This past year has been an eventful one for business professionals and marketers, who have continued to watch technology transform industries of all types. Breakthroughs in areas as diverse as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, predictive analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and digitalization kept us riveted as consumers — and thinking through the implications as entrepreneurs and marketers.
But as the saying goes, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” The year to come will build on the progress made in 2017 and may even have a few surprises in store. Startups and tech behemoths alike are engaged in research and development now that have the potential to change everything in 2018. Here are five tech trends to watch as 2018 unfolds.
Get Ready for AI in Overdrive
The one technology marketers feel most unprepared for is AI, according to a recent Conductor survey on marketing trends referenced at MarketingCharts.com.
Now is the time to get ready: In the coming years, virtually every mobile and web app or service will incorporate AI in some way, and machine learning, deep learning, computer vision and other iterations of AI will power untold developer innovations. AI-fueled functions like smart search, fraud detection and smart recommendations are already making waves. Applications in the fitness and healthcare spheres are on the way, and the coming year will likely bring new use cases for intelligent apps.
Forecast: Mostly Cloudy with a Chance of AI and IoT
Marketers who want to do a deep dive into data analysis will increasingly look to the cloud as more companies adopt a public-cloud-first policy in the coming year. The IoT requires unstructured data analytics capabilities, and the cloud enables more control over the costs of advanced tools while yielding more flexibility than on-premises software can deliver. For these reasons, cloud implementations will grow as companies find they reduce entry-level technology expenses and provide a way to host all data in a single space.
Look for “Anything-as-a-Service” Everywhere
We’ve all grown accustomed to the “as a Service” model, as in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), etc. In the year ahead, expect to see the XaaS (pronounced “zaas”) model emerge as the next evolution in corporate cloud services delivery: Anything-as-a-Service. In this model, cloud computing services will integrate separate private or public cloud services and deliver them to users in one seamless package.
Rise of the Chatbots
Chatbots are about to go mainstream, thanks to machine learning advances that are increasing chatbots’ utility for business automation and customer service. Look for conversational chatbots to save the day in customer-facing situations, using their AI capabilities to solve problems faster than a human agent could. Tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook are already debuting chatbots in customer service situations, and by the time 2018 draws to a close, it’s entirely possible that millennial customers will be more accustomed to chatting with bots than conversing with humans to solve customer service issues.
AR and VR become part of RL (real life)
Augmented reality like the trendy Pokémon GO phenomenon that made headlines not long ago and virtual reality tools are poised to take off in the coming year. An AR game based on the Harry Potter universe is set for release in 2018, but AR and VR won’t be all fun and games next year: The world’s largest brands have seen the technologies’ potential to enhance customers’ experience inside and outside of their stores and are investing in projects to make AR and VR part of the retail landscape.
So, what do these trends mean for marketers and entrepreneurs? Many people worry about the impact of AI-driven technologies on the labor force, but in the near term, AI is likely to augment the jobs humans do and help businesses run more efficiently rather than replacing workers. These technologies are also creating many jobs as companies look for data engineers, scientists, analysts — and data-savvy marketers — to create and operate applications and assess AI-generated insights.
In 2017, the marketing industry discussed data analytics, AI, machine learning and similar topics endlessly, and some put these tools to use to improve customer outreach and drive sales higher. The coming year may see numerous breakthroughs as more companies put advanced technologies like AI to work across business units and marketers use AI-driven predictive analytics tools in greater numbers. While many executives feel unprepared for AI, the year ahead promises to be incredibly productive for entrepreneurs and marketers who embrace it.
About the Author: Anil Kaul, Co-Founder and CEO of Absolutdata. Anil has over 22 years of experience in advanced analytics, market research, and management consulting. He is very passionate about analytics and leveraging technology to improve business decision-making. Prior to founding Absolutdata, Anil worked at McKinsey & Co. and Personify. He is also on the board of Edutopia, an innovative start-up in the language learning space.