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Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of J. Walter Thompson’s Innovation Group, picks 10 key technology trends to look out for in 2018

Lucie Greene
Lucie Greene

1. AR Reaches Mass
In 2017, augmented reality (AR) went from niche technology to must-have tech. Now tech giants are pushing AR into the mainstream.

Though AR came to prominence through the immensely popular Pokémon Go, it is no longer a game, but a serious feature poised to deliver real consumer benefits.

2. Internet of Eyes
Smart computing is moving from the Internet of Things to the Internet of Eyes, as more and more everyday objects are equipped with smart cameras and the latest in visual recognition technology.

Smartphones have further fuelled an already image-driven culture. According to SONARTM, J. Walter Thompson’s proprietary research tool, 27% of US 18-34-year-olds already use Instagram as a key research tool for shopping. Advancements in machine learning mean that cameras could one day recognise individuals, learn habits and measure emotion — with significant ramifications for retail, marketing and beyond.

3. Internet of Ears
Developments in speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP) allow us to talk to computers in a way that seemed like science fiction just a few years ago. With adoption rates skyrocketing, the variety of smart voice-enabled products is also on the rise.

Voice technology promises brands a richer and deeper engagement with consumers. Globally, 43% of regular voice tech users say they love their voice assistant so much they wish it was a real person. Brands can leverage this relationship to add true value to the customer experience. By identifying moments when voice can enhance the customer journey, providing practical support, cutting out steps or making life a little easier, brands can build engagement.

4. Femtech Revolution
Trailblazing female entrepreneurs are leading a new wave of fem-centric health tech, creating smart products designed around women’s physical needs.

For a long time, Big Tech giants largely ignored women as a consumer technology market, but that’s changing. As a market, women represent an opportunity bigger than China and India put together, controlling $20 trillion in consumer spending. A new wave of female-led startups is creating tech health products with a female-centric, empathetic lens and a refreshing design aesthetic to meet this powerful consumer group’s needs.

5. 5G
Fifth-generation mobile phone networks will start to roll out some time between 2018 and 2020, and every device maker worth its salt is staking out its turf.

The speed and reach of 5G has the potential to make the world more efficient in dramatic ways. Brands will need to stay on top of the latest developments as 5G accelerates the speed of innovation.

6. Manufacturing 2.0
Hyper-personalised manufacturing is becoming a reality and is set to transform the way we shop and the prices we pay for goods.

7. The Next Billion Digital
The next billion consumers are coming online. Thanks to falling smartphone prices, they’re coming from emerging economies, dislodging the axis of innovation away from America and Europe to places such as Israel, India and China.

The next billion people online could change the way the internet works, with new apps and new hubs of innovation. Upsides include smarter grids and greater efficiencies. Downsides include exposing these new markets to manipulation by the forces that have used Facebook, Twitter and other social media to spread misinformation.

8. Assistive Tech
Technology advances are driving creative innovation to help people with disabilities navigate the world independently.

9. Chinese Tech Goes Global
Chinese tech brands, having grown massive behind China’s Great Firewall, are venturing out to the rest of the world. Alibaba has already made inroads in other markets outside China, with partners including Southeast Asian online retailer Lazada. If Chinese brands can successfully rebrand for the West, they’re poised to have a huge impact on the tech landscape.

10. Big Tech Backlash
Following the 2017 election, when Facebook and Twitter were used to influence voters, and the escalating claims of harassment on those platforms, many people are calling for more government regulation of Silicon Valley giants. Is the stage set for a showdown in 2018?

Source: Future 100 report, J Walter Thompson, The Innovation Group.

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