Tech innovations tend to be tied to visions of the future, from the Apple's “sleek and white” house style, evocative of a spaceship, to the sci-fi origins of words like “virus” or “cyberspace.” And by looking to the near future, we can better understand how to prepare for the present.
Since the clocks will tick over to a new year in a few days, now is as good a time as any to check in with a selection of tech industries and sectors that will see upheaval in 2018: Cryptocurrencies are on the rise, cyber security is overloaded, and artificial intelligence is on everyone's mind. What major events and shifts will we see in 2018? Here's our collection of the top ten most intriguing tech trends.
Smart Home Technology Grows
The first prediction hearkens to one big futuristic stereotype, the “home of the future.” Stephen Cox, Chief Security Architect at SecureAuth, foresees smart home technology continuing to expand the boundaries of what we can automate.
“Smart home technology has evolved by leaps and bounds the past few years,” he says, “and I’m excited to see what 2018 holds. It’s become very easy to interconnect devices within your home in meaningful ways, for instance adding voice controls to your home theater setup. Products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are just amazing additions to the home for so many reasons, from home automation to a learning tool.
I smile every time one of my children ask our Echo an inquisitive question burning in their minds. Then, I put my security guy hat on and worry about the implications of connecting dozens of devices to our home networks, many developed by vendors lacking strong security discipline.”
But we won't see one of the bigger innovations this year in smart houses any time soon — even though it will have a big presence on our phones in 2018.
Biometric Security Rolls Out
Looking back over the year, most techies would cite the iPhone X face ID demo at Apple's annual September event as one of the most exciting new technologies of 2017. The experts agree that Face ID and the biometric scanning behind it will only grow more important in 2018.
“2018 will be an interesting year for biometrics with Apple’s shift to Face ID on the iPhone,” says Cox in a statement I've previously reported. “It will likely be the largest adoption of facial recognition technology in history and the response from iPhone users and security researchers is of great interest to the security community.
It’s certainly a sign that biometrics are becoming more of a commonplace technology with a critical place in authentication. It’s interesting to see the consumer market leading the enterprise market in the adoption of biometrics. The major smartphone vendors are making it easier for the enterprise market to move towards passwordless.”
So why won't we see biometric scans on the doorbells of smart houses in the next few years? Because the future of biometrics is deeply tied to how strongly mobile companies develop it.
“I believe that biometrics is here to stay with regards to mobile authentication or as an additional factor from the mobile device,” Cox explains, “but those solution providers leveraging biometrics will leave the actual support (enrollment, storage, etc.) to the mobile providers and just leverage what they provide.”
It's easy to forget when predicting the future that society-changing innovations don't depend on technical accomplishments as much as they depend on economic realities. Biometrics might be the coolest new security measure, but only if mobile companies determine that it's in their best interests to continue supporting and storing the data required for it to funtion.
More Cryptocurrency Mining
Another trend Cox is keeping an eye on: The mining of cryptocurrency. Given Bitcoin's power — the currency's value has risen 500 percent since last July — cryptocurrency is easily the tech sector that saw the biggest rise in fortunes in 2017.
Don't worry too much about this one, as Cox continues that it's “largely a nuisance at this point,” though it does highlight how simple hackers or other bad actors today find it to harvest PCU cycles. But that's far from the worst prediction for the world's hacking problems next year….
Cyber-Warfare Gets Deadly
We've seen plenty of massive data breaches and virus attacks across 2017, but the impact of these events will only get worse in 2018, according to the experts.
“People will be injured or killed in 2018 due to a cyberattack or cyberterrorism — moving beyond money and intellectual property to physical harm as the objective and outcome,” predicts Webroot's Hal Lonas, though he adds that “one could argue that this has already occurred with NSA leaks and been kept hush hush within nation/states, but private citizens will soon become targets.”
Lonas also foresees the rise of programmable malware — “malware kits able to morph their purposes depending on the intent of those who launch them.” Looks like the dystopian cyberpunk future predicted by sci-fi authors like William Gibson is continuing to reveal itself in new ways. Another way that the world is turning into a high-tech dystopia in 2018? AI will keep taking our jobs.
Continued Job Automation
Automated processes, from self-driving trucks to smart voice assistants, are changing the type of tasks workers are required to do across untold industries, and in an increasing amount of cases, they're changing whether those workers are needed at all. The prediction? That's going to keep increasing across 2018.
“Further adoption of AI leading to automation of professions similar to insurance underwriters, tax clerk and credit analysts,” according to Paul Barnes of Webroot. “Also, AI will begin to move into the forefront for social engineering, to quickly highlight susceptible targets for adversarial attacks.”
But as the job market tightens in some areas, another possibility is becoming a large option for small businesses: micro-services.
A Shift Toward Micro-Services
This prediction comes in a joint statement from Sol Cates, CTO & VP of technical strategy at Thales eSecurity, and Jim DeLorenzo, solutions marketing manager at Thales eSecurity.
“There has been a significant shift towards micro-services in the technology space,” they say, “which has increased in popularity in the last couple of years, and is increasingly becoming the starting point for any newly designed application. Organizations are now starting to invest more widely in this framework.”
Due to this wider investment, they go on state, organizations will likely develop a stronger desire for more secure micro-services.
More Monetization of Data Assets
A prediction from the realm of big data comes through a statement by data and analytics software provider Infogix, which plans on seeing data itself being increasingly monetized. How? By companies that can harness the value of their data sets and tie it to number on paper. Here's how they put it.
“Organizations recognize that data is either a liability or an asset,” Infogix says. “Metadata can be used to enable a deeper understanding of the most valuable information. We are seeing more organizations using a combination of logical, physical, and conceptual metadata to classify data sets based on their importance, and businesses can apply a numerical value to each data classification, effectively monetizing it.”
It's all part of a larger pivot towards valuing data more highly in the new year, according to Kevin Hartman, VP of Strategic Initiatives at the digital technology consulting agency, SPR.
“We will be reminded of the importance of data in 2018 and prepare ourselves for new innovative solutions that use it,” Hartman says. “Establishing a proper data ownership model will be given more credence, and the technology of the wild-west of today will exhibit more standards and controls, ensuring competitive information is not mistakenly yielded or granted.”
While plenty of the predictions on this list might have a bit of doom and gloom hanging over them, companies finding ways to accurately capture value that they already had certainly doesn't sound like a loss.
The IoT Gets Real
Also from Infogix comes the assertion that the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to grow. It's a prediction that can be seen in the data, given the steady increase of internet-connected devices in use.
“Each passing year,” Infogix says, “marks an increase in the number of connected devices generating data and there is a steep rise in focusing on extraction of insights from this data. We are starting to see more and more defined IoT use cases leveraging data—from newer connected devices like sensors, and drones for analytics initiatives. With this, there is a growing demand for streaming data ingestion and analysis.”
Jeff Kavanaugh, senior manufacturing partner at the similarly-named Infosys, backs this one up, noting the benefit this will have business growth. “The exponential adoption of IoT will drive down sensor and acquisition costs, enabling more and more viable business cases that have previously been too expensive,” he says.
John Grimm of Thales Security, too, comes at a similar prediction from a different angle: He highlights the consolidation that he believes the IoT — and its “over 300-400 platform products” — will undergo in 2018.
“We will start to see an acceleration of consolidation,” he says. “The number of IoT products and platforms is growing, as well as the number of security bodies, initiatives and standards that are coming out.”
The impact for businesses: IT security concerns and traditional employee safety measures will overlap more and more. Meanwhile, consumers everywhere won't need to have a smartphone glued to their hand in order to remain connected: Voice assistants, thermostats, and, in some cases, wine bottles, will be internet-connected.
AI Hits the Design Field
Artificial intelligence can benefit any industry that currently uses the regular kind of intelligence, and that's all of them. As Mike Fitzmaurice, Vice President of Workflow Technology at Nintex, sees it, 2018 is “the year artificial intelligence and machine learning actually become packaged and provided to the average end-user in ways that do not require a Computer Science degree.” But out of the many ecosystems that will be increasingly their reliance on AI in 2018, one stands out as particularly interesting: The design sector.
“The overlap of data and design is an established and continuing trend, says Mark Baldino, cofounder of UX design firm Fuzzy Math. “With AI still in its infancy, UX and AI are miles apart, and we’re just now starting to see the work being done on them concurrently. As society wrestles with the implications of AI, design can and will play a part, with some of the implications between the two being rather immense.
We predict in 2018, we’ll begin seeing the implementation of tools for the design of AI as well a design language for it. We currently rely on old tools and interactions (or visualizations of data) to make sense of this, but 2018 should see strides in solving this. We may even see AI playing a role in helping designers design better, by utilizing data and algorithms to augment design capabilities.”
But of all the predictions surrounding fields like machine learning, automation, or IoT, one prediction stood out as a more comprehensive look at the psychology behind all these innovations and the people they affect.
We Need to Look at the Big Picture
Infosys's Jeff Kavanaugh has this statement, which is less of a prediction and more of a truism about how bad humans tend to be at changing their habits.
“The pace of change has exceeded the rate of human capability to absorb – the cup is already full,” Kavanaugh predicts. “In 2018, the real issue is how to increase the ability for people to understand the changes and their implications more clearly, and to take concrete actions to take advantage of the potential upside.”
So when you're watching the Times Square Ball drop this New Year's Eve, maybe take a moment for one resolution: To look inside yourself and rethink whether you've fully realized the possibilities surrounding you. In 2018, we're all affected and connected by the technology around us, and we need to understand exactly how we're being affected if we want to change it for the better.
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