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How technology and data will continue to shape our world in 2018

By Marcus Lambert

Technology is often accused of removing jobs from the employment landscape. The rise of the machines stands accused of performing some tasks faster, safer, cheaper and more accurately than their human masters. We also need to remember that there are a wealth of new digital skills and job roles that will replace the ones we no longer need. This is called progress.

History buffs will tell you that we’ve been here before during the industrial revolution. The biggest lesson we can learn from our past is that we need to invest in educating the workforce of tomorrow with the valuable skills required for a digital age. Ensuring that employees of all ages come along for the ride and are armed with a new set of skills is something that most tech articles seldom tackle.

Education and retraining is possibly the biggest challenge that awaits staff in 2018. But let’s take a look at some of the trends that will continue to dominate the year ahead.

Voice Technology
The days of feeling awkward when talking to an electronic device are disappearing. Whether your digital assistant of choice is Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana, there’s no denying that voice technology has already entered the mainstream.

As we increasingly use our voice to control our home heating, lighting or entertainment system, it’s our expectation levels that have received the most significant upgrade. As a result, hotels are installing Amazon Echo devices in its rooms. Meanwhile Crestron and Amazon are also bringing Alexa to conference rooms via a new enterprise skill.

2017 will be remembered as the year that voice control transformed our homes. But, we can expect this same technology to engulf almost every aspect of our lives from the office to our next holiday. Gartner predicts that 30% of all interactions with devices will be voice-based by 2018. Brands will need to think about adopting new search strategies to ensure their messages continue to reach their consumers.

Data Is the New Gold
The quantified self-movement have been self-tracking every aspect of their lives for some time now. Technology enables anyone to track their heart rate, blood pressure, weight, exercise, calorie intake and look for trends or how to improve their health. Replacing a reactive approach to healthcare could dramatically change everything, but this is only the beginning.

Businesses are also doing the same, they’ve started to collect more and more data, the group conversations in our messaging apps, our browsing habits, our mouse movements, Facebook check-ins, tweets and purchases all leave unique digital footprints. VR/AR is also starting to produce data with eye tracking, allowing us to detect basic emotions.

Advances in deep learning and other machine learning will continue to pave the way to create a real-time personalised service on any device at the right time.

Data Visualisation
There is now an unprecedented deluge of data against our personal profiles. The brands that are able to understand each customer as an individual through their data will be incredibly successful in 2018. Companies such as Sitecore, IBM, Adobe and Evergage all investing heavily into making real-time personalized digital experiences a reality, but all eyes will be on the brands that put the technology to good use without being too creepy.

In a world where data is widely considered to be the new gold, how do we make sense of it all? People falling asleep in boardrooms while someone talks through the latest figures in a spreadsheet or experiencing death by PowerPoint should be confined to the past.

We are bombarded with content on a daily basis and now expect to see a visually appealing breakdown of essential information. The ability to produce attractive charts, visualisations, and info-graphics without the need to code is something that Adobe is already exploring.


Capturing and securing data is crucial, but in 2018, businesses will also be expected to produce information with interactive visualization to bring the story to life.

After years of gathering as much data as possible, businesses finally began to make this information valuable through advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence in 2017. However, as we look towards another year of opportunities, many will nervously be anticipating the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May.

Recent news that Uber was caught red-handed trying to cover-up a data hack exposing the details of 57 million customers and drivers was an early warning of what could happen next year. If this incident occurred when GDPR goes live, Uber would have been faced with 4% fine of its global annual revenue, or €20m (£17.75m)

Equally, TalkTalk’s £400,000 penalty in 2017 would be £71 Million under the new GDPR ruling. Securing and managing data more efficiently will become a huge trend next year. Cybersecurity can no longer be ignored by the boardroom now, the ROI of remaining in business should be enough to get everyone on board.

In a digital world where breaches and hacks have become the norm, it will be interesting to see if GDPR makes examples of a few unfortunate companies by issuing substantial business-crippling fines. Alternatively, they might offer help and leniency during the opening months, but with 4% annual revenue at stake, businesses should ignore GDPR at their peril.

As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said ‘Bots are the new apps’ we seem to be in a post app era now, with chatbots becoming the face of AI. Chatbots , AI and messaging all point toward the new digital experience coming, which is, in a word, convergence, the multi-channel focus will evolve to an interconnectedness that your customers access from one central point.

Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies
Its been difficult to ignore Blockchain and cryptocurrencies this year, but 2018 will provide the watershed moment where these buzzwords will enter the mainstream. Entire industries are ripe for business and blockchain is seen by many as a way of removing bad actors, and bringing much needed trust, accountability, and transparency into transactions.

Although there is still a great deal of confusion around blockchain technology, words like an indelible audit trail is a language that everyone can understand. As pilot projects begin to mature, we can expect early adopting businesses to start heading towards an operationalized blockchain. These will be seen as significant steps forward into a new era where we will begin to see exactly what benefits the digital transformation will bring.

The success of blockchain will also enable people to see the value in cryptocurrencies that are built on this technology. Once businesses grasp the value of automated micro-transactions made between machines, we can also expect cryptocurrencies to enter the mainstream too.

Although, you might be cynical now, I suspect that this time next year most people will know their LiteCoins from their Ripples and what Coinbase is. And you can quote me on that one. Elsewhere we can expect augmented reality to further blur the lines between our digital and physical world. But, what trends do you think will dominate the year ahead? Let us know by tweeting us @omobono_digital.

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