From driverless cars to 5G, 2018 sees the world on the brink of numerous exciting technological developments. We’re getting the year underway with a look at some of the new technologies that could transform life and business in the months and years to come.
1. AI and machine learning
Hear the term ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) and the chances are your thoughts will turn to sci fi films and robots. But AI and machine learning are no longer the stuff of the big screen; they’re here for real, powered by the computing advances and by the incredible amount of data now available. Whether it’s devices like Alexa that can listen and obey, or software that can analyse the emotional tone of social media posts, the possible applications for machine learning for both consumers and businesses are limitless.
More and more businesses are now using machine learning to gain competitive advantage. For instance, it can be used to analyse user behaviour, automatically learning about their preferences and enabling greater personalisation. To give another example, in the future, augmented reality could enable consumers to try your products before buying them, reducing the likelihood of complaints or poor reviews.
2. The Internet of Things
Known by the abbreviation ‘IoT’, the Internet of Things refers to ‘smart’ products that are connected to the internet, from smart phones to Fitbits, cars to kettles. IHS forecasts that by 2020, there’ll be a staggering 75 billion connected devices by 2020.
With more and more products now connected to the internet, there will be numerous implications for businesses. To give one example, IoT facilitates automation, which streamlines business operations by reducing human workloads and making workflows more efficient. IHS gives the example of a fleet management system automatically logging hours driven, saving drivers having to do so manually.
Smart devices can also be integrated with other systems, such as customer service management software, to offer a better service and user experience to consumers. Of course, the amount of data available is growing exponentially thanks to devices that gather and share usage data without the user even realising it. More data means more insights into consumer behaviour, and that means improvements to everything from product design and user experience to marketing campaigns.
Faster than 4G and with even more benefits, 5G is coming soon and it’s going to be a huge leap forward in mobile network technology. While 4G can deliver download speeds of 300Mbit/s, 5G looks set to offer over 1Gb/s, and possibly even as much as 10Gb/s. Not only does this offer a better user experience, but the faster speeds will enable even more advances in the Internet of Things. Read more about 5G here.
4. Driverless cars
We’ve been hearing about driverless cars for some time now, but we’re getting closer and closer to this technology being a reality. Just before Christmas it was announced that self-parking cars will be legalised in the UK. Teslas are already equipped with the technology to drive themselves; the company boasts that all their cars “have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver”.
Google is famously testing autonomous vehicles under the banner of Waymo, while a host of other manufacturers have plans in the pipeline. Waymo’s vision sums up the potential of this technology: “Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, without tired, drunk or distracted driving. Time spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want, as the car handles all of the driving.” Just think of all the emails you could answer while you’re on the way to the office. Check out Nominet’s amazing work regarding driverless cars here.
5. Cyber Security
Finally, after a year in which we’ve seen numerous high-profile cyber attacks, cyber security looks set to continue to be a hot topic for 2018. It’s not just big companies who are at risk from cyber attacks; any business holding customer data needs to put cyber security centre stage. What’s more, with the Internet of Things meaning that more and more devices are connected to the internet, the opportunities for cyber criminals are more widespread than ever before. Machine learning will become increasingly important for detecting suspicious behaviour, and for automatically identifying and correcting weaknesses in security; but experts warn that criminals can also use such technology to their advantage in their attacks.