It’s a rather gloomy perspective to take at the beginning of a New Year, but one potential scenario for 2018 is that the geo-political outlook for the next 12 months will become even more confrontational, chaotic and unpredictable than it was in the last.
Whether or not you subscribe to that notion, it is undeniably the case that, due to fears of international ‘threats’ (from dodgy chip-sets to cutting intercontinental Internet cables), cybersecurity is being increasingly deployed to try to help us be better protected, as well as more connected.
In fact, cybersecurity will be one of the cross-sector considerations that will increasingly underpin a growing number of technologies. The dizzying array of new devices, capturing and processing new classes of data, produce new classes of potential threat. This coming year is also when (in spite of our impending Brexit), our adoption of the EU GDPR regulation is likely to encourage significant innovation in the fields of data privacy.
For these reasons, 2018 is likely to be cybersecurity’s Annus mirabilis.
In the Digital Economy and Creative Industries team here at KTN, we’ve been thinking about the nature of things like robotics and automation. One designer friend of ours is fearful for innovation over the next decade, because he feels that its main focus is going to be about automation – which means putting folk out of jobs. I’m more optimistic – I think that we are less likely to see robotic humans, and much more likely to see robots like this, which will also help to solve our labour shortages.
Much of this depends, of course, on game-changing artificial intelligence. And during 2018, I think we’ll begin to see some of the ethical issues of AI, such as data privacy and algorithmic prejudice, come more to the fore – as evidenced by examinations of the societal impacts of AI by the Royal Society and the recent launch of an Ethics & Society unit by AI pioneer DeepMind.
We’re also likely to see professional services disrupted as AI evolves beyond productivity benefits from physical robotics and much more towards those for services. AI’s potential to rapidly sift and analyse large amounts of data makes it ideally suited to the financial services sector, where the use of so-called ‘robo-advisors’ is a growing trend – while leading global law firms such as London-headquartered Clifford Chance are already seeing the benefits of the technology for their clients.
Through its stewardship of Immerse UK, KTN is also deeply involved with the growth of immersive technologies.
Increasingly, we’re coming to the conclusion that while there’s a lot of hype for VR/AR, and probably we’re never going to get to this, we are seeing some real value in practical, industrial B2B AR/VR applications – for example, in the construction industry. In fact, ImmerseUK and i3P – another industry membership organisation managed by KTN – co-hosted a panel session at Digital Construction Week last year where immersive solutions to infrastructure challenges were presented.
Also in 2018, we think that we’ll begin to get beyond blockchain technologies being used for crypto-currencies and more towards relevant, practical applications.
Relatively small-scale, niche marketplaces needing secure transactions seem to be ideal early applications for blockchain. Ticketing for events and concerts seems to be an early front-runner – as used by GUTS and PassageX, which use blockchain tech to promise an end to ticket fraud.
Speeding up the process
My last prediction for 2018 is that we’re going to begin to see some experiments with 5G. There’s no 5G infrastructure around at the moment, but 5G characteristics – high bandwidth, mesh technologies and low latencies – are on their way. 5G may just be a useful tag to describe a wide range of next generation technologies and services which over consumers and business better connectivity, enabling some very exciting lifestyle and societal changes. It’s hard to envisage truly connected smart cities when some of the UK population still cannot currently get a 4G signal on their mobile, but watch this space.
We often express mobile telecommunications breakthroughs in terms of how it benefits us as human users – but it is interesting to think of 5G as a revolution in telecommunications that is being predominantly developed for the benefit of machines talking to machines.
In short, then, my top 5 areas for increased innovation focus for 2018 are:
· AI and professional services
· Immersive technologies
· 5G-like connectivity
We’ll be taking a closer look at all of these technologies in a new series of podcasts beginning later this month. Meantime, please contact me to send me examples of the above (we may be able to showcase your innovation to a wide range of audiences).