Among the most exciting trends coming out of major tech hubs throughout the world are artificial intelligence, voice recognition, lighting fast networks, self-driving cars, and digitization of just about everything. And while most of us have heard terms like AI, 5G, and voice recognition, we still haven’t scratched the surface of what these developments mean for our daily lives and humanity as a whole.
Fortunately, we can draw on the expertise and insight of experts like Robert Deignan, whose company, ATS Digital Solutions, helps everyday tech consumers solve difficult technical problems. In this article, with the help of Robert Deignan, we’re going to take a deep dive on five of the most notable tech trends.
The trends we’ll cover are the continuing development and application of artificial intelligence, the emergence of 5G networks, the proliferation of voice recognition, the evolution of transportation, and the transformation of the consumer experience.
For each trend, we’ll outline a quick overview of the technology and provide the context you’ll need to understand where the trend fits in the grand scheme of things.
Read on to get up to date on the latest technology trends.
Explosive Growth in Artificial Intelligence Development
For all the excitement surrounding artificial intelligence and its potential applications within a wide variety of industries, you might not realize that AI is anything but new. In fact, by the time computers could store data in 1950, AI had already become a popular concept. However, since then, the pace of development and the level of interest (and funding) in AI has been sporadic.
What’s interesting to note, though, is that for all the buzz surrounding artificial intelligence—as Robert Deignan can attest—the way we code AI systems hasn’t changed all that much. Just like they did in decades past, artificially intelligent systems still mine through vast databases based on how they’ve been trained by their programmers to find the answers to the problems they are posed with.
What has changed, however, is the infrastructure. As recently as the 1990’s, computers were poorly equipped to process the amount of data necessary to make AI work. They couldn’t store enough data, nor could they process that data quickly enough for AI to have any major practical applications.
Amazingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, over the course of Robert Deignan’s career, the capabilities of computers has increased exponentially. In the age of big data, computers can process unfathomably large databases in the blink of an eye. Another vital feature of modern computers is that they have the ability to store these vast amounts of data. Google’s search database is a great example of this. In fact, Google is one of the leading developers of artificial intelligence because they have such a large database of information to draw from. These capabilities—the ability to store and process data at lightning fast speeds—are key drivers of the AI trends you’re seeing today.
In many ways, the future of AI has arrived. Or at least, it’s beginning to arrive. Little things that you don’t think about like email spam filters, product recommendations from Amazon, voice assistants, mobile banking, ride-sharing apps, and more, leverage the power of artificial intelligence. Even those annoying robots you talk to when you call a company’s customer support line leverage the power of artificial intelligence, although some do it better than others.
You may be tempted to disregard the buzz about artificial intelligence as just another wave of hype, but large technology companies are investing in AI at an unprecedented pace. Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, and a litany of other huge tech players are making a big splash in the world of artificial intelligence. With so much money at stake, it seems that the proliferation of artificial intelligence is a less a question of “if” and more a question of “when.”
Voice Recognition to Replace Traditional User Interfaces
Together, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak collaborated to bring the first personal computer to market that achieved commercial success. Since then, savvy tech entrepreneurs like Robert Deignan have sprung up and made successful businesses around helping people with their computers. As a result of Wozniak and Jobs’s work, the way we interact with machines changed forever. It’s because of them that when we work on a computer, we use a mouse and we’re familiar with menus and windows and icons.
Some experts say that voice recognition systems are the next revolution of user interfaces. In other words, they’re saying that voice recognition will change the way we interact with machines on the same scale that Jobs’s first computers did. Considering how personal computers have changed our lives, it’s safe to say that this is a really big deal. Imagine telling your coffee maker to brew a cup of coffee or asking your refrigerator what its storing without getting up from the couch.
Today, the forefront of the technology exists in the form of digital voice assistants. And, as evidence of how big voice recognition technology could be, several of the big tech players are heavily investing in voice. Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft have all rolled out digital voice assistants that exist in a consumer’s home. They’re also building voice capabilities into their devices. For example, Siri is available on iPhones, Cortana is available on a variety of Microsoft devices, and Google has brought Google Assistant to its phones as well.
Despite these advances, as hardware expert Robert Deignan has seen, the vast majority of household products are not voice enabled. This, however, appears to be the next forefront for voice search. Currently, voice assistants can perform a fairly narrow set of tasks. For example, they can tell you what the weather forecast is or look up a recipe or product. To be sure, this is valuable to many consumers, but when these voice capabilities extend beyond the central “pod” into other products, that’s when things start to get really exciting. And for the big tech companies, that’s where they’re going to make a lot of money. This is why there’s such a big push among the tech giants to become the go-to voice assistant for consumers.
After all, if you buy an Amazon voice assistant, you’re more likely to buy future, voice-enabled Amazon products rather than other products that might not integrate fully with Amazon’s voice assistant. In fact, because of their desire to dominate early on, Amazon is selling the Echo Dot at such low prices that they’re taking a short-term loss.
At this point in the development of voice, the technology is more or less there in terms of accuracy. Voice assistants report error rates of 5 percent or less. Still, there’s a ways to go before this technology becomes as ingrained into our daily lives as the personal computer. To achieve that, companies are directing significant investment towards making voice assistants increasingly human and dynamic so the interaction seems more natural.
Comscore predicts that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. In other words, voice technology has arrived. Now it’s just a question of who the most dominant players are going to be and how fast and to what extent voice will replace screens and keyboards as the primary way that we interact with our devices.
The Rise of the Next Generation of Mobile Networks
In the same way that cloud computing, super-fast processing speed, and extremely efficient computer chips paved the way for AI advances, 5G will pave the way for a countless number of exciting technological applications. But before we get into that, what exactly is 5G?
The answer is complicated, even for tech experts like Robert Deignan, but the simple version is that 5G is an enhancement of the existing mobile infrastructure. Currently, data on these networks travels from towers to your device and to other devices on a variety of radio frequencies. The 5G network will change the way the standards and protocols work so that data passing through radio frequencies will do so more efficiently.
If you think of the existing mobile network like a road with tons of traffic, you can imagine a few different ways that road could be modified to accommodate more traffic. The most obvious thing to do would be to widen the road and create new lanes. However, you could make things even more efficient if you had lanes specifically dedicated to long-distance travelers as well as local travelers. This is pretty much what the 5G network does to the existing network.
As a result, data will flow far more efficiently through these radio frequencies. Estimates about how much faster this network have varied, but generally, the thought is that 5G networks will be capable of processing data ten to a hundred times faster than the existing network. That means, with a 5G-enabled device, you may be able to download a high-definition movie as quickly as a basic webpage loads on your computer.
That said, downloading high-quality movies faster is just one of many applications of the 5G network, but it doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of how that could change our lives. Case in point is the Internet of Things or IoT. For several years now, the buzz about IoT is that it could revolutionize our lives by enabling devices to interact with each other in extremely sophisticated ways. However, much like AI development has suffered from a lack of processing power, IoT hasn’t had the infrastructure necessary to reach its full potential.
For example, one of the first things techies think about when they think about IoT is automated cars. But to automate cars successfully, those cars must have the ability to receive, interpret and act on data instantaneously. There can’t be any lag between the time when an autonomous car senses that it needs to apply the brakes and the time when it actually activates the brakes. Otherwise, you’re putting lives at risk. 5G should eventually solve this problem because data will travel much faster on the revamped infrastructure.
And that’s why you’re hearing so much about 5G. It’s not that the technology itself is that exciting. It’s more that the technology that can leverage the 5G network could totally transform our lives.
Transformation of Transportation Through Automation
Autonomous cars are just one application of IoT, but they’re such a transformative force, that they’re worth extended mention. Tech veterans like Robert Deignan understand the ramifications of a tech-driven transportation transformation, and by drawing on his knowledge in this article, you can too.
In fact, what’s most transformative about the driverless revolution is less about the technology itself, but the way it could change the way we think about and use transportation. Consider the idea that Nathaniel Bullard of Bloomberg News pointed out. He suggested that driverless cars could make it so transportation via car becomes a service for consumers, rather than a product that they buy. His thinking is that companies, say Uber, for example, could run fleets of autonomous cars, removing the need for consumers to purchase cars.
Of course, consumers would have to pay to use these services, but with the economies of scale earned by the companies providing these fleets, the price could be quite attractive. Currently, American consumers spend a lot of money to purchase cars. In fact, behind buying a home, it’s often one of the largest expenditures of money that the average American consumer will make in their lifetime. So you could easily imagine a world in which paying a few dollars each time you use an automated car service completely changes our transportation network.
Still, the implementation of automated cars has run into its issues. Earlier this year, one of Uber’s self-driving cars killed a pedestrian in Arizona. It was the first accident of its kind and it turned out that the car actually did see the pedestrian; it’s just that the emergency braking system had been disabled to prevent erratic car behavior. As a result, Uber shut down its self-driving car operations in Arizona. So, while there is considerable promise associated with autonomous vehicles, we still may have to wait several years before autonomous cars are ready to completely revolutionize our transportation system.
Transforming the Customer Experience through Virtual Reality Digitization
Robert Deignan, along with his company ATS Digital Solutions, has been hard at work throughout his entire career transforming the customer’s experience with technical support. It stands to reason, then, that he has considerable insight into what’s going on all across the digital economy. Like other trends mentioned in this article, the transformation of the customer experience through digitization has been going on in virtually every industry for several years, even decades in some cases.
But while e-commerce giants like Amazon are changing the face of retail, they still haven’t completely destroyed brick and mortar stores. In fact, while Amazon made up 44 percent of all e-commerce sales in the United States in 2018, they “only” grabbed 4 percent of the total retail figure. There are still many avenues for growth of e-commerce giants, but one of the most cutting-edge paths is through digitization of the consumer experience.
There’s no denying it; for all the convenience of shopping online, you ultimately miss something from the in-store experience. You can’t touch or smell products, nor can you try them on or test them out. But what if you could put on a virtual reality headset and have all those experiences and tap into all those senses? How might that transform the customer experience? Chances are, people will still want to be able to go to the store. But, undoubtedly, a customer experience enhanced by virtual reality will encourage more people to stay at home (and online) to do their shopping.
Of all the trends on this list, this one may be the farthest away. Virtual reality hardware is fairly expensive and it hasn’t been widely adopted by consumers. Plus, as with most cutting-edge technology, there are still some bugs to work out. So, for most, the current VR experience doesn’t come close enough to the real thing to completely replace the current consumer experience. In fact, while some experts were optimistic about sales projections for VR headsets, 2018 has been a tough year. Price and usability are still major obstacles to wider adoption. But even when they come down in price, like voice recognition, there will need to be a slow, mass-market acceptance of this very new, transformative technology.
Exciting Times Ahead for the Tech World
No matter which way you spin it, the horizon for the tech world is full of fascinating new prospects. Things that we couldn’t dream of just 10 years ago have become a daily reality. To be fair, hype and buzz don’t always materialize as we thought it would. But when it comes to AI, autonomous cars, digitization, and more, if we pay attention, we can see the effects of these fast-developing technologies on our everyday life.
The question now is how fast these technologies will continue to develop and what new ones will emerge that we haven’t even conceived of yet. We’ll just have to wait to find out.