We have come to the end of the year 2018, with the new year of 2019 coming chiming in moments away. I thought it would be a great idea to take a look at tech in the past year, and stuff we could anticipate in the coming year.
But first, let’s look at what failed in the year that was.
Tech Fails in 2018
As this site does not discuss on tech gadgets, I will be focusing on the concepts, ideas and principles in this post.
The year 2018 has shown to be a bad year for privacy, where the world has experienced a massive security breach at Facebook and Google+, with the latter to be shut down in 2019. Related to privacy as well was the hacking of Bitfi, an electronic wallet for cryptocurrency.
Speaking of cryptocurrency, it was a downhill slide throughout most of 2018 for cryptocurrencies across the board, with Bitcoin seeing a price decline of ~73% since the start of 2018. Also plaguing 2018 was downtime issues with cloud computing providers, as well as Google’s alleged involvements in creating a censored search engine for China and a warfare system using AI.
Some, having observed little progress made in 2018, would classify Internet of Things, Big Data and Virtual Reality technologies as those that did not live up to its hype in 2018.
Still, if you asked me, the real tech fails for 2018 may really arise from the U.S. Congress hearing sessions on Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai.
Now that we have somewhat summarised the fails, let’s move on to the slightly positive side of things.
Tech Wins in 2018
The following may not be actually tech wins, but it is deemed as a positive breakthrough (the word “wins” serves to juxtapose the word “fails”).
It is in 2018 that we saw Google introducing its Duplex artificial intelligence software which could make reservations and appointments over the phone while emulating speech nuances of a human person, indicating the progress in not merely natural languge processing but even to create natural language-based content. This is indeed a significant progress made in the artificial intelligence field.
We saw that cloud computing had a great year: Amazon Web Services’ partnership with VMware has gained steam and encouraged the former to lay out greater ambitions, Microsoft Azure commercial cloud services is looking at hitting $34 billion annual revenue based on its current Q1 run rate, and IBM has decided to throw its hat in the ring and raise the game with its acquisition of Red Hat.
On a greener note, electric vehicles were selling like hot cakes, with the U.S. seeing its 11-month vehicles sales higher by 57% from full-year 2017 – on the back of President Trump’s steel and import tariff. Electric scooters were also flourishing (although it did garner some hate as well).
From a more general perspective, tech companies are investing more than ever before in 2018 with record capital expenditures. The biggest companies were making various acquisitions from real estate to data centres to keep up with customer demand apart from staying competitive. And of course, it all remains to be seen what can come out of greater amount of investments, but it is an encouraging sign for consumers and the industry as a whole.
Tech Hopes in 2019
Now, I will gloss over some of the technology mentioned above which will continue its trajectory in the coming year, such as IoT and artificial intelligence. Instead, I will highlight a few interesting trends to look out for in 2019.
Right off the bat is the expected rollout of 5G network connectivity, which is expected to improve current data speeds from 4G LTE connections. This would become a catalyst in expanding IoT technology, especially in autonomous vehicles technology. In 2018, 5G connectivity trials were being conducted both abroad (e.g. Frankfurt, San Francisco) and within Malaysia (Cyberjaya and Putrajaya).
As a result of 5G connectivity, augmented reality might become a thing, having somewhat disappointed in 2018. During a tech conference in September 2018, Vodafone demonstrated the possibility of 3D holographic calls on a 5G network – of course, this is probably a gimmick unfeasible to be replicated by ordinary laymen to illustrate how much data can be streamed over 5G, but this certainly opens up opportunities on how immersive experience can be introduced once mobile data speeds are greatly improved. Other updates in the AR space includes Facebook’s announcement to add body and hand tracking features into its AR developing tools.
Augmented analytics could also see significant progress with advancements in AI and big data. For those unsure what “augmented analytics” meant, it can be understood as an approach to “automate insight generation in a company through the use of advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms”. In other words, data analysis without heavy dependency on data analysts and data scientists.
In a nutshell
To be frank, when researching about 2018 in tech, the major stories dominating the year were unfortunately in negative spotlight. Perhaps it has come to this point where the society would be challenged more than ever to consider about privacy and ethics – that is, if you can get digital natives to care.
2019 would be a challenging year for all given the growing uncertainty in the global geopolitical and economic landscape – grave changes would certainly have a knock-on effect upon the tech industry. But if we were to learn anything from recent human history, it is that technological progress would take place at its pace regardless the global circumstances – the more pertinent question would be: where, then, would it stem from?
Certain leaders would really need to be reminded that when certain areas of the world lose its global prowess, whether through regressive policies or isolationism, other places would take its place.
Nevertheless, let’s enter the new year with fresh hope and optimism – for the unknown future presents boundless opportunities. The ball now is in our court.