So long 2017! But while your puppy/cat/fireman calendar of the last year might be obsolete now, the strides we saw technology take in 2017 are likely going to be as relevant in 2018. That’s right folks, just because we said goodbye to another year doesn’t mean we can say goodbye to news about cryptocurrencies, net neutrality debates, or the proliferation of voice assistants. Much of the emerging tech we saw over the last 365 days will continue to grow, evolve, and integrate itself more deeply within our everyday lives over the next 365. Here are those, and a few other tech trends that we predict will be big in 2018.
The FCC may have voted to overturn net neutrality in the USA in late 2017, but expect net neutrality to continue to be a subject of debate throughout 2018. From political endeavours to reinstating federal net neutrality to pushes to implement municipally owned and operated broadband networks, expect people around the world to continue to react to the way corporations and governments are reshaping how we access the internet. Expect similar debates to increase in frequency in Canada.
You couldn’t go anywhere this holiday season without witnessing huge marketing efforts for Amazon’s Echo and Google Home devices. These efforts were not in vain, with smart speaker sales doubling in 2017 according to a report from Adobe. Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant became household names, and voice became a standard of how we interact with technology. With Apple looking to get in on the smart speaker boom with its HomePod (slated for early 2018 release) and the marketplace for Alexa skills (like apps, but for Alexa) growing as well, voice interaction will only continue to proliferate in 2018. You’ll likely see Alexa and Siri in more places than ever, as more manufacturers start to integrate voice assistants into their own products (“Siri, start heating up the Volkswagen”). Opportunities for engaging with consumers through voice interaction will continue to grow proportionally.
With the extreme volatility of Bitcoin and the like, it might be a fool’s errand to try and predict anything in the realm of cryptocurrency. We’re going to hedge our bets a bit and predict… continued unpredictability for cryptocurrencies in 2018. On one hand, the stock of companies that introduce their own cryptocurrencies have shot up following announcements (see Kodak). On the other, companies like Steam and Microsoft have suspended (or outright removed) support for cryptocurrency transactions following market volatility. Continuing speculative investments on Bitcoin will also continue to cause price fluctuations. Moreover, events like South Korea’s recently proposed ban on local cryptocurrency transactions caused a 12% drop in Bitcoin prices, so expect government legislation attempting to exert regulation over cryptocurrencies to continue to cause price volatility (expect many governments to push back against the uncentralized, deregulated nature of cryptocurrencies).
While this extreme market volatility and uncertainty will continue to hamper widespread adoption by vendors and merchants, infrastructure is being created to more deeply integrate Bitcoin with existing cash and currency systems. For instance, companies like PayCo recently launched services for vendors to accept Bitcoin but get paid in fiat currency - legal tender whose value is backed by it’s issuing government. So while Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will continue to experience high price volatility through 2018, expect more strides to be made towards integrating cryptocurrencies with existing systems.
As the internet of things continues to grow and camera sensors improve over 2018, expect augmented reality (AR) to continue to grow in popularity, especially in the realm of smartphones and mobile applications. Competitors will seek to compete with the iPhone X and the Pixel 2’s emphasis on augmented reality (we predict the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S9 will feature technology similar to Apple’s TrueDepth Camera or Google’s Google Lens), driving AR development. AR tools for construction, engineering, and architectural industries will continue to evolve and handheld device AR technology will continue to grow and become commonplace in 2018. AR focused wearables (think goggles and glasses like Google Glass) will continue to develop and be brought to market, but won’t take off in a mainstream sense in 2018. The Vuzix Blade AR glasses which debuted in the first week and a half of 2018 are perhaps the most promising of these. They’re purported to be lightweight, comfortable, and they actually work effectively in displaying information to the user (no more having to stare at the upper right corner of your vision to see your heads up display). Moreover, these glasses are integrated with Amazon’s Alexa. What is holding AR glasses back from becoming mainstream is a combination of aesthetics and affordability. Fitbit pushed the growth of activity trackers in large part due to their customizability (different bands and different models), aesthetic appeal, and products at a wide range of price points. Once AR glasses start to look cool and become affordable, expect them to fly off the shelves. As for virtual reality? We think we’ll have to wait until 2019 before VR truly explodes as a consumer product. Look for VR to increase in popularity as the gap between market hype and real, purchasable products closes.
As AI pattern recognition and machine learning becomes increasingly powerful, society has started to harness artificial intelligence to do help with jobs like writing basic news articles and creating videos. Those 30 second voice-less news videos you see on Facebook? Those were generated largely by an algorithm. As machine learning continues to get more powerful, a greater amount of content will be generated (in part) by artificial intelligence. We forecast that jobs related to basic content creation will be continually affected by automation in 2018, as well as traditional service-based jobs. Expect technology to force governments and workers to adapt to a new economic reality.
Get ready for an explosion of apps that emphasize the collective experience in 2018. Look no further than the rapidly growing app HQ Trivia that released in 2017 (and for Android in late 2017). The app is basically a hosted trivia game show where participants answer a series of twelve multiple choice questions in order to win a portion of the cash prize. Participants that answer a question correctly move on to the next question, while those who get it wrong are knocked out of the game. The catch? Participants aren’t limited. There aren’t specific games for specific servers or groups. The game occurs globally at set times during the week. So lots, and lots, and lots of people play - and the app is only growing. About 730,000 people were playing on Christmas day in a bid to win a slice of the $12,000 prize. With the success of HQ Trivia (and server and connectivity technology constantly improving), you can expect to see more apps that take on this trend of emphasizing the collective experience.
2017 was an enormous year for tech, both in terms of making headlines and in terms of forward momentum. 2018 is looking like it will both build on and complicate the strides forwards, the controversies, and the stories that we saw affect the world of technology in 2018.