The world of technology has always been a fast moving one and the pace of change is showing no signs of slowing down. But what developments can we expect to see in 2019?
According to a recent survey  the trends most important to businesses this year are things that are already here. The top four are seen as privacy and security, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and blockchain. Nothing really new there, but it’s how these technologies are used and developed that will shape the industry.
AI – this time it’s personal
Artificial intelligence is still one of the big trends and many of us now make use of it in our day-to-day lives thanks to digital assistants and other devices. But there is still considerable potential for the expansion of AI into new areas. Businesses need to start viewing the technology as a means to an end rather than simply as a cool new development that they have to try. By identifying commercial challenges and using AI to solve them, IT professionals can make more effective use of the technology.
Consultants PWC  suggest that one of the big AI challenges for 2019 is to more effectively monetise the technology. This is likely to come through a shift towards ‘hyper-personalisation’, making it possible to offer products and services aimed at very small groups or even individuals.
We should also see AI technology begin to converge with others, primarily Internet of Things and Industrial Internet of Things devices. This will see a push towards edge computing in order to make it easier to cope with the volumes of data generated and to deliver responses to sensor information more quickly. Improvements in communication, primarily 5G, will also make it easier to communicate with edge devices which will help to drive deployment.
Another major driver for AI in many businesses is in the preparation of data. Highly skilled analysts spend far too much of their time preparing information, if AI can take on this burden then analysts are freed for more productive and fulfilling tasks. This also paves the way for what Gartner calls ‘citizen data science’  allowing those outside the data science field to gain valuable insights from information.
Gartner also sees AI playing an increasing part in the development process. The use of automated testing tools can speed up time to market for applications. Moreover, AI also has the potential to develop models that can be used to automatically generate apps to solve specific problems.
Data and trust
Big data isn’t new, but the increase in the numbers of smart devices and sensors means that we are generating data in larger quantities than ever before. Of course, there’s great potential in all of this data for improving healthcare, streamlining business processes, even improving the environment.
But there are risks too. We’ve already seen the controversy surrounding the use of data in political campaigning. Data in the wrong hands, or used in unethical ways, could represent a threat to financial markets, to democracies, even to people’s ability to trust what they see and read. The Chinese Xinhua news agency is already using surprisingly lifelike digital news readers  so expect to see the lines between reality and the virtual world becoming increasingly blurred.
People are rightly becoming more concerned about how their data is being collected and used by the organisations they deal with. This will drive a move towards ‘digital ethics’ which will go beyond privacy to encompass organisations’ wider position on building trust.
Security and privacy
If 2018 was the year of the data breach, then could 2019 be the year in which companies get their act together and ensure that their systems are properly protected? There has been a great deal of talk over the last year about the potential of blockchain to improve security, although we’ve seen very few real-world applications so far.
One area that looks promising is the use of blockchain in creating software-defined networks. This would ensure that only verified transactions can occur between devices, making it much harder for networks to be compromised both by outsiders or by internal malicious activity.
The introduction of GDPR in 2018 saw many minds focussed on data privacy. As similar legislation rolls out elsewhere, notably in the United States, businesses will continue to look seriously at what data they store and how to protect it.
We have yet to see any major fines levied under GDPR. That’s something it seems likely will come in 2019 and when it does, it should serve to focus the management teams of businesses concerning their security and privacy positions.
Most enterprises have been moving towards the cloud for some years and the adoption rate shows no signs of slowing. However, there are still concerns surrounding governance and security . This is likely to encourage many businesses to review their cloud strategies. Moves to hybrid and even private clouds could see 2019 reflect a slowdown in public cloud use as concerns over protecting data mount. Moreover, the cloud is by no means not a universal answer; it’s likely that some legacy systems will always remain in-house.
One of the things we will definitely see in 2019 is the 5G rollout. The technology is already being trialled by the major service providers and services are expected to launch in 16 cities later this year. This should coincide with the first 5G capable phones going on sale. 5G is set to offer mobile users faster internet speeds and greater bandwidth. Some have even speculated that it may mark the beginning of the end for public Wi-Fi.
We hesitate to mention the B-word, but Brexit will undoubtedly have some influence on the industry in the coming year. It may at the very least mean a greater emphasis on home-grown talent. The UK is currently ranked in the top 10 for cybersecurity capabilities  and retaining that position means being able to recruit the best talent.
Whatever technology brings, it’s people that are the key to making it work. The industry-leading team here at Clifford Associates can help you find the senior talent you need to meet the digital challenges ahead.
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