The Year in Tech 2018-2019 – Innovations, Milestones and More

PJ Surani / 2 weeks / No Comments

A quick Google search reveals hundreds of reports, articles and statistics charting the meteoric pace of digital change. Sometimes it’s well worth glancing back over our shoulder to see just how far we’ve come.

Certainly, 2018-2019 saw significant headlines and innovations. In this run-down we’ll categorise some of the more telling milestones, so you can consider what they may mean for the year ahead.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Pivotal in many trend outlooks and predictions for 2019 and beyond, AI made some big leaps in 2018. Leading figures from across the digital spectrum made big claims with Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO stating ‘AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on… more profound than electricity or fire’. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella added the following prediction; ‘It’s going to be AI at the edge, AI in the cloud, AI as part of SaaS applications, AI as part of in fact – even infrastructure’. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO wasn’t pulling any punches either, stating that ‘AI is in a golden age, and is solving problems that were once in the realm of sci-fi.’

Examples range from ESA using AI and Machine learning to prepare robots for space, to self-driving cars – a technology innovation heavily reliant on AI. The Google self-driving car project, Waymo (which stands for a new WAY forward in MObility) is close to launch and start-ups like Drive.ai and May Mobility are running small-scale revenue-generating shuttle services.  Traditional car companies including Ford and Jaguar Land Rover are also looking to the future.

Google also launched ML Kit, a software development kit for app developers which brings Google’s machine learning expertise to mobile developers in a powerful and easy-to-use package.

Virtual Reality (VR)
In late 2017 the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his company’s ambitious goal for VR growth – to introduce  VR technology to a billion users. This followed plenty of hype that 2018 could be the year when VR finally went mainstream. A year on, Zuckerberg informed Oculus developers that VR adoption had been much slower than Facebook had hoped, being 1% on target. Many would say that VR for the mainstream has been held back by head-set costs. This, however, now looks set to change. The launch of Oculus Quest offers ‘six degrees of freedom’ with a much more palatable price tag. The cost for other leading VR headsets such as Playstation VR  could fall due to increased competition.

Augmented Reality (AR)
When it comes to mainstream use of goggle wearing tech (note that’s goggle, not Google – we can confine Google Glass to the tech graveyard for now at least) AR, on the other hand, is an area on the up. Magic Leap has launched a developer (One Creator) version of its headset. Eagerly anticipated will be the consumer version, where households will be able to augment their surroundings with information, interfaces and other interesting incarnations. With Facebook confirming it’s working on an augmented reality headset, AR is also starting to prove useful in many professional applications,  Apps and games, the latter popularised by the likes of Pokémon GO. A great example of how useful this technology can be is the PLNAR App, which measures and creates 3D models of rooms in real-time.

Drones
Announced in late 2018, Alphabet’s Wing will launch a free ten-minute drone delivery trial in Finland during 2019. Alphabet has claimed that Finland was the ideal location due to the Fins typically being early adopters of digital tech. This European trial will follow the successful delivery of medicine, coffee and household goods in Australia, that now can boast of some 55,000 completed drone journeys. In the UK the Department. for Transport announced a drone law which came into effect in the summer of 2018. The law restricts drones from flying above 400 feet and within 1 kilometre of airport boundaries. California became the first US state to introduce an Internet of Things cybersecurity law to cover all manner of ‘smart” devices’, which would presumably include connected drones operating within state boundaries.
With Amazon Prime Air development centres in the US, UK, Austria, France and Israel; Amazon are progressing their future promise of ‘30 min delivery’ in some areas.

Data Governance
With GDPR becoming enforceable across Europe in early 2018 (including the additional Data Protection Act 2018 in the UK), many felt this would be the year of increased consumer confidence when it comes to personal information security. Indeed, the regulation did result in many brands and businesses undertaking GDPR readiness, and for a time we received a flurry of double-opt-in emails in the run up to the May deadline. However, some high-profile hacks resulted in headline-making data breaches that would surely give any board a pause for thought in their approach to digital security.

Given the big ‘data risk and reward’ debate in 2018, many boards are now much more active in the field of digital cyber security and risks, and this can only be welcomed. Focussing this coming year in tech it’s certainly worth including ‘that article’ by Bloomberg, describing how China used a tiny chip to infiltrate U.S. companies. Although no consumer data was reported to have been stolen, the report understandably caused significant concerns.

Social Media
It’s clear that Social Media is a permanent part of our digital lives. Since the launch of Friends Reunited in 2000 and Facebook’s public launch in 2006, we’ve witnessed an evolution of this cultural phenomenon with Media Sharing, Microblogs, Geosocial, Ratings & Reviews, Social Bookmarking, Messaging and more.

In 2018 Facebook made the headlines regarding a period in the company’s history where data was insufficiently ‘locked-down’. With data being described as ‘the new oil’, firms holding great amounts are increasingly coming under scrutiny – and no more so than Facebook. In the summer of 2018 the UK Information Commissioner issued a £500k fine to Facebook for failing to safeguard its users’ data. Due to the intensity of the media storm surrounding Social Media data collection, trust will need to be re-built with some consumers, but society’s seemingly endless fascination with all forms of Social Media looks set to continue.

Blockchain
To wrap things up, let’s close on Blockchain. It’s a technology that’s unequivocally here to stay, and unlike some other tech trends, Blockchain is simply ‘getting on with it’ in terms of transformational industry impact. We recently catalogued 16 examples of Blockchain in action, which should give you an idea of this technologies cross-sector capability. Blockchain represents a groundswell of commercial opportunity that just keeps on rising. The possibilities are so exciting and the technology has organisations wondering why they didn’t explore it sooner. Not only prevalent in FinTech, but health, distribution, entertainment and even energy players are feeling the need to think big with Blockchain. Interestingly, Blockchain has begun to break down traditional industry barriers, in favour of some organisations uniting together to resolve long standing sector challenges. This, we hope, will be a continuing theme as we move through 2019.