An Article By, David Tan, Chief Technology Officer
Every year, in January, we like to put together a story about what we think will be the big emerging trends in technology for the upcoming 12 months. It’s always fun and interesting to think about where we are going, what we need to think about, and start the planning that will shape our business and more importantly all our clients. If you don’t plan for the large shifts in emerging technology, you will surely be passed by and more importantly left behind. So, with that as the backdrop, let’s look into a few things I think will dominate the tech landscape in 2018.
Computers talking and listening – Voice recognition and text to speech capabilities have been around for an incredibly long time. However the technology has truly developed to the point where it is way past a novelty, and now a full-blown interactive platform. Microsoft and IBM have both perfected their speech recognition capabilities to the point where it is better than a human transcriber. Studies show that human transcription has a success rate of about 94%. The latest tests from both IBM and Microsoft put that success rate at above 95%. It’s a small, subtle difference, but the fact remains, computers have gotten better at listening than humans.
The other side of the equation is text to speech. We are starting to get used to it with platforms like Alexa or Siri, but we can always tell it’s a computer talking to us. That is not going to be the case going forward however. Google last month announced the latest iteration of their text to speech capabilities and the difference between a computer generated voice and a human voice was completely undetectable. They posted the sound clips on a web page with no indication of which was which, and you absolutely could not tell the difference. When these technologies are combined with the AI or machine learning in use today, the possibilities are limitless. Just think, right now, when you chat with a support operator online from a large company, the majority of those interactions are really with a computer on the other end. If that computer can understand what you’re saying, and talk to you like a human, there is no reason customer service calls can’t all be completely powered by a computer next!
Smart Everything – It is estimated that by 2020, there will be 50 billion smart devices in the world – that’s 7 for every person on earth. Everything we interact with in our lives is becoming a smart device. From your phone to your car, to your home assistant, to your TV to your refrigerator, your devices are learning how you live and how you interact and are adapting to make life easier. The real opportunity in this area is for these devices to start working together. Just imagine a scenario where you could have a dinner party scheduled on your calendar. Your phone could recommend recipes based on your preferences, which it already knows. It could then talk to your refrigerator to see if you have all the necessary ingredients. You don’t, ok, reach out to the car to see where you are and find the closest specialty shop that carries that rare addition you need to perfect the meal. When you get home, the recipe is already pulled up on your kitchen screen, the oven is pre-heating and you are ready to get to work. This is a single random scenario, but believe me, these types of interactions will be everywhere and they will become the norm!
Blockchain – I saved the biggest for last. 2017 was definitely the year of cryptocurrency, particularly bitcoin. For those who aren’t aware, the underlying technology under bitcoin is something called blockchain. In its most simple terms, blockchain is a very secure, distributed ledger of transactions that can’t be deleted and can’t be changed. It has the power to change everything about every way we do business and transact.
All types of companies from every industry are embracing the use of blockchain to change their business. In the last few weeks alone, we have seen announcements from everyone from Hooters to Kodak and everywhere in between. This is undoubtedly the transformative technology of our time, and it is here now. The bitcoin explosion has made it front and center, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Cryptocurrency is the first application to take advantage of blockchain technology, much like email was the first application to leverage the internet, but things like supply chain optimization, identity management and smart contracts are here and growing. These will permeate every corner or every business in 2018 and well beyond.
It’s an exciting time in the technology space. The world is changing at a faster pace than I can ever remember. Everything around us is getting smarter, faster and more powerful. The real question is whether we can keep up.