December is upon us once again, and with it, the very human urge to reminisce over past events. 2017 has been a year full of Brexit headlines, political upheaval, and surprising international developments. But putting the gloomy events aside, it’s also been a year punctuated by fascinating innovations and the long-awaited evolution of technology that’s been waiting in the wings for far too long.
Before we look ahead to what surprises 2018 might bring us, we thought we’d take some time to reflect on the technology which has had a hand in shaping a year we won’t soon forget. So, without further ado, here’s just a handful that have had an impact in our eyes. Of course, feel free to share your own with us on Twitter.
Virtual Reality Took the Reins
VR – a technology which has hovered in our collective imaginations since the 80s (and possibly earlier) – made the transition into spotlight-stealing innovation in 2017. No longer reserved for sci-fi hijinks or limited to the playgrounds of the rich and famous, VR strode confidently into the year with the objective of becoming ubiquitous.
Did it achieve that goal? Not entirely. Whilst the likes of Sony’s PlayStation VR brought the technology closer to the masses, there are still limitations to its usefulness – in entertainment, at least. In other areas, such as construction, education and healthcare, VR began to throw its weight around, proving itself to be an effective tool. Indeed, if we’ve learned anything about VR this year, it’s that there’s still plenty of mileage left.
Conversations Around Self-Driving Cars
Completely self-driving cars have been slated to appear on British roads by 2021, with self-driving lorries tentatively scheduled to appear earlier than that. The technology behind it, which allows vehicles to communicate with one another in convoys, has been building for a few years now, and in 2017 it came time to have some difficult conversations.
The main point of contention lies with insurers. Currently, some cars have automated features, but the endgame of this technology is another kettle of fish. As a result, 2017 saw insurers lobby the government for more clarity around issues like who is to blame in a crash, and how self-driving cars might re-shape the industry as a whole.
As of yet, there’s been little reassurance for insurers, whereas plenty of traditional drivers and the commercial haulage industry have all shared their thoughts. This will definitely be an area to watch as it develops throughout 2018, if not just to see how these conversations shaped the finished product.
The Growing Importance of AI
In 2017, a robot was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia and yet this was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of AI’s advancements. What began, much like VR, as a science fiction trope has quickly become an integral part of our everyday lives – even if you haven’t noticed yet.
The year saw marketers, startups and tech hobbyists embrace AI, with developments in how they can effectively revolutionise business happening constantly. Despite all the AI buzz, however, it’s still awaiting its grand breakthrough moment, with the potential to transform the tech landscape still very much on the horizon. This isn’t helped by startups in cities such as Paris and Hong Kong declaring themselves to be AI-centric to access funding, even when that’s a very liberal interpretation of what they do.
Here in the UK, the government’s industry strategy recognised AI as a useful area for investment which will help the country stay ahead of its global competitors – a reassuring focusing of efforts that will unfold over the next few years.
Elsewhere, automation – not sharing the same complexities as its cousin, AI – found its way into businesses across the country, in an effort to improve productivity and flex tech-savvy muscles. In marketing, bots became the new customer service assistants, providing consumers with timely order notifications, answering their questions, and even assisting with gift ideas ahead of Christmas.
There were also many debates around automation, especially the notion that frontline staff would lose their jobs to machines – as is often feared. In truth, both sides led with good points, but due to automation’s need for management and lack of humanity, 2017 proved that there’s still room for both in the business world.
Holes in Security
Although we’d rather not end on a negative note, one huge tech trend that shaped 2017 wasn’t necessarily a positive one. Although there had been previous data breaches in previous years, such as Ashley Madison and TalkTalk, this year saw something all the more insidious in WannaCry.
The infamous ransomware threatened to cripple the NHS, whilst also targeting high profile organisations and individuals across the world, before being stopped by one hacker (who then found himself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons).
Elsewhere, the Equifax breach reminded us that even the tightest security has its limits, and the recent revelation that the Macbook OS Sierra featured a huge security flaw made us think twice about our own safety.
2017 presented us with multiple instances of our data being at risk, and will likely shape next year in terms of stronger systems being implemented – or the other side of the coin, a more malevolent relative of WannaCry.
A Year to Remember
In short, whilst many exciting technologies came to the fore in 2017, the year acted as an incubation period for many more, with the next twelve months likely to bring exciting new advancements and breakthrough moments.
Following this year’s developments, it’ll be interesting to see the direction these technologies take in 2018, as well as witnessing Brexit’s impact. With our exit from the EU cemented and the global community watching us, the UK needs to invest in technology now more than ever to stay on top. Will we manage it? We’ll have to wait and see.