From advances in 5G research (including a $370 million development pledge by tech giant Ericsson) and the rise of AI capable of beating human poker players, to the launch of exciting new AR-ready products such as the Apple iPhone X, 2017 certainly didn’t disappoint where tech development was concerned.
But the question is, can 2018 follow in the tech footsteps of 2017? In particular, will technology in potentially very lucrative areas, such as IoT, AI, AR, robotics, space continue to advance?
Here are our tech predictions for the next year.
Industrial IoT will mature
Over the past few years, the Internet of Things has become one of the most popular topics in the technology world, and it’s certainly growing quickly. According to Gartner, there will be a staggering 20.4 billion objects connected to the Internet by 2020.
Although many people predominantly associate the Internet of Things with smart home technology, that’s not to say it isn’t making waves in other areas. In fact, it’s having a major impact on industry.
Companies in industries such as manufacturing, engineering, energy and mining are using IoT technologies to improve their operational efficiency and identify new areas for growth. A report from professional services giant Accenture claims that the industrial Internet of Things will generate around $14.2 trillion by 2030, becoming the world’s biggest driver of productivity.
In 2018, industrial technologies will continue to mature, and more companies will invest in them. The IIoT Maturity Study, which was released in September 2017, found that 95% of companies believe that IoT is transforming their industries. And 73% of respondents said they have plans to plow more money into connected technology over the next year.
AI will keep advancing
If there’s one technology that dominated 2017 in particular, it has to be artificial intelligence. Whether beating professional chess players or writing code, computers have shown that they have the ability to compete with humans in terms of intelligence.
While AI technology hasn’t taken over the world just yet, it’s constantly advancing, and there’s no doubt that it’ll continue to impress in 2018. Thanks to the success of Alexa, Amazon has dominated the consumer AI market for the last few years.
But 2018 could be the year of Apple, especially as the HomePod smart speaker launches. While the product is set to cost around £300 (which is far more expensive than offerings from Amazon and Google), tech pundits mostly praised its capabilities so far.
As well as this, there will likely be lots of interesting AI innovation coming from China over the next year, and the country will become a frontrunner for the technology. The Chinese government has already committed to invest around $15 billion in the market over the coming months.
AR will be taken seriously
Virtual reality has dominated the technology scene for the past few months, and many of the world’s biggest tech firms have already launched their own VR headsets. AR, to some extent, has been neglected. There are lots of people who feel that it’s too early for the technology.
Apple, however, has remained a staunch champion of augmented reality technology. The firm’s CEO, Tim Cook, has previously suggested that AR will overtake virtual reality in the future. And with the launch of ARKit and rumors that the company is working on its own AR headset, the technology could well make more headlines in 2018.
American research firm Gartner believes that augmented reality will become one of the leading technologies in 2018. However, it also points to mixed reality, which essentially combines the power of AR and VR into one experience. Gartner said it’s “emerging as the immersive experience of choice providing a compelling technology that optimizes its interface to better match how people view and interact with their world.”
Richard Corps, co-founder and managing director of software company Ads Reality, is a big believer in AR. He says that in 2018 more industries will look to the technology. “Although AR has so far been predominantly linked to the gaming sector, many other industries are quickly starting to realize the potential benefits, one of which is retail,” he tells us.
British robotics will dominate
There’s a lot of uncertainty around Brexit and the fluctuating stock markets, but Britain could become a leading force of robotics in 2018. Britbots is one of the organizations supporting British robotics companies. It manages the British Robotics Seed Fund, which offers funding to UK-based businesses developing autonomous technologies for land, air and sea.
In November, the organization injected a £300,000 funding package into Tethered Drone Systems, and we could see more of these success stories in 2018. Dominic Keen, founder and CEO of Britbots, says: “Much is written about tomorrow’s world of driverless cars, where we are to be seamlessly whisked around by an all-pervasive fleet of unmanned road vehicles.
“However, the complexity of the road network and the high consequences of failure suggest that the public’s first experience of self-driving objects is much more likely to happen well away from roads; and human beings probably won’t be the cargo.”
Future of space is reusable
Technology entrepreneur Elon Musk is famed for his ambitious claims, although he certainly knows how to achieve a major milestone. At the start of the year, SpaceX made history when it managed to launch and land a previously used rocket. And a little over a week ago, his firm launched ten satellites into space.
In 2018, reusable rockets could dominate. According to Musk, the Falcon 9 rocket could be completely reusable by 2018. “Fairing is ~$5M, but that should be reusable this year. Am fairly confident we can reuse upper stage too by late next year to get to 100%,” he tweeted back in April. This could make space technology cheaper and more accessible.
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