The Megatrends That Will Shape A New World in 2018
2017 has seen the unfolding of both revolutionary and evolutionary events. The whole world recently watched as what was termed a #couplite culminated in the stepping down of Robert Mugabe as the president of Zimbabwe, a title he had held for the past thirty-seven years. In terms of the evolutionary, bitcoin has certainly been gaining traction over the last few years and is now in some instances being used as a legal tender. Pick n Pay, in September this year, piloted bitcoin as a method of payment and this is certainly something we should be paying attention to.
In all that has transpired during this year, a recurring theme has carried through from the past few years: the world we live in now is one in which disruption and unpredictability is the name of the game. This is particularly true in the tech space, whose advancements have brought about hitherto unfathomable realities. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that 2018 will see more mega technology trends that will change the world.
What Will Be Revolutionary and Evolutionary in 2018?
While some of those in the know would advise against investing in anything that could see potential losses and or gains in the thousand percents, over a period of weeks, or months, there is no denying that those who jumped onto the bitcoin gravy train in the recent past made a killing. While the future of bitcoin is uncertain, the hype around blockchain technology, of which bitcoin was the first tangible form, will continue to grow, with more use cases emerging. In his article, Bernard Marr predicts that the progression in the use of blockchain technology will extend beyond finance, as far as the health, recruitment, legal and manufacturing industries.
One trend which is disrupting every aspect of business and industry worldwide is Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is about connecting exponentially more devices to the internet, with the outcomes resulting in a global society that is more efficient and productive than we ever imagined possible. According to Gartner , there will be 8.4 billion connected things in use worldwide this year.
Often times, Africa finds herself playing catch up with the West where tech advancements are concerned, but the IoT trend has seen the emergence of many African startups, who have come up with innovative IoT solutions to our most difficult challenges in energy, safety and security, healthcare and food security. Examples include Kenya based Ujuzikilimo , who developed a soil analysis platform that measures soil characteristics for assessing quality in farming use cases. Stellenbosch based HealthQ develops technologies for helping users monitor their overall health and fitness. The company’s solutions use state-of-the-art biomathematical models to power fitness trackers and other wearable devices such as TomTom’s highly popular Runner2/SPARK.
With the exponential rise in the number of connected devices also comes the exponential increase in data. That’s because all these smart devices are constantly gathering data, connecting to other devices and sharing that data – all without human intervention. A good example of this is smart watches (Fitbit, Garmin, etc.) syncing data to phones. Given this scenario, it can only follow that the processing power and capacity of machines will exponentially increase to accommodate the data volumes, velocity and variability, or big data as it is called.
Platforms offer all kinds of businesses growth opportunities, by facilitating connections and exchanges between people for services, products or information. With advent of Uber, platforms have seen the growth of many other such “Uber for” businesses, ranging from cleaning services to ride sharing to accommodation (Airbnb). Even long-running businesses with more traditional models are beginning to develop platform strategies. One such example is Toyota, which I was pleasantly surprised to learn now affords customers the ability to book car services on their website.
In South Africa, platforms are facilitating the growth of online shopping. While many people are averse to the idea of transacting online, for fear of fraud, I believe the prospect of saving and the convenience that comes with shopping online will perhaps serve to allay their reservations and offer good incentive. In addition, online security, while not hundred percent full-proof, has certainly been stepped up. Being one who not only loves to shop online, but also loves a good deal, it really helps that I can visit the site Pricecheck and compare the price of a product across the different stores that sell it, all in one screen. That way, I can make a more informed decision, and save money, which is an added bonus.
AI: Good or Evil?
In conclusion, I would like to highlight how I see 2018 going in terms of one trend that I find fascinating: Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI involves the use of massive amounts of complex data to develop machines that will one day think and act like humans. Many concerns around AI have emerged, ranging from the loss of jobs, to machines becoming smarter than humans, and potentially turning against them. I believe the reduction in the labour force would be a short-term development, but in the long term, more jobs would be created. In terms of the latter concerns, it would be a very long time before there would even be such risks, and undoubtedly measures would be put in place to control this tech. Of all the AI use cases, some of which include drone technology in the farming industry and virtual sales agents, the one I find most fascinating (based on my love for online shopping), which is steadily on the rise, involves targeted advertising through the use mathematical models, based on customer behaviour.
Here’s to a tech explosive new year!