By Sejal Jamnadas

A new year calls for a fresh new outlook on the tech landscape ahead of us. 2017 was the year of de-mystifying buzz words of techblockchain, augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, bots and IoT. Of course, these technologies are no longer a “trend” or an idealistic future state. Professionals across all industries, from legal, accounting, tech, arts and manufacturing are now required to be well-versed in a basic understanding of the concept and its application.

Looking into 2018, the tech itself is not going to be vastly different or revolutionary. Rather, as the tech becomes more intuitive, we now need to filter the noise of buzzwords and actually ensure the tech is relevant for people and organisations. The trend will be to better understand the application of these technologies through experimentation, prototyping, refinement and ultimately ensuring the platforms align 100% with the company’s vision. In short, institutions will be constantly obsessing over humans; creating value by ensuring their workers and customers are more satisfied.

The coming year will be about experimenting with wild possibilities, but also understanding how the core principles underlying block chain, virtual reality, cognitive computing and e-commerce will transform our experience of work and consumption.

Here are my Top 4 trends for 2018:

1. BLOCKCHAIN

Blockchain has long been (mostly just the last 5 years) the “star-studded techn trend”, best known for its underlying foundation for cryptocurrencies. If you haven’t invested in bitcoin or ethereum yourself, then you probably have a colleague that will boaster about their massive gains (or losses) as they check its market value on their phone every 10 minutes. Blockchain, simply put, is a distributed ledger that provides a way for information to be recorded and shared by a community. Beyond the popular hype of cryptocurrency, the impact on workflow processes, agreements and tasks have the potential to revolutionise supply chains. Nowadays with blockchain, it’s possible to track back products to the origin of raw material used, quickly determine supply, time-to-customer and exchange confidential business information from orders, shipping and contractual documents.

The next wave of change may not necessarily be centred around the shiny aura of speculative bitcoin trading. Rather, blockchain will shine again for its transformative benefits in an organisation’s most costly, laborious and outdated departments

2. AUGMENTED REALITY

Until now, we’ve mostly seen augmented reality (AR) delivered through our phones; Snapchat filters and Pokémon Go are the perfect example of simple mainstreams applications of an otherwise complex technology. While trying on puppy dog filters on Snapchat might seem relatively trivial, Snapchat’s inherent ability to process and interact with data through multiple mediums opens doors to a myriad of exciting applications. AR is the concept of overlaying contextual information on the immediate physical environment before our eyes, blending digital components and experiences with real life. The technology has become part of products itself, from viewing AR instructions for the maintenance of a hydraulic valve, to visualising the X-ray of a car’s engine and undercarriage. Beyond products, AR will dramatically improve performance across an organisation’s value chain, particularly in the areas of communication and collaboration, training and simulation and the re-invention of end-user customer experience.

AR will further become an imperative as society tries to address the fundamental disconnect between the wealth of digital data and the physical world of ‘people and things’. Torrents of data produced by billions of smart, connect products won’t nearly be as useful as extracting them onto a 3-dimensional medium and allowing humans to experience a new form of information processing.

3. COGNITIVE COMPUTING

Cognitive computing, used interchangeability with artificial intelligence, instantly brings to mind the sea of uniform silver robots in the 2004 Will Smith movie iRobot. The closest we ever really got to seeing human-like robots is the baby robot which greets customers outside of Tokyo’s flagship UNIQLO store. The qualities of these idealistic robots, however, have already had promising applications in manufacturing, professional services, agriculture and health care. Cognitive computing comprises of technology platforms which process information and mimics the human brain to reason, predict and make decisions.

The challenge going forward will be to make non-machine judgements on how we manage the impacts of a displaced workforce and ensure our judiciary, policy-making and education system factor in a future shared with machines that continue to learn.

4. E-COMMERCE

E-commerce is nothing new, but it continues to disrupt business models and consumer behaviours at an unprecedented rate. In 2018, e-commerce will be a magic brewing pot of augmented reality, virtual reality, cognitive chat bots, digital marketing, optimised and traceable supply chains, delivery drones, mobile platforms and personalisation through data. The recent intrusion of Amazon in Australia appears to be the classic trigger for consumer goods markets that are re-visiting their entire company vision.

The focus on customers will be a critical objective for all retailers, whether they play purely e-commerce, or a hybrid with brick-and-mortar stores. The competitive advantage won’t be in the number of technology platforms available, rather it will be that one time you spoke to a friendly customer assistant that offered you credit for the late delivery of your parcel.

Don’t believe everything the internet tells you

My tech trends for 2018 will definitely not be the same tech trends as thousands of other individuals and organisations that present their own research and points of view. What tech trend have you read about the most? More importantly, what intrigues you the most?

Check out some of my top references for staying on top of tech:

Deloitte Tech Trends 2018

Medium