Disruptive innovation and technologies to consider in 2018

By David Gilbert

Woman operating a 3-D printer.

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As we head into 2018, we are surrounded by disruptive innovation. Whether it’s artificial intelligence, driverless cars, space exploration or quantum computing, it can be hard for even the most enthusiastic technophiles to stay up to date with all the rapid advances taking place and coming down the line.

These innovations are changing the world as we know it. As the new year approaches, it is a perfect time to look back on what technologies broke through in 2017 and look forward to advances that the experts are predicting will disrupt in 2018.

The top 5 disruptive technologies of 2017

  • Bots: At the beginning of the year, many experts predicted bots would take over the world. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), bots can help improve a company’s efficiency while also giving consumers a better experience. In 2017, bots were used to provide cooking tips, give public transport directions and even provide free legal advice, but they have yet to overtake apps as the most important way for businesses to interact with their customers. In 2018, bots will continue to grow in importance, and enterprises need to understand how best to integrate the technology.
  • 3-D printing: A few years ago, 3-D printing was expected to change the world. Just as quickly as it arrived, the technology was written off as a gimmick. At the beginning of 2017, many were predicting 3-D printing would come into its own, and in many ways it has. Industrial 3-D printing has proven to be a vital tool for companies looking to streamline manufacturing process. It helps accelerate product development, facilitates creating customized products and increases production flexibility. According to Sculpteo’s State of 3-D Printing 2017 study, 90 percent of companies using the technology consider it a competitive advantage.
  • Artificial intelligence: As we touched on above, if one technology epitomized 2017, it was AI. Despite being one of the most complex technologies to understand, it became mainstream news thanks to the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. For enterprises, it is important to understand how AI technology can be used in 2018. One of the big approaching trends is AI in the cloud, where operations such as image analysis and language comprehension will assist enterprises of all sizes.
  • Self-driving vehicles: More self-driving cars hit the roads in 2017 than ever before, but this was not the year for them to become mainstream. Dozens of companies — from secretive startups to traditional car manufacturers — tested their own systems on public roads. The technology is improving rapidly, but regulations remain a sticking point. For enterprises, autonomous trucks could revolutionize many aspects of shipping, inventory and operations. Businesses big and small will need to keep a close eye on developments in 2018 to ensure they know where the trends are heading. Some predict there will be 10 million autonomous vehicles on the road as soon as 2020.
  • Quantum computing: Along with AI, quantum computing was the most disruptive technology of 2017. While it has yet to become a practical technology, more companies are investing ever greater sums of money into getting to the point where a quantum computer will outperform a supercomputer. We are still some years away from when the power of quantum computing will be available to enterprises, but we will see major breakthroughs that will highlight the promise of quantum computing in 2018.

2018’s top five predicted breakthroughs

  • Blockchain: The distributed ledger technology that underpins bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is nothing new, having been around for almost a decade at this point. Until recently, it was viewed with disdain by many, given its association with bitcoin and darknet. But in 2018 blockchain will become much more mainstream, driven by a financial world that is investing heavily in these technologies. It will also be used in other industries, including real estate and intellectual property protection, and will help organize the growing and somewhat chaotic world of IoT devices.
  • Robots will become smarter: In 2018, IDC predicts, we will enter the Robotics 3.0 era, which will be characterized by ubiquitous sensing and connectivity, cyber-physical fusion, autonomous capabilities (such as cognition, decision-making, learning and adaptation) and more human-friendly multimode interaction. As robots become less expensive and access to AI in the cloud improves, all enterprises will need to consider how they can leverage this disruptive innovation for their benefit.
  • Visual and voice: Just as we moved from physical keys to taps on a touchscreen, we are now quickly moving towards a world where we search using voice and visual techniques. We have already seen the explosion of voice-activated devices and AI-power smart assistants, and in 2018, we will see consumers engaged increasingly through voice. Gartner predicts brands that redesign their websites to support voice and visual searching will increase digital commerce revenue by 30 percent.
  • IoT everywhere: The Internet of Things has been a buzzword for a number of years, and 2017 saw an explosion in the number of connected, well, things. In 2018, that growth is going to continue increasing, but IoT is likely to become more specialized in the approaching 12 months, according to a report from Forrester. Enterprises will want IoT platforms that are built specifically for their needs, not generic, off-the-shelf solutions, which will improve efficiency and productivity.
  • Augmented reality: In 2017, worldwide spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) will reach just over $9 billion, according to IDC, but that will pale in comparison to the expected $17.8 billion anticipated to be spent in 2018, an increase of nearly 95 percent. While consumers will drive a lot of the extra spending, enterprises will also look to leverage this technology in areas such as product design, retail sales and employee training.

There’s no question that 2017 was an incredible year for disruptive innovation; 2018 is set to bring an even greater amount of disruptive technologies to the market.

Written By

David Gilbert

David Gilbert specializes in covering the global smartphone industry and the dangerous world of cybercrime. David has worked as a reporter for VICE News, served as European technology editor at the International Business Times, and as Technology Editor for the UK edition of IBTimes…

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