It has taken some time, but the future described by 20th Century futurists and Hollywood is starting to appear in the tech and innovation predictions of today.
We may not be driving to the store in a flying car or asking our friends to beam us up, but what is happening is pretty amazing.
After all, companies are working on self-driving cars (instead of merely promising to get around to it sooner or later). Space tourism may become a thing this year.
So what technological and innovative marvels are in store for the business world in the next 12 months? These tech and innovation predictions seem like a pretty good bet to me.
1. Expect artificial intelligence to be even more intelligent and less artificial.
Just about everyone seems to assume that this is a given when it comes to tech and innovation predictions.
“Artificial intelligence continues to be a hot topic for both businesses and consumers. From an IT perspective, we will be embracing AI concepts even more than we are today over the course of the next year and beyond," says Mick Whittemore, vice president of IT enterprise operations at Paychex, a payroll and human resources company headquartered in Rochester, New York.
“Businesses can expect to see more use of chatbots to help provide better customer experience and drive efficiencies," Whittemore says. “For example, at Paychex, we are releasing chatbot capabilities to address the top 75 percent of the questions from our customers. As a result, conversational user experiences are more natural and are driving a better experience."
Michael Bancroft, a Toronto-based consumer tech journalist who co-hosts the TV series, Beyond Innovation on Bloomberg Television, thinks AI will have a major impact on healthcare in 2019.
In 2018, there was a real boom of text chatbots with an artificial intelligence. In 2019, a new stage of chatbot development is expected.
—Marina Shumaieva, co-founder and chief technology officer, CruiseBe
Along with the ability to create new drugs, it will also be able to "crunch through massive amounts of patient data to predict why certain diseases occur and which treatments are most effective in addressing them," Bancroft says.
"Firms will need to invest incredible sums into developing artificial intelligence in order to stay ahead of the research curve, much like technology companies are today," he adds.
But AI has the potential to do a lot for other industries.
Logan Soya, founder and CEO of Aquicore, a Washington, D.C.-based commercial real estate software company, says, “Internet connected devices are continuously creating troves of data sets that didn't exist for buildings before. Artificial intelligence will be used to sift through this data and unlock new insights for things like building performance optimization, energy use reduction and cost savings."
2. Watch for augmented reality to become more real.
Augmented reality (AR) is what you get when you use technology to overlay information (like sounds, images or words) onto the world you see.
Imagine that you wanted to paint a wall in your office pink. If you pointed your phone's camera to that wall using an AR app, it would superimpose a pink wall over your beige one. That's augmented reality.
While augmented reality probably won't touch every industry by the end of 2019, tech and innovation predictions say it seems likely that we'll see much more of it.
Sasha Kreindlin, the CEO of ARShow, an augmented reality technology company based out of Tel Aviv, Israel, says that as far as augmentation reality goes, “We're at the beginning of a revolution. This is a very exciting time."
For the last several years, AR and VR developers have tried to create a universal technology, Kreindlin says.
"They've tried to create multipurpose systems that will replace the smartphone and serve us in every field of our lives," Kreindlin says. “This goal is about to change dramatically, from a universal vision to targeting the technology specifically to different markets.
“Synchronized AR for a group will enable training for businesses or for the military," he continues. "Imagine a tour group being able to interact with knights on horseback at an historical site. Or that group using an augmented tour guide. This is very different than an individual experience."
But there are practical implications for augmented reality beyond retail and tourism. Soya sees augmented reality possibly helping commercial real estate this year as well.
“AR has potential to aid HVAC technicians and other vendors in locating and fixing equipment, adding visual information to the field that could include directions or model specs," he says.
3. Bet on blockchain to become a blockbuster.
“Blockchain was over-hyped in its early days," says Charley Moore, founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based online legal services firm Rocket Lawyer.
But it looks like 2019 might be blockchain's year if tech and innovation predictions are to be believed. Blockchain is technology that allows digital information to be distributed but not replicated. It's the technology behind the famed digital currency, Bitcoin, but other industries are looking for ways to utilize the technology.
“Blockchain has made smart contracts possible—legal agreements that are self-executing and tracked on a digital ledger, and now businesses of all sizes can use them for quick and easy legal transactions," Moore says.
4. Robotic process automation is yet another one of the more popular tech and innovation predictions.
If you've been hearing a lot about robotic process automation, or RPA, there's a reason.
A 2018 study from Grand View Research suggested that robotic process automation as an industry will be a $3.11 billion market by 2025, expanding between now and then at a compound annual growth rate of 31.1 percent. RPA is a software robot.
When you marry RPA with AI, you get creations such as chatbots (a computer program that can interact with people).
Chatbots are going to be evolving in a big way this year and beyond, says Marina Shumaieva. (Shumaieva is a co-founder and the chief technology officer of CruiseBe, a Dallas-based tech travel startup that offers a cruise itinerary aggregator.)
“In 2018, there was a real boom of text chatbots with an artificial intelligence. In 2019, a new stage of chatbot development is expected," she says.
Of all the tech and innovation predictions out there, this one is particularly fun to consider. Shumaieva believes that this may well be the year where voice chatbots—or voice activated assistants, which already seem like human,truly step it up.
We're already able to order pizza with a voice-activated device or book a hotel or flight with certain voice bots, she points out.
“The next step will be the integration of these technologies with AR and VR," Shumaieva says. “As a result, the client will receive not just a voice assistant, but a consultant with a specific look and features."
She thinks that could happen as early as this year.
5. Prepare for a lot more cyber warfare, but with more technology to help businesses.
More cyber warfare isn't the cheeriest thought among these tech and innovation predictions.
But many experts in the cybersecurity field believe that hackers and cyber-jerks (if that isn't a term, let's make it one) will continue to come after businesses and their customers in the coming year.
The already often mentioned AI should make cyberattacks even less of a headache for IT departments, according to James Slaby, director of cyber protection at Acronis, a global technology company headquartered in Switzerland. (Slaby is based out of Boston.)
There's a “tsunami or disparate data" that IT departments are often overloaded with, Slaby says.
“AI has real promise to help on this score—learning over time what events are meaningful and which are just noise," he says.
AI can also improve information accuracy "by assuming tedious, repetitive, error-prone tasks from humans" and "identifying patterns of anomalies that have led to bigger failures in order to anticipate them and head off their recurrence," he says.
But no business can afford to let down their guard and assume that software protection and artificial intelligence will protect a company from hackers. Because the hackers have pretty good at technology, too.
“Our attackers are going to continue to become more sophisticated by using more powerful strategies and tactics," says Michael Condes, practice director of security and risk at AHEAD, an enterprise cloud company in Chicago. "They'll leverage technology like artificial intelligence to conduct these robotic attacks."
Meanwhile, Condes says that businesses will be using artificial intelligence programs to fight back.
“You'll also see more and more automation and analytics to both attack and defend. So there's going to be less of a human factor in terms of the battle," he says. “In World War I, we had hand-to-hand combat, and now we've evolved to droids in this 'Star Wars'-type battlefront."
But whatever tech and innovative predictions do or don't come true in the year ahead, it's exciting to think about. Looking ahead to see what's new never gets old.
Read more articles on innovation.
Photo: Getty Images