2017 was an eventful year for tech, from WannaCry to the Equifax breach to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. With the foundations being laid for the emergence of a range of thematic sectors, 2018 promises to be an exciting year in which a number of technologies will begin to fulfil their true potentials.
Internet of Things (IoT)
With Amazon’s Alexa, IoT is truly in the mainstream. Smart connected homes are now a reality, as are industrial, commercial and office environments. The potential applications of IoT are limitless and these will continue to become ever more prevalent in 2018.
Bitcoins, cryptocurrencies and blockchain
Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in 2017 brought cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the technology on which they are built, into the mainstream. Despite regulators around the world warning investors of the risks in investing in cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin’s value rose to an all-time high of more than US$19,000 in December 2017 (trading at just over half that value at the time writing). Bitcoin’s success has spawned a huge number of alternative cryptocurrencies which were launched in the form of Initial Coin Offerings by startups around the world who were keen to capitalise on a relatively easy fundraising environment in which investors were clamouring to replicate Bitcoin returns.
As cryptocurrencies become better understood, so too will the underlying blockchain technology. With the technology having the potential to revolutionise a range of industries, from finance to healthcare, it will no doubt continue to feature prominently as applications come to the fore in 2018 and beyond.
WannaCry, a type of ransomware, had a huge impact on businesses and public sector organisations globally in 2017 whilst a disturbingly large number of firms (for example, Equifax) had their consumer data hacked. With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) taking effect this year and the need for firms to safeguard themselves from what seems to be an exponentially expanding range of cyber threats, cybersecurity will perhaps be one of the most important issues for the global economy in 2018.
2017 saw many predicting that AI will take over the world, particularly prognosticating that the proliferation of AI will usher in an era where most jobs would be eliminated. Whilst that depressing prediction is an unlikely outcome, at least in the short term, AI has come a long way from beating humans at chess or on game shows. 2018 will see AI move from hype to real and tangible applications, from autonomous vehicles to healthcare applications such as diagnostics and hospital operations to ever more intelligent personal assistants.