The percentage of the world’s population using the Internet has grown by huge amounts since 1995:
- December 1995 – 4% (16 million)
- December 2000 – 5.8% (361 million)
- December 2005 – 15.7% (1.018 billion)
- September 2010 – 28.8% (1.971 billion)
- December 2015 – 46.4% (3.366 billion)
- June 2017 – 51.7% (885 billion).
As that population has grown, the field of technology has simultaneously been fueled as a market, and the digital world has rapidly evolved. To have a sense of key trends is to understand how tech is changing so that you and your business can develop a stronger strategic stance and prepare for the years ahead.
Here are 8 of the biggest trends in technology for 2018:
Artificial intelligence (AI)
In order to improve customer experience, redesign business models, and bolster the way decisions are made, AI will be increasingly integrated into business.
A poll by Gartner suggests that the need for AI is recognized throughout industry, while adoption is still accelerating: 59% of companies are researching and developing an AI plan; the other 41% are either testing or have already implemented it.
AI will give businesses that use it a competitive advantage. Narrow AI, machine-learning geared toward performing a very specific function (as in driving a car in a test setting or comprehending language), will be the focus of most growth. General AI, meanwhile, is not seen as the most promising area at present since a broad application is not yet viewed as practical, per Gartner.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is a massive area of growth. The devices within the IoT (from smart watches to refrigerators to thermostats to cars) need to be able to collect large amounts of data and connect with other devices to exchange it without the need for any manual interaction.
Just about any device can be smart and connected, making it an IoT endpoint. A quarter of a billion vehicles will be connected to the Internet by 2020, making them all part of the IoT. Within our home, common digital objects such as televisions and personal assistants are connected. More items that are not typically smart, such as yoga mats that track the movement of the body, are joining the ranks.
The expansion of the IoT is mind-bending when you consider that there will be 75 billion devices within it by 2020, according to IHS.
As many companies are continuing to ramp up their cloud adoption, edge computing is also getting a rise in attention. Computing at the edge is gaining popularity in large part because of the degree of speed and performance needed for the IoT. AI-enabled devices, self-driving cars, drones, and various other devices will often communicate at the edge for true real-time processing. Edge computing will by no means surpass or supplant the needs for cloud, though, as indicated by Daniel Newman: “Though edge will continue to be the go-to choice for processing real-time data,” he notes, “it’s likely that the most important and relevant data will still head cloud-ward.”
Distributed trust systems
Distributed ledgers, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain all fall within the category of distributed trust systems, sets of tools that allow for integrity of transactions, through reliable and tamper-evident methods, within a distributed design. Forces fueling this trend are excitement within the press for these approaches and the focus through venture capital – such as the funding of Ripple, Digital Asset Holdings, Blockstream, and Circle (all startups). Although there is a lot of discussion of this method, Forrester Researchers believe that it will be a slow-developing market that emerges over the next 10 years.
Another concept that Gartner is taking very seriously is the digital twin, which is a digital representation of a system that exists in the real world. This concept is important to the Internet of Things because digital twins are connected to the real items, presenting data related to their physical “twins,” adapting when changes occur, streamlining processes, and improving efficiency. Billions of digital twins will exist to pair with the 21 billion IoT endpoints that will be deployed by 2020. The result of these digital twins is that businesses will be able to cut huge amounts of costs over time, with better performance of IoT equipment and maintenance repair and operation (MRO).
An immediate gain from these twins will be in the area of asset management. They will also lead to better understandings of the use of products and how to optimize operationally.
Beyond the Internet of Things, it will become possible to use digital twins as well. The idea is that eventually this practice will be ubiquitous, with digital counterparts related to each element of our environment, and each with AI capabilities. Industrial designers, healthcare executives, online marketers, and urban planners will see gains from this transition to a digital twin era. Entire cities could have digital twins for sophisticated simulations, while medical and biometric data could be used within human models.
Rather than the user having to translate intent, that will be performed by the computer as conversational platforms are implemented. A system of this type can answer questions about the weather or allow you to book a specific restaurant. These platforms will become more intricate and widely applied, as for the gathering of testimony from witnesses to crimes allowing digital generation of sketches according to their descriptions. The one issue with these platforms is that the user has to interact with it within the confines of its structure – which can be irritating. The complexity of the way conversational models are built will be a major differentiator, says Gartner, as will the event models and APIs used to work with third-party services to create accurate and meaningful results.
Analytics has grown as data has, and the IoT will create an enormous volume of information, driving further expansion of the market. The data that will come in from the IoT will lead to improvements in the way that products are made, healthcare is delivered, and cities operate – in turn allowing organizations to become more productive and profitable. An example cited by Newman is a company that had 180,000 trucks in its fleet and was able to bring its management cost of them from 15 cents per mile down to 3 cents – an almost absurd efficiency gain. This same type of approach can be used for just about any application that a business might have. Analytics are a big point of focus for large IT companies. IoT analytics are becoming a special point of focus.
Mixed reality, like augmented reality and virtual reality, is giving us a new way with which to understand our digital environments. Along with conversational platforms, mixed reality systems will create an immersive experience for users. Development platform, application, and system software vendors will all compete for delivery of this model, as indicated by Gartner.
During the next five years, mixed reality will become more prevalent. In this model, the user interacts with real-world and digital objects while staying present in the physical environment.
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