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What’s Hot in technology: 2018

January 3, 2018

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Looking forward into 2018 here are the thoughts of David Smith, Chief Executive of Global Futures and Foresight and SAMI Associate. He is always worth listening to on technology futures, so we post this as the first of our 2018 blogs.

  1. Hashgraph

Blockchain will undoubtedly create waves in 2018 and beyond, from the Bitcoin express through to practical uses in smart contracts and across countless industries. This is not to suggest that this new technology will not in time be supplanted itself by competitors offering improved features. Hashgraph, for example, claims to work at 50,000 the speed of blockchain, whilst proving mathematically fairer and using less energy. 2018 will see an explosion in rival technologies underpinning new cryptocurrency and ledger systems.

  1. Shoppable social

The lines between retail, social network and entertainment will blur to an even greater extent in 2018 than we have seen thus far. Amazon has already launched a shoppable social network called Spark whilst Buy+, a Chinese virtual reality shopping experience backed by Alibaba, engaged over 8 million users within a week of launching.’ Social video, and other virtual interfaces, could represent the future of retail since 2019 is expected to see video comprising 85 percent of net traffic and 50 percent of commerce arriving via mobile.

  1. Data becomes toxic

Data competency has already ordained winners and losers and in 2018, it will continue to do so, albeit from new perspectives. Data volume will overwhelm all but the most prepared since average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months – meaning, within a couple of years, the total information volume may double every 11 hours. Allied to volume is a common vulnerability in many data models. Many lack explicit consumer consent – especially via apps, and few have equivalent to ‘key facts’ in financial services. As consumers realise the value inherent in their data, the unspoken legal risk in data models will upend all but the most prepared. What data we hold and how we use it will be the life and death of our companies.

  1. Employees+

Perhaps with an eye towards automation or else simply improving their marketplace standing, 70 percent of employees say they would consider mind and body-boosting treatments if it improved their job prospects. Although futuristic sounding, smart drugs such as modafinil are already reportedly widespread in academia, industry and beyond. HR policies may need revisiting to place guidelines for brainhacking and other routes employees will be seeking to gain an edge.

  1. Self-inflating structures

With housing shortages contributing to acute market misalignments in some advanced economies, and the need for ‘insta-infrastructure,’ following catastrophes around the world, a new built form paradigm is required. Furthermore, companies will increasingly value flexible solutions to their office space issues. 3D printing already provides a platform for addressing these issues. In 2018, more tech-based solutions will appear to compliment it, such as MIT’s self-inflating structures project that works as a ‘…functional tool for things such as distributed assembly processes, transportation of goods, emergency response and architecture.’ Flexibility in the built form could radically redraw the economy; in 2018 we expect proto examples of this change of direction to hit the headlines.

  1. Interaction 4.0

The way we will buy, build and use technology is changing rapidly, which means the teams and ecosystems that build it and run it will need to change too. Designers should be especially cognizant of this. In 2016 mobile net use overtook computer net use, whilst by 2020, ‘…50 percent of all searches could be voice searches, and around 30 percent will involve no screen whatsoever.’ VR, holograms, AR and haptics will all feature; 2018 will see the omnichannel become a lot more crowded.

  1. New consumer industries (from colliding technologies/industries)

Consumers ‘…demand experiences, not just products, and have become active participants at every stage of the value chain.’ In many cases this erodes industry boundaries and creates new markets at the intersections of collision, such as wellcare where health, wellness and beauty collide. There is no one single technology that is singularly driving this Hot trend; rather the realisation that B2B2C markets are reconfiguring into delivering desired consumer outcomes. How to organise for this – in terms of aligning organisation structure to technology provision – will be key.

  1. Photonics

As an intermediate step on the path to quantum computing, photonic computing could provide the ‘…same accuracy as the best conventional chips while slashing the energy consumption by orders of magnitude and offering 100 times the speed. By 2020, larger systems capable of achieving multiple Exaflops are forecast to arrive. That would enable even handheld devices to have AI capabilities built into them without outsourcing the heavy lifting to large servers, something that would otherwise be next to impossible.’ All data could therefore be processed in near real-time, at the edge of networks such as the IoT. IT strategies, consumer behaviour and the architecture within which to operate would all shift as a result, some in unpredictable ways.

  1. Personalised analytics

With McKinsey estimated around a third of the current CEO remit is already outsourceable, and examples of mass automation of management roles already appearing with hedgefunds and beyond, 2018 will see a clamour from professionals seeking to future-proof their roles. Ironically, A.I may provide an answer. ‘Personalized analytics (will) become mirrors and lenses for refocusing professional effectiveness, says MIT research fellow, Michael Schrage MIT research fellow. ‘Michael envisions selvesware serving the role of a perpetually present leadership coach providing real-time advice on executive behaviour.’

  1. Machines have their own bank accounts

There can be little doubt that widespread automation brings about a raft of societal and ethical questions. Hitherto fringe ideas will gain currency as the automated economy takes hold. The rights of robots to the fruits of their own production may become one such issue in the near future. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia is reportedly looking into the implications of a future in which ‘…machines have their own bank accounts and pay for replacement parts and engineers to service them,’ whilst the European Union has already called for ‘the consideration of a Civil Law Rule of Robots’. Intellectual property rights could flow from this, suggesting machines could become their own economic agents in the near future to a degree currently considered unthinkable.

Written by David Smith, Chief Executive, Global Futures and Foresight.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

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