Week in Tech: 2018 Predictions

It’s fair to say people have become lazier than ever as the world becomes increasingly digital. Coffee machines connected to your alarm clock or phone now ensure you don’t even have to press a button – let alone put coffee granules in a mug and pour water on them – to get your morning caffeine fix.

Not only are they a cool invention, they epitomise how the world as we know it – apart from my countryside hometown, which remains firmly stuck in the 1980s and relies on charity shops and antique teashops – is changing to a digital-first approach that will further emerge as we tick through to 2018.

While the words ‘tech trends’ or ‘predictions’ may induce nausea for colleagues, clients and journalists alike, here are a few that genuinely demand world-changing excitement.

Data, data, data

Pretty much anything and everything is connected these days, you can’t make your morning Pop Tarts and brew without encountering a connected toaster or kettle. Because of the number of things that are now online, the amount of data in the world is only going one way. When we tick through to 2020 there could be some 250 million connected cars roaming our roads according to Gartner, among a total 75 billion connected devices according to IHS – from connected yoga mats through to the steady increase in personal assists like Alexa.

One area where we’re already seeing this data revolution is in sports. A client event I was at featured a presentation on how Opta collects real-time data through football matches to calculate the probability of a player scoring from a certain position through to analysing teams’ passing games by measuring the movement of the ball. While NFL players have sensors embedder in their shoulder pads that communicate 15 times per second with 20 radio receivers placed around the stadium to track how fast they move, how far they travel, and provide live stats to fans. Expect more of the same data overkill from all areas of our lives.

Time of the Terminator?

Without provoking mass hysteria, the robots are coming – but in a good way. We’ve seen massive advances in artificial intelligence recently, with computers now capable of learning and understanding information in the same way as humans. This is largely due to the aforementioned boom in data, but it basically means that computers can now be used to automate the more mundane human tasks in a faster, safer, cheaper, more accurate manner.

Another positive of this rise in AI is that if you don’t have any friends, then now you can talk to Alexa, Siri or Cortana – and apparently there’s a lot of lonely people out there, as sales of virtual assistants are expected to boom in 2018. While we shouldn’t expect the rise of the machines and Skynet to take over any time soon, AI is about to rock our world.

The manufacturing revolution

3D printing is enabling us to do some really cool stuff, at a fraction of the budget. Manufacturers can now create near enough anything by 3D printing it, from plastic, metal and concrete building parts through to liquid, powder and even human tissue – so the possibilities are huge. Uptake was a little slow this year, but 2018 is likely to see it deployed much wider as the technology becomes much more portable and affordable. A great example of the process in action is the ‘Light Rider,’ a 35kg motorbike created by German firm APWorks that can reach up to 80km an hour, check it out below.

Blockchain boom

Yep, that word blockchain. Essentially blockchain is a really secure database that solves the age-old issue of storing, authenticating and protecting data. Of course, nothing is ‘fully secure’ but this is a huge advance on the current data security offerings available, as the whole ‘chain’ is self-managed so can potentially eliminate the issue of human error. To give you an idea of its popularity, 90% of major banks across Europe and North America are exploring the use of blockchain – so yeah, it’s going to be huge.

Game to your heart’s content

While Blockchain is a little bit confusing, to finish here’s something all of us can relate to. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s frustrated by my games of Football Manager being restricted to an hour at a time due to a lack of laptop battery power. But all that could change next year as there’s expected to be a huge jump in power levels as Microsoft allow Windows to run on systems based on technology from ARM. Essentially this means smartphone-like power on your laptop, and prototypes from the likes of ASUS and HP already boast more than 20 hours of active use. That’s enough for at least one season on FM 2018…

If you’re interested in an in-depth, more boffinated look at what’s coming in technology in 2018, check out Gartner’s latest predictions.