As 2018 ends, the Internet has become swarmed with articles about technology trends for 2019. But how do these trends impact us as consumers? We’ve narrowed down the top 5 trends in our opinion.
1. Empathic Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a burning hot topic that just keeps getting hotter every passing day. Analysts from Gartner have predicted that within the next few years, almost every new software will have some form of AI embedded inside.
2019 is likely to be a big year (again) for AI. We can expect better personalized experiences, increased relevance and recommendations of content within your mobile applications. As consumers are demanding personalized services and treatment, consumer-facing AI solutions are likely to get more humanized features and be able to better understand human emotions and the context. In practice this means AI detecting human emotions more accurately and reliably from facial expressions and speech using deep leaning and neural network algorithms, and reacting to those with tailored response. As AI begins to understand us better, AI assistants, chatbots and customer service robots will become more useful, and more human-like.
2. Smart homes and other intelligent digital environments
The research and advisory company Gartner describes smart space as a “physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems”. An example of such a space is a smart city — where data is collected from different sensors and devices and utilized to provide digital services for the citizens and optimize efficiency of the city operations such as traffic, public transportation, waste management and other infrastructure activities. One of the successful live examples of a smart city is Singapore where smart solutions bring convenience for the everyday lives of people: most of the governmental services are available digitally and more and more services via mobile, extensive real-time traffic and transportation data is publicly available, and wide sensor platform enhances the safety and helps improving the city operations. There is a growing trend in new initiatives as IDC expects the global smart city investments nearly double from the expected $81 billion in 2018 to $158 billion in 2022.
Another smart space, much closer to the heart of consumers is the smart home. As the global household penetration of smart homes, including networked devices such as Amazon’s Alexa home assistant and integrated smart heating and security systems and related services, will be 9.5% in 2019 and is expected to reach 22.1% by 2023, an entire ecosystem of applications and services will begin to change the way we interact with technology in our homes. Soon it will become mainstream to control the temperature of the room, dim the lights and even open and close the curtains all with a simple voice command.
In 2019, many of us will choose to purchase smart home appliances and integrated home automation systems because of the increased convenience those gadgets bring.
3. Automation in our everyday lives
Invention of the ATM in 1960s started a digital self-service era automating the process of certain monetary transactions like the depositing and withdrawing of cash making the task easier and quicker for us — and for the bank — to focus our time on other activities. From that time, automation has come a long way.
In 2019, automation is expected to be more prevalent in our lives than before. According to Gartner, there are five types of autonomous objects: robotics, vehicles, drones, appliances and agents. As robots, drones and driverless cars have already begun to gain traction in the technology field with several pilot projects around the world, and the implementation of chatbots in e-commerce and voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri have started to become mainstream popular in 2018, we can only expect many more use cases to serve us in our daily lives this year. For example, some fast-food chains already use automated machines that allow you to order food without queuing. Soon, restaurants might even start “hiring” robots to serve you! With the integration of AI, autonomous things will gradually become more self-enabled to interact naturally with both their surroundings and with people. Amazing how far we’ve come, isn’t it?
Despite the countless applications that have made our daily routines more effortless, autonomous technology has always been a controversial topic in relation to unemployment. There is a high probability that autonomous technology will displace employees from routine jobs comprising repetitive tasks such as book keeping and manufacturing, and in the not so far future, even knowledge workers. In 2019, the automation is already likely to have significant changes in our lives as Forrester predicts that “by the end of 2019, automation will eliminate 20% of all service desk interactions, due to a successful combination of cognitive systems, RPA [Robotic Process Automation], and various chatbot technologies”.
4. Blockchain in data privacy and security
Blockchain is probably best known as the technology working behind the recent cryptocurrency mania and as one of the most popular concepts in the tech industry today. Unsurprisingly, blockchain technology has many applications outside the crypto domain.
Blockchain can be defined as a distributed database of perpetually growing set of new recordings, or ‘blocks’, as they are being added to the existing database. Each block contains a timestamp linking to the previous block, forming a chain. What is different about this database is that, due to its distributed nature, no data can be deleted once added making it impossible to forge fake information or transactions. The essential function of blockchain lies in its ability to provide transparency not only to consumers but across business ecosystems as well. This beckons the topic of data privacy and ethics. With the recent enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 and several large-scale data breaches happened all over the world in 2018 affecting hundreds of millions of users across the globe, consumers have begun to be more aware about the value of their personal information and how public and private organizations use their data.
So what can you expect from blockchain technology in 2019? If you’re someone who’s concerned about the privacy of your data, you’ll be relieved to know that blockchain will benefit you in a variety of ways:
- Secure data exchange in IoT devices. The trend shows that large companies are already looking into options to use blockchain technology for secure data exchange in IoT (Internet of Things) devices, which vulnerability to cyber-attacks has been one of the main concerns in the IoT space. For example, a technology company IBM, who has been actively developing blockchain solutions since the beginning of the boom, filed a new patent in the end of 2018 for a system to securely manage data exchange of unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones to increase security and privacy. With solution the critical data such as drone’s location, model, flying pattern and proximity to restricted flight zones are stored and managed in the unchangeable and distributed ledger that, for example, airspace controllers and other authorities could enhance safety and ensure authorized use of drones in certain areas.
- Secure decentralized access to personal data. Blockchain can also be used for secure validation to prevent unauthorized access for personal data. For example, MIT has been developing a blockchain-based distributed access and validation solution for personal healthcare data where the patients have the full control of their medical history and they can decide who gets the permission to access to it. Similar services can be used for granting access to any type of confidential data from business documents to privacy data of individuals that different authorities may need to process.
- Secure decentralized data storage. There are already several start-ups developing secure decentralized data storages to protect private and personal data and control the access to the data. In the decentralized system, the data is broken up into smaller pieces, stored across different nodes in the network, and then encrypted with a private key that only the owner of the data can control, making it less vulnerable to hacks.
5. Diving into the digital world: immersive technology
The goal of immersive tech is to create an ‘always-on’ environment, a real-time flow of stimuli. Gartner predicts that immersive technologies will transform our relationship with the environment within the next decade. The way we perceive the world will evolve with the emergence of technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR). From pure entertainment to medicine, education and the workplace, there are many applications of immersive technologies.
With the recent developments wearable immersive technologies such as the Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One, bigger changes might be seen already in 2019. Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to stay on a farm? Or see what a piece of furniture will look like in your home? You need not book a tour to the country side or visit showrooms to shop, just put on a VR headset to experience the farm life ‘first-hand’ or look through your smartphone to ‘project’ the furniture into your home in reality. In fact, IKEA has already launched an AR consumer app in 2017 to ‘try before you buy’. This way, you can make measurements and shop from the comfort of your own home without the hassle of making a trip down to the store where you’ll have to imagine the layout in your head.
Big players like Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are placing their early bets on immersive technologies. For example, in 2014, Facebook bought an immersive technology developer Oculus for $2 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money, we know. The immersive technology market is expected to soar over the next few years. By 2022, 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies both for consumer and enterprise use. When combined with technologies such as artificial intelligence, immersive technology can be used to create extremely personalized products and experiences to make interactions with technology seamless and natural — almost making us unaware that we’re communicating with a machine!
Although these trends are not all new, interesting developments are expected to take place in 2019. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, we hope you’re at least as excited as we are for what’s to come. Let us know which of these trends you think will take 2019 by storm in the comments on Medium. We would love to hear what you think!