By MITCH MAIMAN //
Technology has become such a pervasive part of our home and work life that for many of us, it’s hard to sort out the fads from the tech with lasting value.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
This area has been greatly hyped and has continued to get more advanced, with new developments in natural language processing, deep learning and neural networks, as well as the ability to learn and predict future behaviors.
Due to continued progress in these areas, retail and other businesses are expected to leverage this technology to improve efficiency and operating costs. Some publishers have already started using AI to increase the speed with which they can create their content. Even hospitality businesses have considered using machine learning to predict what their customers want.
Chatbots such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana are expected to implement enhancements for speech-recognition and deeper personalities, to interact better with the human user. And conversational AI platforms are in development that will feature new paradigms of analytics and intelligence, expected to be used more frequently in retail, home management and other areas in 2018.
Virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D graphics
It’s expected that virtual reality and augmented reality will create revenue of $150 billion by 2020.
There are many different industries currently investing in VR and AR technology, and other businesses looking to overlay graphics onto real-world images, blending the real and virtual worlds together. For example, some apps, such as Home Harmony, allow the user to virtually preview a paint color in a certain room before physically committing.
We’ll see more advancements in VR and AR headsets this year, with better displays, better setup processes and overall price reductions. There are also plans to improve the design of these headsets to make them more ergonomic and higher performing, enabling them to be drive more immersive and rich VR and AR content.
Internet of Things
Expert more IoT devices and systems than ever before in 2018. Internet of Things tech has already expanded well beyond the active markets of personal fitness, transportation and logistics, into commercial building management and hospitality.
In 2018, we expect to see IoT technology spreading and impacting entirely new areas, including agriculture, livestock management, crop-storage management, even personal wellness (that is, not just monitoring health but proactive health advisement).
As more companies develop meaningful IoT value propositions, the technologies for deployment, productization, distribution and (quite importantly) security will mature even further.
Mobile Device Usage
Almost 70 percent of digital media engagement happens on mobile devices, and 41 million people access the Internet solely from their mobile devices.
In the United States, the deployment of mobile devices and device-specific apps has nearly saturated the market. To be successful, online companies need to have device-specific applications.
The trend is away from traditional web-browser applications, even when the website is optimized for mobile devices – and if a site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, it already shows up lower in search-engine results. The importance of this is expected to stay high or increase in 2018.
The Consumer Federation of America predicted that electronic vehicle sales would increase in 2017 as compared to previous years, making 2017 a record year for EV sales. The CFA also predicts that this speed of growth will continue into 2018, which means that more demand for charging stations will occur.
Driverless cars are also expected to continue making advancements in 2018 (including Tesla Motor’s goal of producing a fully self-driving car by the end of the year). Some states, such as New York and California, have even started allowing driverless cars to be tested on the streets – but while this is a sign of the future, widespread unattended vehicle operation is still several years out.
Besides needing to be “bulletproof” as to safety, there remains very real liability issues should an autonomous vehicle become involved in an accident. Spin-offs of technology along this path are already becoming more common, though, manifested in things like lane-change guidance, assisted parallel parking and smart cruise control. Expect this tech to start expanding beyond luxury brands and high-end options.
In 2017, we saw technology continue to make new advancements and the field remains exciting. New ideas have been introduced that have the potential to radically propel smart systems in many new ways and become even more present in our lives. Get ready to continue this trend in 2018 and beyond – and to reach new heights as new innovations continue to transform our everyday lives and work.
Mr. Maiman is president of Hauppauge-based product design and development firm Intelligent Product Solutions.