Six technology trends that could shape 2018

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This feature first appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

Where will technology take us in 2018?As we all turn the page on 2017, I, like many others, have looked back and said, “What did I do wrong,” and “What could I have done better?” As a gadget-loving nerd, I have also been reflecting on the Amazon Echoes, video door locks, drones, and wireless headphones I picked up during the year.

All of this has me wondering what 2018 has in store. As a new year dawns, every IT professionals should be asking herself or himself, “What technology trends should I be paying attention to, be afraid of, or be excited to dive into?”

I have some bright ideas — a handful of tech trends that I believe will be prominent in the coming year. As you read through my potentially prophetic forecast, keep in mind that almost everything here will require updates to existing IT certifications, or possibly drive the creation of certifications yet unimagined.

Wearables

Thus far, wearable devices haven’t really caught on. I think it’s because they aren’t small enough or quite invisible enough to outside observers. Expect this to change in 2018. The convergence of hearing-aid-sized devices and satellite-fueled internet service (more on that later) will make it possible for anyone to feel like a superspy, or maybe Tony Stark.

Imagine that friendly “Siri” voice repeating the results of an internet search directly into your ear, or a contact lens that projects a composite social media overlay across the face of every person you meet. These products are already being developed and prototyped.

And bear in mind that we’re just getting started when it comes to wearable devices. The tech will continue to shrink in size and increase in speed, leading to a shift in design to make wearables more convenient, useful, unobtrusive, and affordable.

More smart devices

I can remember a time when technology didn’t rule my life, when everything was “dumb” and kicking an appliance just might get it to resume normal function. Now, I often find myself wondering, “Why isn’t (device) already smarter than this?”

In 2018, I predict we will see a sharp increase in “smart,” inexpensive everyday items. Imagine a fan that senses airflow and temperature, and activates a water-mist when appropriate. Or what about a TV that learns your favorite programs from your viewing habits and automatically records and stores them for you to watch at your convenience? (See what I mean? You just thought, “Why don’t TVs do that already?”)

Artificial intelligence

Where will technology take us in 2018?AI won’t be taking over the world in 2018, but we’re making big strides. For developers and engineers, this holy grail of IT is becoming more of a reality every day. Consider all the talk about AI by our politicians and scientists. Why do you think they are talking about it? Because it’s close — the stuff of sci-fi. We may soon see our first (I’m doing my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice here) learning computer.

If you aren’t already paying attention to the spread of AI, make 2018 the year you start. AI will most likely be implemented on manufacturing and production lines before it shows up anywhere else. Smart machines will better understand error rates, progress from predictive to perspective fixes, and ultimately to “understanding” what they are doing.

The tech will jump from seemingly harmless beer can production, to self-driving cars and trucks, to everyday items, and then to … robots. 2018 will move us further down the road to using things that “think” from a true “AI” perspective.

In the future, instead of typing out articles, I may just be thinking them into a computer, or dictating them to my live-in robot. IT pros should learn everything they can about machine learning, AI, and all aspects of Big Data. This is not only fascinating stuff, but it will serve you well when our robot overlords are running the place.

Currency

Currency, both standard and crypto, will move into a place of transparency, autonomy and convergence — where the use of any denomination will be seamless. 2018 will see crypto-currency move into all the markets via blockchain. Blockchain already has the capability to move bitcoin (the most popular crypto-currency) into the mainstream by making transactions permanent and transparent.

Bitcoin will continue to move further out of the shadows and onto center stage. Once this happens on a widespread basis, I expect that financial institutions will begin marketing it, creating funds around it, and even paying people with it.

Right now, there is a company in the United Kingdom that offers a Mastercard backed by gold. That’s already on the table. We are not too far off from a single card that will convert, pay, and receive ANY currency known to man.

For the consumer, this opens up whole new ways to pay and save. For IT professionals, the impact of the tech could not be more promising. Jobs will abound in everything from mining bitcoins to supporting multinationals creating “emerging markets.” And, of course, we’ll need cybersecurity pros to safeguard the tech. Keep your finger on the pulse of currency. It has the potential to make you very rich.

Attack as a service

In 2017, we saw an unprecedented amount of data breaches. Globally, the average cost of a single data breach was $3.62 million. The damage to a company’s reputation can be even more costly. The continual threat of unknown attackers stealing our lives a piece at a time terrifies most of us, and as we move into 2018, the shift toward actively combatting data theft will pick up speed.

Hiring CISOs and security professionals has been on the docket at most companies for a long time now, but what I believe will be new is a trend toward “Attack as a Service” — the continuous adaptive risk thwarting and review, along with sustained auditing and “natural selection” of security services.

Imagine a service where you can just type in your name, or your company’s name, and choose an attack vector. For instance, you select “breach firewall” and the system tries everything known and unknown to access your data. Or choose “social engineering” and the company that runs the service deploys people to get into your company.

This type of security automation on the penetration testing and attack side is likely to be a high-growth area in 2018. Any IT Pro with an interest in cybersecurity would be well advised to jump into this or any other security specialization in the coming year.

Science and Big Data

While I don’t claim to know a lot about RNA and DNA, anyone can see where IT and science are meeting with CRISPR gene editing technology. CRISPR is a rapid and easy-touse gene editing technology that can selectively delete, modify, or correct a disease-causing abnormality within a DNA segment.

“CRISPR” refers to Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats occurring in the genome of certain bacteria, from which the system was discovered. While this is both a mouthful and a brainbuster, one can easily see the underlying value of Big Data to the process. All areas of gene and disease study will be improved by Big Data tools and techniques.

Sooner than some may think, CRISPR will go mainstream, with smaller labs leveraging the data to alter simple things like eliminating known genetic weaknesses within pet lineages. When it comes to humans, 2018 could see us take the first steps to “curing” a disease in quite some time.

It’s hard to predict which disease or genetic malady will be targeted first, or what form the cure will take. Again, however, it doesn’t require much of an intuitive leap to guess that IT pros who can effectively marshal the resources of Big Data will be invaluable to this effort.

Low Earth Orbit internet service

Where will technology take us in 2018?This may be a long shot, but I hope that 2018 finds us moving away from land-based internet cables and relays to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) technology. No more wires, no fighting over the net, or endlessly digging up streets, and so forth. I’ve included this at the end because we still have a way to go to accomplish it, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

BONUS: First-run movies

This one’s not really a revolutionary tech trend, but it may be the one that affects most people soonest (and most directly). Although social media seems to permeate every aspect of our lives, it seems to me that society has gotten much less social. In many ways, I would prefer to watch a movie at home from the comfort of my couch, instead of going to a theater with friends and breaking the bank on refreshments.

Thankfully, 2018 will almost certainly bring changes in how we watch new movies. We will increasingly view new releases from home theaters. We will also be able to watch with others who aren’t in the same room — they will be able to watch the exact same stream from their location, in real time.

Some companies are realizing that some people want to watch Justice League or Avengers: Infinity War not only in their favorite chair, but with friends via social media. There is a growing market for what I call the social media introvert. Making events or services available to these groups is something every IT pro should keep up with.

Stay on your toes

These are only a few of the tech trends that are likely to see significant growth in the coming year. Truthfully, there will be so many cool trends in 2018 that you won’t be able to keep up with all of them. (Neither will I.) Instead of feeling fearful or overwhelmed, we should revel in the fact that there are so many areas of growth for IT, and such a variety of services and job functions to be filled.

IT professionals should gravitate to jobs, people, and companies in these areas, as well as adopting new tech that follows these trends. Everything is getting smarter, and not embracing new tech isn’t a winning strategy. My advice for 2018 is to pick a tech or two that you think will grow, latch on, and enjoy the ride. It’s sure to take you to some interesting places and wonderful possibilities.

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Nathan Kimpel

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.

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