5 Tech Trends for 2018 Show Growth of Automation, AI, IoT, and Big Data

Posted On December 18, 2017 By Proto Labs
Businesses are increasingly incorporating AI technology into everything from customer service to marketing functions. Photo courtesy: Shutterstock

Who doesn’t like new tech, right? Well, good news. Technology’s perpetual evolution will continue in 2018. Trend spotters advise watching for the growing trend of humans and machines working together seamlessly in a so-called no-collar workforce, the greater influence of AI, the emergence of edge computing, the ongoing impact of internet of things (IoT) and industrial internet of things (IIoT), and the continuing importance of big data.

A No-Collar Workforce

In the near future, human workers and machines will work together seamlessly, each complementing the other’s efforts in a single loop of productivity, predicts a recent article by Deloitte Insights. “And, in turn, HR organizations will begin developing new strategies and tools for recruiting, managing, and training a hybrid human-machine workforce.” But, this is not the dire, alarmist forecast of some studies that predict how workers will eventually be replaced by robots. “Notwithstanding sky-is-falling predictions, robotics, cognitive, and artificial intelligence (AI) will probably not displace most human workers,” the Deloitte study says.

AI: From Newbie to Mainstream

Speaking of AI, Forbes recently reported that AI may seem like old news for consumers, but its real power and potential exists on the business side. “With everyone from toddlers to seniors using Alexa, Siri, and customer service chatbots…AI may soon begin to feel like old news. On the business side, however, so much power remains in AI—everything from customer service and robotics to analytics and marketing…this includes faster, cheaper, and smarter automation of everything from emails to industrial manufacturing.”

Edge Computing Graphic
Edge computing optimizes data transfer between remote nodes of a network and the data center, since processing is done at the source of the data. Photo courtesy: TechGenix
Close to the Edge

Edge computing pushes data processing out to the edge of the network, nearer the sources of data and away from centralized nodes, especially in cases of resources that may not be connected to a network, such as smartphones and tablets, according to an InfoWorld article. Edge computing will not displace cloud computing. That is “no more true than saying PCs would displace the datacenter,” the article states. But, edge computing is growing quickly. As Forbes reported, industry leaders such as Cisco and HPE have made “huge hardware, software, and service bets on this movement.” Several sources say edge computing is being driven by the sheer volume and speed of information produced by IoT.

IoT and IIoT

And, speaking of the IoT and IIoT, this idea of connected technology shows no sign of slowing down, with some bloggers predicting that manufacturers will invest $267 billion in IIoT technologies by 2020. This technology, made possible by the availability of low-cost sensors and more advanced connectivity, has become ubiquitous. Gartner Inc. estimates that more than 8.4 billion “things” are on the internet today, up more than 30 percent from just a year ago. For example, in the nearly $400 billion global medical devices industry, medtech companies are integrating medical devices into the IoT. As the IoT plays a larger role in daily life, health tech OEMs are developing newer medical devices that take advantage of wireless networking capabilities. Some examples of IoT-enabled devices are infusion pumps, glucometers, inhalers, heart monitors, and insulin pens.

A Data-Driven Culture

An article in eWeek reports that big data and analytics investment will continue to grow. “A recent study conducted by SAP and Oxford Economics found that 94 percent of leaders in business technology are investing in big data and analytics technology, fueling more access to real-time data. This will continue to be a top priority in 2018 for companies…letting them turn insights into actions, for real-time results.” An example of this data-driven culture is the role of chief data officer, which is gaining traction in the corporate world as companies seek to squeeze more value out of a growing trove of digitally generated information on customers and business processes, according to recent research from Gartner.