Is 2018 the year when the machines start to take over?

Is 2018 the year when the machines start to take over?

Every year I say that making predictions is a hazardous business, and I then proceed to put my neck on the line again with a couple more. So, buoyed by a couple of successes this year, here I go again!

2017 predictions

Disruption of banking industry and blockchain – Definitely came to pass

Widespread adoption of voice control technology – Mostly came to pass

Explosion of AI applications – Mostly came to pass

Predictions for 2018

Last year I predicted that 2017 would see the disruption of the banking industry by the impact of Blockchain technology, which is simply an open source method of logging financial transactions that is impossible to hack. I also said that 2017 could be the year when we see the tipping point being reached where alternative banking systems become more secure and trusted than traditional banks.

Blockchain is of course the technology on which Bitcoin is founded and right now I am wishing that I had followed my own predictions and invested in Bitcoin myself. The last few months have seen the price of Bitcoin soar in the currency markets to around $14,000 today and this was topped off last week by an investor assessment from no less than JP Morgan stating that Bitcoin could be the new gold.

Since then the crypto-currency futures have begun to be traded on a couple of mainstream exchanges, further legitimising its status. At the same time cyber attacks have become endemic across the global economy and a number of financial institutions have been hit, including Equifax, Wonga and Tesco Bank.

My second successful prediction for 2017 was in regard to the explosion of artificial intelligence applications. AI is the mimicking by machines of cognitive functions that are normally associated with the human brain, such as learning and problem solving. We have indeed seen an explosion in AI over the last 12 months and I can see the pace quickening even further going into 2018 with the development of intelligent applications.

Intelligent applications involve the embedding of AI into business software applications, automating routine tasks that take time away from more value add activities and providing relevant data to the application user that needs it, at the appropriate time and with the right context.

Examples of this might be a virtual assistant managing your schedule for you, booking in appointments and arranging meetings, or human resources software that allocates tasks and vacation time to employees using AI, without any human intervention. A more complex example might be a medical app that sorts through huge piles of patient data looking for patterns of potential diseases and treatments that can then be addressed by medical practitioners.

A second prediction for the coming year concerns the explosion of the Internet of Everything. This is the next step on from the Internet of Things and is driven by the intelligent connection of things and also people to the network, adding richer capabilities and opportunities.

People are already connected to the network through devices like smartphones and laptops, as well as social networks. But increasingly they will also become connected through wearable devices such as Google Glass and Fitbit, and sensors embedded in our clothes or even our skin, that can collect and transmit data, for example to healthcare providers. Expectant mothers will soon be able to wear “smart tattoos” to monitor the health and activity of their babies, and send their doctor an early alert when they go into labour.

On top of this, the connection of “things” will go up to the next level so, rather than just reporting raw data, connected devices will begin to send higher-level information and insights back to machines and people in real time for further evaluation and decision-making. Examples here include smart energy meters that inform energy consumption decisions and smart transportation that adapts to traffic conditions.

So machines will be collecting more data, from more places, and they will increasingly be analysing it and making decisions based upon it. The business implications and opportunities are massive, but so are the security and ethical implications. Exciting stuff, but also slightly scary. Could 2018 be the year when the machines really do start to take over?

Sonny Sehgal
Chief Executive Officer

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Thursday, 27 June 2019

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