The Top 7 Technology Trends for 2018
It is that time of the year again and 2017 is over before we knew it. The Year of Intelligencebrought us a lot of progress and change; from over-hyped ICO’s to algorithms that created secret languages. As every year since 2012, I provide you with seven of the most important technology trends for 2018 to help you, and your business, prepare for the next year.
One thing that we can state is that we are on our way to enter the 4th Industrial Revolution. Many of the technologies that have been promised for decades are constantly improving and are now reaching a point of maturity. Once that happens, it will radically change our societies, how we work and how we live. However, we are not there yet.
Although technological developments are accelerating, they have not yet reached the state of full maturity and adoption to cause a paradigm shift in our societies. Nevertheless, it is safe to say we have left behind the Information Revolution of the 1970s, which we have known for so long. Today, information technology is capable of so many great things. However, we are not yet ready to fully enter the 4th Industrial Revolution. That is why I would like to call 2018 the Year of Transition. Let’s have a look at the seven technology trends that will dominate 2018:
1. Artificial Intelligence Will Take a Leap Forward, without Human Data
2017 was the year that AlphaGo Zero taught itself the game of Go and within 40 days became better than any human or artificial player ever existed. It did so without any human data as input and purely played against itself. As a result, it taught itself strategies and moves no human has ever thought of and arguably progressed the evolution of the game of Go exponentially in a very short timeframe. This achievement marks a significant milestone in the development of artificial intelligence.
In 2018, this will only continue and we will see more examples of artificial intelligence that will behave in unexpected ways, as it already did so this year. In 2017, for example, AI developers from Google built algorithms that had to compete for scarce resources, resulting in increasingly advanced strategies to beat the component. Google Brain developed algorithms that created new encryption methods, unlike any seen before, to protect information from other neural networks. Finally, Facebook had to shut down two algorithms that created its own secret language, unsolicited and used advanced strategies to get what it wanted. If one thing becomes clear from these developments, it is that artificial intelligence will be fundamentally different to human intelligence.
With the AI arms race in full swing, governments and organisations are increasing their investments in the development of ever more intelligent AI. In September 2017, Putin said that “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world”, signalling that Russia will intensify its AI activities. On the other side of the world, China aims to outsmart the USA in AI, with Europe unfortunately nowhere to be seen. The AI arms race seriously scares well-known entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking and a solution for the existential threat of AI is still far away.
The combination of an AI arms race and developments where artificial intelligence can be trained without human data will likely result in massive steps forward in 2018. As AI becomes smarter, more money will flow into it. However, ordinary organisations, as well as small and medium enterprises, are likely to miss out, as the power of AI will consolidate among just a few players and countries.
2. Blockchain Will Mature and the ICO Hype Will Slow Down due to Regulation
Last year, I predicted that 2017 would see smart contracts taking off. And so they did, although not in the area that I originally expected. Last year, smart contracts were predominantly used for Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). The hype around ICOs has amazed many and as of the end of November, 228 ICOs raised a total of $3.6 billion. Apart from many successes, there were also many scams and people who tried to game the system and rob people of their money.
Although the number of ICOs will continue to grow in the first months of 2018, we will also see more regulation. Slowly, governments and regulators will wake up and start to understand the impact this new way of funding has on innovation and economic growth. However, they also understand that consumers need to be protected and criminals need to be caught. Hence, there will be increased regulation in the coming year, slowing down the enormous hype of ICOs. We will see better organised ICOs, still raising millions of dollars, and the first example of these new ICOs was the Kik ICO, raising $97 million with an ICO that will pave the way for more mainstream ICOs.
Apart from more mainstream ICOs, 2018 will also see the first true blockchain applications that will be used by consumers and organisations, where those using the services not necessarily know that they use blockchain technology. After all, for Blockchain to become mainstream, it has to become as pervasive as the internet. Consumers do not know how Amazon or Facebook works, but they are more than happy to use it. That is what is required for Blockchain technology, or distributed ledger technology, to have a real impact on organisations and society.
2018 will see more applications being developed and launched, of which many of these by the companies that did do an ICO in 2017. It will move Blockchain towards maturity. Earlier, I discussed seven cryptocurrencies that are worth following and forecasted the end of Bitcoin, as it is technically flawed (despite the ridiculous price increase in the past weeks, which reminds me of tulip mania in the 17th century). All in all, 2018 will be a very interesting year in terms of Blockchain.
3. Our Privacy Continues to Be Threatened, but a Solution is Coming
All those new technologies, platforms and services gobble up massive amounts of data and more often than not, this data is not very well protected. For the past years, we have seen thousands of data breaches, with, in 2017, the data breach of Equifax as a new low point. Unfortunately, 2018 will not be any different. The more devices we will connect to the internet, the more data we create, the more security breaches we will see. IoT devices are remarkably insecure, thereby continuing to threaten our privacy. Consumers are aware of this as 90% of consumers lack the confidence that their Iot devices are secure.
As long as organisations that develop internet connected devices do not take security seriously, and develop products such as cardiac devices that can be hacked or CCTV cameras with serious bugs, this trend will only get worse. However, not only IoT devices are prone to hacks, but also large organisations such as Uber or Verizon were hacked in 2017. Even Apple’s latest security feature, Face ID has already been easily bypassed several times. We have reached a point in time where any organisation can and will be hacked and if you are not hacked, you are simply not important enough.
Fortunately, there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. With the hype around blockchain, startups are also working on a new technology called Zero Knowledge Proof (ZKP). Zero Knowledge Proof is a method used in cryptography to prove ownership of a specific piece of knowledge without revealing the content of that knowledge. Zero Knowledge Proof enables trustless transactions that safeguard users’ privacy using mathematics. As such, ZKP improves verification processes to such an extent that one party can prove to another party that a given statement is true, without revealing any information about that statement. 2018 will see continued development of Zero-Knowledge Proof, making our society slowly a little bit more private again.