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News : What to expect from tech in 2018

What to expect from tech in 2018

Happy new year! As a technology provider, we make sure to keep our eye on the latest tech trends. 2017 was a bit of a rollercoaster for technology. We saw electric cars go from strength to strength (as for the driverless ones, not so much). Meanwhile, the stratospheric rise of Bitcoin and the blockchain took everyone by surprise. But it was the widespread adoption of “smart home” technology, particularly home assistants like the Amazon Echo, that was perhaps the biggest tech milestone of the year.

It wasn’t all good news though; earlier in the year, the WannaCry ransomware attack caused worldwide disruption, including to our own NHS. Elsewhere, the Internet suffered multiple blows with the Stateside scrapping of net neutrality and the alarming spread of “fake news”, clickbait and other such nastiness.

So what will 2018 bring to the technological table? No-one can say for sure; the success or failure of any given venture depends on the fickle and often unpredictable general populace, and one can never be quite sure what the big tech companies - and the small ones - have up their sleeves. That said, here are our predictions for the year in tech!

The smart assistant gets smarter

As of right now, I can turn to Alexa or Google and ask them to play me a song, answer a question or give me directions. But will these supposedly “smart” assistants ask ME anything, or even speak up of their own accord? Not likely. However, the steady advance of AI and the growing ubiquity of smart technology will imbue these little helpers with new capabilities in 2018. As smart devices continue to converge and integrate with one another, smart assistants will gain more data about you, and thus more functionality.

In our opinion, a truly “smart” assistant will be able to advise you on the best course of action in any situation, without needing to be prompted. Your smart companion will give you directions while you’re on the go, learn and remind you of your regular habits, and even tell you when your roast is ready to retrieve from the oven. We think there’ll be important strides made towards this level of artificial intelligence this year.

Your world, augmented

There won’t be many people who weren’t aware about the Pokémon Go craze of summer 2016. It was a cultural phenomenon. While interest in the game  may have dropped off since then, its underlying gimmick - the superimposition of virtual critters in the real world via “augmented reality” - lends itself to a raft of other applications, which we think we’ll be seeing more of this year.

Companies like IKEA are already jumping on this emerging technology, using AR to allow customers to see a digital preview of furniture directly in their homes. The possibilities presented by this reinvention of the “heads-up display” could see a resurgence in the much-maligned “smart glasses” we saw a couple of years ago.

IT on the edge

“The cloud” has been a hot topic for what seems like forever, but in 2018 that’s set to change. As the Internet of Things continues to march onward and the consumer portfolio of connected and “smart” devices grows ever larger, a new need is emerging - a need to process data extremely quickly. This isn’t a need that applies everywhere; for the majority of cloud use cases, from file access to hosted applications to gaming and much more, high-speed internet connections are more than adequate. For these purposes, the cloud isn’t going anywhere. But we’re not talking seconds, we’re talking milliseconds; the time needed for a driverless car to react to a hazard, for a drone to correct its course, for all manner of time-sensitive situations. In these scenarios, sending data to the cloud and back simply isn’t quick enough.

This year we’re likely to see a shift towards “edge computing”: data processing done either within the hardware itself (device edge) or within nearby infrastructure (cloud edge). What minimal latency exists between a device and “the cloud” is all but impossible to resolve. The only solution is to move time-critical processing jobs closer to the device in question, while reserving the mammoth horsepower present in the cloud for longer-term machine learning and processing.

Though no-one can be sure exactly what 2018 holds for technology, and there are sure to be a few surprises on the way, we think these three innovations will be the year’s biggest movers and shakers. Why not come back this time next year to see if we were right?

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