A year comes and goes. Technology in 2018 was interesting, to be sure, with many stories from were to pick enlightening conclusions for what might come next in this ever-growing industry. But how did 2018 fared in terms of advancements or, at the least, some semblance of progress?
Let’s take a look at some of the tech promises 2018 gave us with the most talked-about technologies, and let’s see if it was actually able to keep any of them. What are you betting on?
The thing with Artificial Intelligence is that we must first establish what exactly is AI in today’s landscape. For many, the word AI equals virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa or Google’s own solution. Some even have more sci-fi conceptions about it, like robots capable of imitating human behavior. While those technologies do exist, the truth is that many of them are too rudimentary to have a significant impact beyond being a gimmick. The way we use AI today is much more practical: automation. In today’s world, AI really matters in areas like analytics that provide dramatic improvements on efficiency.
In that sense, 2018 was very important in that finally many expectations were grounded and now the technology can properly advance. The AI Index, a study by several experts from institutions like Harvard and MIT, published this year its second report, which revealed that “commercial and research work in AI, as well as funding, is exploding pretty much everywhere on the planet.” With Europe leading the charge in published papers, the most popular subjects are computer vision and particularly machine learning.
Failed—Cybersecurity and privacy
To say there’s a crisis in cybersecurity is no overstatement. “Whether it’s the latest breach of a company or government agency, a new vulnerability in a piece or popular software, or a lax security practice from a company that should have known better, there are moments every day where we can’t help but shake our heads at the sad state of cybersecurity,” writes Jason Hiner over at ZDNet.
The problem is simple neglect, as companies have focused more on immediate business benefits without building the necessary protection. Every new day, week or month comes with news of a breach from some big company, often exposing users’ personal data. This leads to the growing concerns of privacy, and none of the big companies have managed to give a satisfactory answer to this. Facebook has had an specially atrocious year, and the issues a company like that can have affect the rest of the industry directly.
Public opinion has never been lower or more nervous about the whole situation. That could even be a silver lining, and in the future 2018 could be seen as the breaking point for a more secure and privacy-conscious tech industry. But for the moment, things stand pretty bad as they are.
Fulfilled—Internet of Things
This one is a bit of a cop out. 2018 wasn’t really a standout year for IoT, but it was yet another year where the buzz around the concept of “connected things” stood its ground, and it’s heading towards impending growth. There are now over 15 billion IoT devices in the world, and the number is expected to rise to 30 billion by 2020—75 billion by 2025. Investment is there as well, with money expected to grow as much as US $1.3 trillion in 2020.
In short: the market is setting in. Expectations are positive but not too positive. And there’s a clear understanding that the real potential is in data collection, especially for concepts like smart cities. IoT is set to be a stable sector in the coming years.
Failed—Cryptocurrency and blockchain
A year ago (December 17th, 2017, to be precise), Bitcoin was worth almost US $20.000. Today, that number is closer to US$3.000. If anything, 2018 will be remembered as the year when cryptocurrency crashed—the full weight of its unrealistic expectations coming down in spectacular fashion with each passing month. Billions of dollars have literally been erased out of bitcoin’s value, and it wasn’t the only one. Other popular currencies like Ethereum or Ripple were also affected, and there’s no reason to believe that they will reach that all-time high again soon.
Inevitably, as cryptocurrencies were hit with negative impact, the technology they were based on was also hit with a splash of reality. 2018 was also the year when the word “blockchain” stopped being completely exciting just by itself. Nowadays, the word might even leave people with a healthy amount of skepticism. We can’t keep track of the number of “blockchain startups” that appeared during the year, or the number of ideas on how blockchain will save the world and end poverty once and for all. Hell, there was even a “blockchain phone,” whatever that means.
We’re not saying that blockchain won’t be useful in the future. It might just become the all-solution technology everyone claims it to be, even. But getting there won’t happen overnight. And 2018 was the year people finally realized this. There are way more practical solutions today to many problems than simply throwing the word “blockchain” or “decentralized.” Similar to what’s happening with AI, we hope 2019 is the year for blockchain to take a step back and evaluate how it can really work properly in today’s world.