The Disruptive Technology Trends That Shaped 2017
A look back at the tech trends we expected to see last year
A lot can happen in a year. At the start of 2017 I highlighted 15 disruptive technology trends I expected to see in 2017. As we start 2018 I thought it would be interesting to look back over the last 12 months to see what progress has been made. . .
Robots become coworkers
Whilst the use of industrial robots for manufacturing is nothing new, 2017 saw a growth in organisations implementing industrial robots alongside their human colleagues. These lightweight plug and play systems, offer huge flexibility, and with an average cost of around £18,000 are a growing part of the industry. The one limiting factor of cobots that has perhaps impacted their adoption is speed. The fact that they are designed to work hand-in-hand with their human counterparts means they are bound to the speed of the human to which they are assigned. In other words, the robots are limited to working at near human speed in order to maintain a safe work environment. Despite this expect to see significant growth in collaborative robots in the years ahead.
From wearables to implantables
Having showed early promise, growth in the wearables sector stuttered in 2017 as usage struggled to progeess beyond early adopters. As the tech community explore the next big disruption around personal tech, implantables are slowly gaining traction. The inaugural Disruption Summit Europe played host to Scott Cohen founder a CyborgNest a start-up that has developed an artificial sense organ. The ‘North Sense’ delivers a short vibration every time the user faces Magnetic North, enhancing their natural sense of direction. CyborgNest are already exploring new senses to augment human beings. Elsewhere Sweden has taken a new step toward digitalisation, as Swedish Railways became the first in the world to offer a new ticket type in the form of a microchip implanted in the hand.
Bots usurp apps
2017 saw an explosion of new chatbots offering solutions across a wide range of industry sectors. Successful adoption of the technology has seen a raft of investment in the space. Babylon Health the triage bot raised an additional $60 Million to grow its service, while Lemonade the chatbot based insurance service raised $120 million from Softbank. Despite initial disillusionment the chatbot economy is well underway and shows no signs of slowing any time soon. Whilst the most effective use of chatbots appear to be in handling simple administrative tasks, advances in the technology are opening up new possibilities even to the point that they have been trusted to offer mental healthcare services.
Genetically modified life forms
CRISPR is the most advanced gene editing method available to date. Over the last 12 months, we have seen it create seedless fruit and make diseases self destruct. Speaking at the World’s Fair Nano event in September, biotechnology expert RJ Kirk even went so far as to suggest that most cancers would be curable within the next decade. We are at the very beginnings of a new era in tackling disease. Expect to hear lots more about CRISPR and genomics in the year ahead.
3D printing gets industrial
In the last couple of years, 3D printers have evolved from a hobbyist novelty to fully fledged production powerhouses. Major manufacturers like Adidas and Rolls Royce are using 3D printing to offer personalisation and increased efficiencies in production. This year, Apis Cor printed an entire house within just 24 hours. Healthcare has also benefitted hugely from 3D printing’s customisation capabilities. In October, Israeli bioprinting company CollPlant Holdings Ltd. received a reported $5 million in investment to accelerate the creation of bioprinted organs.
AI replaces white collar expertise
Artificial Intelligence is moving into every sector, automating processes and providing advanced data analysis that humans simply can’t match. By 2030, AI is expected to replace 861,000 jobs in the UK public sector alone. As worrying as this is, 2017 has demonstrated that AI and humans can work together effectively to balance efficiency with customer service. It has also shown that AI will create a whole new range of jobs for those with the right skills. Employers need workers who can understand AI as it takes on more roles within businesses.
Quantum computing gets practical
Late last year Microsoft released a preview of its Quantum Development Kit. The software tools were built to help developers write quantum computing applications. The company is also working on a ‘topological quantum computer’, as are various academic institutions. Whilst true quantum computing is getting ever closer, the all powerful quantum computers have yet to be built. This has been due to technological barriers such as the masses of power needed to run such a machine, as well as sheer cost. Quantum computing, therefore, is yet to become practical.
Self driving vehicles on the high street
Whilst most of us haven’t yet experienced a self-driving vehicle on our high streets, that time is getting ever closer. Development of the technology continues to grow with almost every major manufacturer working on an Autonomous Vehicle projects, trialling in many major towns and cities. In Phoenix, Waymo began inviting residents to join an ‘early rider programme’, and in July Londoners were visited by an autonomous grocery delivery van called CargoPod. Semi autonomous capabilities have become the norm in new cars, and a plethora of tech companies, startups and automakers are speeding to overtake the general benchmark of 2021.
Blockchain disrupts more than banks
Blockchain has moved beyond finance and is now making an impact across a wide range of industry sectors. In the energy sector we’ve seen the emergence of blockchain as an enabler for peer-2-peer energy trading with LO3 Energy. In the health sector Estonia has implemented blockchain technology to allow its citizens to access their health data, and 2017 even saw the UN implement blockchain to fight world hunger. From Finance to retail, and healthcare to marketing we’re witnessing the start of a blockchain revolution.
Virtual Reality as a commercial reality
Aside from entertainment, important functional uses of VR include training, education, and data visualisation. In April Californian startup Virtualitics received funding of $4.4 million to develop its technology that involves merging Big Data and Virtual Reality. Retail giant Walmart prepared its employees for the Black Friday hysteria by creating a virtual experience, and healthcare professionals have adopted to technology to support education and training in the operating theatre. Despite their best efforts VR companies continued to struggle to find many commercial applications for the immersive technology beyond gaming.
From Augmented Reality to Mixed Reality
Mixed Reality is still a somewhat confusing concept for many people. Despite lots of hype for the technology Microsoft’s HoloLens is the only product to have made an obvious impact over the last 12 months. Whilst MR hasn’t lived up to the early promise MagicLeap the secretive MR company that has received over $1Billion in funding is due to release in 2018, and as Apple has now embedded Augmented Reality capabilities within it’s new devices we expect a big 2018 for both Augmented and Mixed Realities.
Robots teaching themselves
By enabling one robot to do all the tasks that its owner (whether a business or an individual) would want it to do, self teaching methods will enable adoption rates to soar. In 2017, the foundations were placed for industrial robots that can transfer knowledge through shared neural networks. Robots have also been taught by humans in Virtual Reality. We expect self teaching robots will continue to grow through 2018 and beyond.
Cybersecurity has become a key issue for governments and businesses across the globe. The infamous Wannacry attack, infiltrated more than 250,000 computers across 150 countries costing an estimated $1 billion in damages, demonstrating the huge impact of cybercrime. Hacking scandals have impacted an exhaustive list of organisations including Experian, Uber, and Yahoo as criminals use digitalisation to their advantage. Cybercrime is now the fastest growing criminal activity with the cost of Ransomware damages alone rising to $5 billion dollars in 2017 – that’s a 15x increase on 2015 figures. As the world becomes more and more connected the opportunities for cybercriminals increase. We expect to see a greater focus on cybercrime from both governments and organisations in the ahead.
The things are taking over the internet
The Internet of Things has expanded, enabling the development of connected transportation, smart cities, and digitally monitored industrial processes. Businesses are becoming reliant on connected supply chains to match production with demand. IoT has also moved into the consumer sphere. . . IoT company EVRYTHNG has partnered with Augmented Reality platform Zappar, for example, to give every product an interactive barcode. In this ultra connected world, data analytics and visualisation will play a major role. So will the development of improved broadband services, including the heralded 5G which has already undergone successful tests.
Renewables and clean energy diversify
Boosted by reducing costs, a strong solar market, and advances in energy storage the rise of renewables has been fuelled by startups and established companies alike – BP, for example, is developing a number of blockchain solutions that could eventually be used to track renewables. Shell has also begun providing electric vehicle charging ports. Given the importance of renewable energy solutions to the continuation of humanity, this is a trend that will hopefully continue.
Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Vehicles, Blockchain, Augmented Reality, and Renewable Energy saw huge interest in 2017 attracting large companies and industry wide adoption. Cybersecurity concerns have emerged as an undeniable priority, accentuated by an increasing reliance on data. While some technologies have leapt forward during 2017, adoption of many has been slower than expected. Before we write these technologies off as failures we should be reminded of Amara’s Law which recognises that whilst we overestimate the short term effect of a technology, we underestimate its long term impact too.
Moving forward into 2018, data will dictate much of what businesses do – and as such, they had better protect it. Keep an eye as I’ll be sharing my 2018 trends in disruption very soon.