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Tech Trends: Above & Beyond

In a time of emerging technologies these are the top trends to keep an eye out for in 2018!

Welcome to 2018. The year of emerging technology, where we, as humanity, are going above and beyond. It is now the time to wonder where we shall be in the next ten years, as Information Technology has gone from the simple command line to the graphical user interface. From there, the advent of client/server computing to the development of web-based apps and the explosion of mobile and cloud computing. This year marks a paradigm shift in technology to the point of ‘intelligence’.

This year also marks the 11th anniversary of the Apple iPhone. Since its release, smartphones and tablets have been the centre of many people’s lives, where we are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), and where technology has transformed us digitally. Where 2016 left off, the reality is now Augmented and Virtual, and the lines are blurred. It is the intelligence apps, digital twins, security of things, Blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning that have now emerged as the Tech Trends of 2018. Now there’s no going back.

DIGITAL TWIN – “CONNECT WITH YOUR COFFEE?”

It is virtual and emerging as something that can accelerate business growth within the next three years, and it’s one of Gartner’s Tech Trends – The Digital Twin.

The Digital Twin is a virtual cloud-based representation of a product existing throughout the entire lifespan of its real-world duplicate. It is a virtual template that grows and develops identically in real-time, to its tangible pair, using software that analyses and pulls together data that companies can use. Companies have been using digital twins for years, but with the Internet of Things, it is becoming economically practical and intelligent.

By uncovering new product opportunities and simulating scenarios, the data analysed is broad with information about the customer’s name, exact address, location of the product and the service level agreements. At the SAP TechEd conference in Barcelona, Ian Kimball of SAP demonstrated the power of digital twins using a connected coffee machine.

From sensors, the digital coffee machine replicates everything about its operation history – how many cups and what type of coffee to the precise temperature of the milk and the amount of steam pressure used to brew each pour. However, the future of a digital twin can go far beyond a coffee machine, or even the manufacture of a race car. The concept of a human digital twin is in exploration, where doctors could theoretically test and check the body for diseases and illnesses that haven’t naturally occurred yet, on a virtual image of a person.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING

In the past ten years, society has grown accustomed to touching and talking to their smartphones and tablets. We now have the ability to learn from these machines, acquiring information to better our lives. The future relationships with machines will become more personalised as Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems adapt to individual personalities and goals. We have already seen an array of devices, including appliances, vehicles, buildings, and cameras, interconnected to collect and share abundant sensory information to use for intelligent purposes. Governments and financial institutions are going above and beyond where improved cameras and drones for surveillance and algorithms to detect financial fraud are becoming the norm in many jurisdictions.

The world of AI and Machine Learning is heating up. Things to watch out for are targeted consumer marketing in search and social media, vision-guided robotics in applications such as military, agriculture and manufacturing. On the forefront are speech and natural language applications. Voice will enter the mainstream of man-machine interaction. Amazon Echo and Google Home have broken new ground with a device that translates voice to search commands. This is just the beginning as such devices and software will be able to augment and expand into everyday life.

INTELLIGENT APPS – “WE ARE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE.”

We have now travelled ‘over the rainbow’. Technology has broken new ground in the past year, where we can snap our fingers, or tell an App on our device to turn off the oven. The technology transition is now with Intelligent Apps.

The Intelligent App extends human intelligence. Humans are intelligent, but they do not have the ability to deal with massive amounts of data as a machine does. To extend human intelligence is to build and do things faster than the brain can actually do, or the human body can actually do. Intelligent Apps, such as the Virtual Person Assistants (VPA) perform some of the functions of a human assistant making everyday tasks easier. There are also Virtual Customer Assistants (VCA) which are more specialised in areas such as sales and customer service. These Intelligent Apps have the potential to change the structure of the workplace and allow applications infused with AI capabilities. This year, there will be more focus on advanced analytics, AI-powered and autonomous business processes and AI-powered immersive, conversational and continuous interfaces. Currently, we have the voice recognition systems underlying Apple’s Siri, which is benefitting from improvements in performance and accuracy. The Intelligent App learns from the user. The Intelligent App, with AI and Machine Learning, will know how you like the room temperature in your home, and optimise that for you. It is a new way of programming computers and machines to act as if they were humans, or smarter than humans. More intuitive and intelligent.

SECURITY OF THINGS

In this digital age, where we swipe, tap and press, there are some vulnerabilities in using smart devices. Those in tech security have predicted the rise of Security of Things. New solutions, software and tools. There is a problem with cyber security of IoT devices and no real strategy to combat it.

It is too easy to get excited that a kettle can be switched on remotely using a smartphone, or a fridge can tell you what food you have, or have run out of. However, what’s to stop a hacker detecting the basic security vulnerability and uploading malicious code to the kettle. What is perceived as an inanimate object could create a security nightmare by using the hacked kettle to attack a website.

With this in mind, those high in cyber security are looking for ways to combat or stop these things from happening. With one billion connected devices, there is much interest in the Security of Things. Watch this space.

OTHER TECH TRENDS

Last year, advanced wearable technology was a tech trend, but this year, we’ll see the technology adapted to our pets. Pet Wearables will be a “thing”. There are already GPS-enabled collars, and now there are even fitness trackers for dogs!

The Digital Wallet service found its market in 2016, but last year, MasterCard will roll out their users to pay with a selfie. It is the MasterCard Identity Check, which uses biometric authentication to enable app users to confirm payment by showing their face to the smartphone camera.

Bristol-based company OpenBionics will use 3D printing to develop bionic prosthetics for amputees. The company has partnerships with Disney, Marvel and Lucas Films to produce branded prosthetics that would make kids feel like a superhero.

Blockchain technology is being heightened, as financial institutions, including JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, are developing their own Blockchain products. Other businesses are gaining traction, as the Bitcoin crypto-currency has captured 50 percent of global transactions.

2018 & BEYOND

It is interesting how much technology has changed in the last twenty years. We have gone from analogue to digital, and now to ‘smart’. We can get what we desire by a push of a button or a swipe of a screen. This year marks the start of another technological revolution. Are you ready?