That said, the analysts at CCS Insight are as well placed as anyone to take a punt on what lies ahead and Earnest was fortunate enough to be at their Predictions: 2018 and Beyond event where we got to hear first hand as the people in the know laid their bets for the future:
• People born in 2017 will be the last Westerners to need passwords
Yes, biometric authentication (voice, finger, face) will consign the password as we know it to history.
• Urban dwellers born in developed markets in 2017 will be the last generation to own a car
Expect self-drive cars and as-a-service models (think per-ride pricing) to kick car ownership into touch.
• E-Sports are likely to go mainstream by 2022
You know – people-watching other people as they play online games. Brands are already getting in on the act from a sponsorship perspective – looking to reach new audiences. God help us.
• Governments are going to scramble to regulate AI in 2020 and beyond
This is a good thing. As CCS Insight explained; to design a bridge you need to be a licensed engineer, but to design an AI that powers self-drive cars you don’t need a license. Essentially, it’s currently all a little bit too wild west for comfort.
• The uncomfortable issue of unconscious bias
The risk is that self-teaching AI will become biased because it is learning from real-world data that tends to be biased (e.g. if you fed it real-world HR data, there’s a chance it would only reinforce the gender pay gap). Then there’s the fact that the people who are programming the AI are predominantly affluent males in their 20s and 30s. Does this mean that an AI-driven car will behave like it’s being driven by a rich 20-something male? Extreme, but you get the point.
• A question of transparency
AI makes conclusions, but it’s difficult to track back and explain just how those conclusions are arrived at. There’s a big difference between getting a lousy Amazon book recommendation and being refused a mortgage by a bank when there’s no transparency.
• Cyber-security will be the single biggest issue for organisations globally
WannaCry brought the NHS to a halt. Equifax lost a third of its share value following a breach. 14 million Verizon subscriber details were left exposed. No surprise, cyber-security is a big deal. We have every reason and right to worry about it.
• Cybersecurity will become the most widely adopted use of AI in business in 2018
It isn’t humanly possible to tackle the sheer number of malware variants everyday, and that’s why we need smart machines to do it for us – ones that can find and pre-empt attacks.
• By 2021, major cloud service providers will be the prime suppliers of cyber security
But what’s even more interesting is the shift in the narrative – you’re now less secure if you’re not in the cloud.
• Facebook will become a leader in enterprise AI services by 2020
‘Yeah right’, you may say, but the argument is this – Workplace by Facebook is a social collaboration tool that is gathering pace in the enterprise space. Employee engagement, or lack of it, is a massive deal for leaders and HR folk. What Facebook has is its social graph and AI. In combination it could be a real play in business – keen to keep track of sentiment and build better engagement with its talent.
• By 2020, Facebook will become the first Internet service company to be regulated in the US
Its size, the ‘fake news’ scandal and ability to potential sway elections makes it a prime target no less.
• Alexa is a very big deal – just ask the 250k people who have asked Alexa to marry them
It’s the front runner in the smart speaker market and people love it.
• We can expect to see the launch of smart home platforms by large Internet players by 2020
Think of it as the glue between that mish-mash of connected devices.
• The majority of smart home solutions will be sold as a service by 2021
Insurers, banks and utilities will all potentially want a piece of the pie. Who knows, smart home solutions could even be packaged with your mortgage.
• By 2021, the lack of competent digital plumbers will inhibit the smart home device market
It could be a great business opportunity for those who can turn Joe Public’s dumb home into a smart home. Carphone Warehouse’s Geek Squad for instance?
• In-store shopping could get very interesting: Augmented Reality will become a normal part of buying some items by 2021
• By 2022, voice will overtake typing as the main search input method
• The average developer working on machine learning earns $300k a year. Got a kid? Get them coding.
• Connectivity needs to adapt to support new apps. And 5G has amazing potential to transform and disrupt many areas. But it’s not clear what and who will pay for it.
• Quantum computing will become the next technology battleground by 2022. You want AI? You’ll need it.
• What happens when mobile phone companies become banks? Check out Orange Bank– a mobile first bank which launched this year.
• Watch out for the China Advantage: its government is investing $109bn in researching and developing AI. You could say, it’s going to trump US investment Donald.
• Smart glasses will make a comeback in 2018: Not so Google ‘Glassholes’ – but something all the more sensible looking.
– Enterprise focus: At least one leading European network operator will spin off its enterprise services arm by 2019. Could that one be BT Global Services?
Thanks to CCS Insight for sticking their necks out again and making Predictions: 2018 and Beyond a truly thought-provoking event. Find out more here.