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What's your personal standout technology of 2018?

As always it’s been a busy year in technology, but what is your personal standout technology of 2018 and why?

There have of course been many technology launches, announcements and news stories throughout the year - the good, the bad and the ugly - but what impact have some of these emerging technologies made to you personally? From my point of view, many of the emerging technologies still seem like stroppy teenagers: difficult to engage with and of limited help around the house.

Drones:

I bought a Mavic 2 drone: it’s small, compact, stable and has a great camera. I had intended to use it for archaeological purposes, to take pictures of any crop marks that may have appeared in the fields near where I live after a dry summer. In fact, all I have used it for is flying it around and taking pictures of my home and a family gathering. I’m still a fan and determined to get more use out of it in 2019.

Alexa:

I finally managed to sneak an Alexa device into my home, but am only allowed to use it in my study as the rest of the family are worried about privacy implications. I am personally very interested in new ways of interacting with the Internet rather than screens. But so far all I have used it for is listening to music and the occasional weather update. It’s been good, but not freed me from the tyranny of the screens.

Bitcoin:

In 2017, Bitcoin’s value soared from just under US$1,000 to just under US$20,000. It’s currently priced at under US$3,500. I still hold a few Bitcoin, so do I still believe in its potential? The short answer is ‘no' for Bitcoin, but ‘yes' for cryptocurrency. The financial establishment and government have a vested interest in seeing Bitcoin itself not succeed, but central banks have been discussing the idea of issuing their own digital currencies. After all, cash is used less and less and has all but disappeared in countries such as Sweden and China. The underlying distributed ledger technology of blockchain, still offers tantalising benefits well beyond cryptocurrencies, but it is tainted by over-hyping and the environmental impact of the required computing power. More electricity is used in cryptocurrency mining than is used by the whole of New Zealand.

Smartphones:

I’ve still got my iPhone 6, which tells you something about my enthusiasm for upgrading to the newer versions that have been issued with such regularity. I have definitely reached peak Apple. Fairphone looks like an interesting alternative I’ll look at again in 2019.

AI:

As 2018 draws to a close, I don’t meet any technology companies that don’t claim to be powered by AI to some degree or other. The details of exactly how AI is being used and what subset of this broad term is being applied, often remain rather sketchy. The foundations are being laid for its transformative affect and there’s a much greater understanding that AI is not synonymous with the Terminator, but rather a much narrower and more pragmatic technology, although I am not interested in playing it at chess. One service, in particular, I have enjoyed using is the natural language processing capabilities of the real time translation app, Say Hi, as it enabled a relatively free-flowing conversation between me and some Japanese visitors earlier this year.

Social media:

Facebook…dear gods make it stop and I’ve all but stopped using it.

But I’ve used Instagram a bit more.

To be honest, I’m much more excited about playing with WeChat and constantly amazed by how little so many people seem to be aware of this amazing social platform.

Mixed Reality:

I am not making cardboard based virtual reality viewers any more, and am getting more excited by augmented reality. Despite Blippar’s problems at the end of 2018, I have had some exciting conversations with Holome who are offering high definition human holograms accessible through an everyday smartphone with minimal data usage, turnaround time and processing power.

Cloud:

Cloud computing - the delivery of on-demand computing services - feels like a technology that has come of age, enabling the use of digital services in a more ubiquitous way, more like electric utilities. You’re already using it if, like me, you use Gmail, back up your photos on your smartphone or watch Netflix. AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google are definitely the standout big 3, but they seem to be acknowledging we’re all going to be using multiple clouds and data centres and be more hybrid. Cloud is very much an enabling technology and is going to open up other technologies like AI - and in particular machine learning - to a much wider user base.

So my personal standout technology of 2018 is cloud computing. There are, of course, a whole bunch of technologies I haven’t mentioned, including 3D printing, artificial embryos and quantum computing, but I don’t expect to see them in my stocking this Christmas. I am very excited about the future and the transformative power of emerging technologies, but the tech companies and their stroppy technology offspring still have some growing up to do.

What’s your personal standout technology of 2018 and why?

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