With a new year comes new predictions about the future of technology. Will this be the year robots take all our jobs? Will Alexa and Siri start doing our laundry and picking up our kids from school? (If only.)
There’s so much innovation on the horizon this year that it was hard to pick just five technologies to highlight. So I tried to focus on the ones that could potentially have the biggest impact on our everyday lives in 2018.
- Intelligent things
We’ve been hearing about the “Internet of Things” (IoT) for a few years now — items that are embedded with sensors and connected to the Internet, and produce vast amounts of data (e.g., smart refrigerators, thermostats, security systems). You likely have “smart” items on your wrist or in your home right now. But as technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning advance, the level of intelligence in our “things” will increase significantly.
“As intelligent things proliferate, expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things … multiple devices will work together, either independently or with human input,” according to Gartner.
2. Wireless charging
In December 2017, the FCC approved the first iterations of “power-at-a-distance” technology. Two companies — Powercast and Energous Corp. — unveiled demos of this technology at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Wireless charging has historically been very short-range, and devices have had to actually sit on a charging pad that is plugged into an outlet. With these new advancements, the technology will work more like WiFi, allowing devices to charge automatically when they’re in range of a power transmitter. Imagine, no more carrying around your charging cable or searching for an outlet!
First there was 3G, then 4G, now (spoiler alert!) 5G will be the next-generation wireless network — and it may be here by 2019. The technology is expected to be 100 times faster than current 4G LTE and 10 times faster than home internet. It will not only make our phones faster, but will better enable the use of virtual and augmented reality.
“It has the potential to revolutionize how consumers use internet and how developers think about apps and streaming content. 2018, then, is going to be a year of massive preparation for engineers, developers, and consumers, as they gear up for a new generation of internet,” according to Forbes.
4. Conversational platforms
As I got ready for work this morning, I addressed my Echo Dot: “Alexa, what’s the weather looking like today?” Alexa gave me the forecast, which included AM snow showers. Then on my way to drop the kids off at daycare (since Alexa can’t do that for me yet), I addressed the Google Assistant on my Pixel phone: “Okay Google, call Dad,” and Google dialed up my dad, putting the call through my car’s speakers via bluetooth.
Thanks to conversational platforms, we’re more capable of doing two things at once — like making a hands-free phone call while driving in the snow. And like the other technologies on this list, the capabilities of conversational platforms continue to get better. Right now, users must ask questions or make requests in a structured way, but as the technology advances, it will become more conversational, and better understand the variances in speech and language.
Today, Microsoft’s voice recognition software has a 5.1 percent error rate, which means it can recognize speech better than human transcribers. Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers believes that it will get even more accurate in 2018, and we’ll begin to see the manifestation (or solidification) of seamless conversation.
5. Smart Cities
Ever been late to an important event because you spent so much time driving around searching for a parking spot? Yeah, me too. Now imagine if there was an app that notifies you of available parking spots near you. Capabilities like this could be in our near future, as many urban areas put more resources behind becoming “smarter.” By 2020, an estimated $34 billion will be spent on smart cities, globally.
Companies like Rehrig are using IoT technology to make things like trash collection smarter. Rehrig created a dynamic software application for tracking collection bins in real time. To manage the tracking data collected, Rehrig worked with Appirio to develop a custom Salesforce solution. This innovative tool gives their users access to customized reporting and dashboards, like live mapping — to plot daily collections, and get status updates and truck locations in real time.
With connected devices, sensors, and tracking technologies, cities can become safer and more energy efficient. “You’ve seen the smart home,” said J.P. Gownder, an analyst for Forrester Research, “The smart city is elevating that to the next level.”
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