be a big year for the development and roll-out of second generation hardware for VR/AR such as the Oculus Go and Magic Leap’s Mixed Reality headset — set to be better, lighter and cheaper than ever before,” says Aurelien Simon, Head of Immersive, Digital Catapult.

Just as importantly, however, there will also be increased buy-in from the creative industries in terms of immersive content production: “We’ve seen huge strides in creative content over 2017 and I expect this push for quality over quantity to continue next year. Big production studios are likely to increase their interest and presence in the VR space, while VR games production looks to take a step forward with hotly anticipated games like Doom and Fallout 4 released in VR.”

Trisa Thompson, Chief Responsibility Officer at Dell Technologies also believes that we’ll be donning our AR headsets in 2018 as the technology becomes ubiquitous and increasingly integrates with our daily routines.

“It’s happening in pockets today. But over the next year, VR and AR will cogently bring world issues into our personal reality. Time, money, and geography will no longer be inhibitors to experiencing a different environment, community or perspective.”

Global analyst firm CCS Insight says these technologies are likely to blur and become different dimensions of the “extended reality” spectrum, and the hardware releases of 2018 will reflect that trend: “We expect to see many early examples of augmented reality glasses but also several stand-alone virtual reality headsets.”

The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnership report published by Dell and the Institute for the Future (IFTF) also predicts that immersive technologies will increasingly be used to counterbalance our inherent human prejudices. ‘Bias check,’ according to Brian Reaves, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Dell, will become the next spell check as we’ll start applying VR in job interview settings to remove identifying traits, leveraging machine learning and AI to indicate key points of discrimination and program positive bias into our processes.

Data-Centric Society

According to Nesta’s latest survey, 39 percent of adults say they do not mind sharing their personal information with companies, but 60 percent say they are frustrated by how much of their information has become public. 76 percent of adults around the world say they find it creepy when companies know too much about them.

Big Data claims to be able to interpret our behaviours, which in theory should help consumers. But with Big Data can come Big Bias, and once personal information is relinquished, all consumers can do is hope companies use it responsibly,” they conclude.

Yet data experts predict that 2018 will mark the year when data starts to become a powerful tool for consumers, as regulators catch up with the data revolution and citizens are put in charge of their data. Accenture’s Fjord Trends 2018 also outlines how technologies such as Blockchain will potentially play a part in creating greater data transparency.

In its latest report, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) indicates that data is a vital component for innovation and stresses the importance of building a broader data infrastructure and managing it responsibly for the greater good.

“Greater access to open data enables greater innovation,” according to the Open Data Institute (ODI) which predicts that over time we will see data helping to create ever greater social and economic value in sectors such as public services, retail and banking.

Vicki Cantrell, Retail Transformation Officer, at Aptos says that retailers will need to leverage data to become more customer-centric. “Analysis tools that deliver actionable data and enable organisations to correctly respond to changing conditions with actionable and repeatable processes at the point of service — whether in-store or online — will be key,” she says.

According to Market Intelligence agency IDC, banks are also increasingly partnering with financial technology companies via open APIs, driven partly by new banking regulations such as PSD2, which involve sharing of customer data.

In 2018 the EU will also begin to fine midmarket firms that violate General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). According to Bill Weber, Principal Security Strategist at eSentire, with the influx of data breaches over the past two years, businesses will have to take the necessary steps to meet the increasing number of cybersecurity requirements set forth by regulatory bodies.

“Regulators are encouraging open banking initiatives, and banks are having to open up their systems via APIs to third parties in providing access to account information and to initiate payments,” a report by consulting firm Capgemini concludes, adding that this will increasingly facilitate collaboration between banks and FinTech companies bringing innovation to industry.

Banks, the report concludes, have a burning need to innovate in this fast-evolving landscape, but have traditionally not been very successful in fostering digital innovation through in-house efforts.

Matthew Katz, CEO of Verifi — a FinTech company providing payment and risk management solutions to banks and merchants — agrees that factors such as the regulatory impacts of PSD2 and strong customer authentication put an increased onus on issuers and acquirers to better manage risk. He believes, however, that banks are increasingly recognizing the value of collaboration, and outsourcing those solutions to companies such as Verifi to not only prevent issues such as fraud and chargebacks, but to deliver a better overall customer experience.

Smart Cities and Borderless Living

Smart Mobility and automation have been big trends in 2017 as societies continued to cope with the rising demands of urbanization. This is set to continue in the coming year as 87 percent of consumers believe cities need better transportation options according to a recent survey conducted by Ford.

In 2018, we could also start seeing drones delivering not only parcels, but broader societal benefits. A report by innovation foundation Nesta predicts “cities in Britain will make the laws, rules and infrastructure decisions for drones to take off, creating an airborne version of the Highway Code.”

Simulation tools will also enable governments to test out their policies in virtual environments before rolling them out in the real world according to Nesta’s report, which outlines a broader trend towards borderless identity and citizenship.

“We will see the rise of experiments in e-Residency as governments begin to make the nation state virtual. Citizens may be able to choose to educate their children in Finland, access healthcare from South Korea and run businesses in New Zealand, without leaving the comfort of their homes.”

IIoT and the Next Industrial Revolution

In November 2017 the UK government concluded a review addressing how the country could leverage innovation to revitalise business and industry. It outlined how emergent technologies like IoT, Machine Learning and AI have made the transition away from being hypothesized innovations to practical solutions across a broad range of sectors.

“The next step for manufacturers will be to interconnect every step of the manufacturing process to create seamless and more efficient systems by utilising IoT technology to sharpen their competitive edge and better meet customer demands,” explains Richard Bradbury, UK&I Managing Director at Hitachi Vantara.

This trend is broadly defined under the umbrella of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0 and its transformative potential for the global economy and society is just as great — if not greater — than that of previous industrial revolutions. Definitely one to watch in 2018.

Symbiotic Tech

“The more our devices and voice-assistants are ingrained in our daily lives, the more we will turn to them as our moral compass — for advice. As our technology blends into our habits and is able to read and learn our emotions, fears and anxieties, it will tell us to stop wasting less food or remind us to call mom more often. We can expect to see a rise of people objecting to the moral judgments imposed by the likes of Alexa,” reads the Sparks&Honey 2018 Trends Brief, which goes even further, predicting that we’ll soon connect our bodies using technology in increasingly visceral ways.

We’ve grown comfortable enough with the pervasive use of technology to let it become part of us via implants, such as bio-tattoos or microchip implants for banking and biometrics. Elon Musk’s Neuralink is on a mission to connect our brains to the cloud and Emily Borghard is now recognized as one of the world’s first true cyborgs, thanks to a Neuropace chip implanted in her brain,” it concludes
“As digital fades from being stand-alone to being embedded in our physical world, our relationships with everything around us will be redefined,” agrees Baiju Shah, global co-lead, Fjord and managing director, Accenture Interactive.

Nesta’s research also backs up this view, pointing to the fact that AI is already showing impressive healthcare capabilities such as diagnosing Parkinson’s via audio recordings and cancer via molecules in breath. It predicts that in 2018 one or more of the major technology companies will buy a healthcare provider to turbocharge their efforts in that space. “In combination with new forms of facial recognition, AI is being trained to read minds and moods with increasing accuracy,” is says, adding that we will increasingly see it being used to predict and manage both physical and mental health outcomes.

Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.

Originally published at Tech Trends.