Digital in 2018 for dummies (and others).

This blogpost describes a list of Digital subjects which I think will become important and visible in 2018. It contains an overview of various IT and Digital related trends I see coming to the surface in 2018 and which will for sure change our life in the coming years.

The below list is based on elements I read, discovered and discussed over the last weeks and months with impacts on private people and businesses.  It is no way a full list – I highlight some of the most obvious.

Becoming “Digital” is not an option anymore: it is there and it is mandatory. To get there, and to involve everyone, that’s a different story. That is why I do not use the words ‘Digital Transformation’, ‘Digital Revolution’ etcetera, as they indicate to me the path to get to be more Digital. Not always easy, I know, but it is not a target in itself.

So what are the elements which may come to your eyes these days, and where will you see this? It has become a longer list than I originally thought, but Ok, let’s start. By the way, I refer often to Wikipedia explanations and hyperlinks are included for further  reading.

Generic topics

  • Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information. You will use it to add or delete real things and replace them by digital representations of your choice.
    • The list of possible applications is long: think of architecture, design, medical, military or tourism. Several hundreds of “apps” are available already.
    • Latest examples are Ikea (showing your furniture) and some very exciting games.
    • Many exciting things to come in 2018/2019.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI), is intelligence displayed by machines, in contrast with the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans (or animals). Intelligence can be described here as a device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximise its chance of success at some goals.
    • In fact, machines are learning based on their actions and tasks, so often we also speak in this matter on ‘Machine Learning’.
    • AI is not new, but it becomes more and more visible: the latest examples could be seen in January 2018 at the yearly Computer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, with more and more autonomous driving cars.
    • Further elements can be expected in HealthCare, Finance or in your House (intelligent fridges for example).
  • Machine learning is a field of computer science that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. This is closely linked to AI.
    • The latest example I saw this month is that Google is opening its Google Cloud Machine Learning Engine. Companies and Business can use Google Power to create models for analysing and predicting all sorts of data, such as predicting weather, credit scores, or other. 
    • IBM has created an interesting document on ‘Machine Learning for dummies‘. You must register to download the e-book.
  • A blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically. It is in fact a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.
    • Blockchains are secure by design and are examples of distributed computing systems with high Byzantine fault tolerance. Decentralised consensus has therefore been achieved with a blockchain.
    • One of the most known is off course the Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency (a cryptocurrency  is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses cryptography to secure its transactions).
    • Another well know cryptocurrency is Ether, with its own blockchain called Ethereum. Ethereum was proposed in late 2013, and the Ethereum ‘language’ is now being included in several other software solutions.
    • Various courses to train you into BitCoin or Ethereum exist. I followed a first introduction lately given by Sebastien Arbogast from ChainSkills, and distributed online via their Udemy Online Courses.
    • The blockchain is first of all a technical solution to deliver to everyone the same view, ensuring that nothing could be modified, without a 3rd part acting as a trusted partner. As an example: today we all use notaries to ensure that he property of our house is well noted, and that someone can not sell his/her house twice. With blockchain, everyone can check the technical validity of such transactions.
    • Blockchain technology is much more complicated than that, so please have a look to other websites for details, such as smart contracts. Banks, consulting firms, insurances and governments are all looking into this technology.  Real world higher visibility, outside bitcoin, can be expected in 2018 and 2019.
  • The Internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enables these objects to connect and exchange data.
    • This is not new. IoT is a buzzword for several years now, and it still has to kick off on a large scale for public usage.
    • For 2018, the most interesting thing I see happening is the rollout of SigFox. This is a French company founded in 2009 that builds wireless networks to connect low-energy objects such as electricity meters, smartwatches, and washing machines, which need to be continuously on and emitting small amounts of data. They partnered with many local an international companies (in Belgium with Engie for example) and covered already a large part of Europe and rolling out the US and other continents. I am confident that this will become a big thing in 2018 or 2019.

Companies and Business topics

  • DevOps (“development” and “operations”) is a software engineering culture and practice that aims at unifying software development (Dev) and software operation (Ops).
    • The main characteristic of the DevOps movement is to strongly advocate automation and monitoring at all steps of software construction, from integration, testing, releasing to deployment and infrastructure management.
    • DevOps aims at shorter development cycles, increased deployment frequency, more dependable releases, in close alignment with business objectives. Cooperation “Business-IT” is key. This is particularly important in the current world with regularly updated “Apps”.
    • IBM has created an interesting document “DevOps for dummies“. You must register to download the e-book.
  • Continuous delivery (CD) is an increasing visible software engineering approach in which teams produce software in short cycles, ensuring that the software can be reliably released at any time.
    • This is often related to a structured DevOps organisation, but DevOps is much broader.
    • Continuous delivery is different than continuous deployment. Continuous deployment means that every change is automatically deployed to production. Continuous delivery means that the team ensures every change can be deployed to production but may choose not to do it, usually due to business reasons.
    • Specific tools (such as IBM) are on the market to support this operational mode.
  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU).
    • GDPR is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years. The starting date for GDPR is May 25, 2018.
    • From this date onward, every institution must be able to confirm to any person  how and why his personal data is processed. Ane every institution means here any organisation, from a profit-seeking company to a charity or government.
    • Especially in the world of increased digitalisation where data is stored everywhere and becomes the source of all information, this new rule is highly important to implement.
  • The Payment Services Directive (PSD, 2007/64/EC) is an EU Directive, administered by the European Commission (Directorate General Internal Market) to regulate payment services and payment service providers throughout the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA).
    • On October 8, 2015, the European Parliament adopted the European Commission proposal to create safer and more innovative European payments (PSD2). The new rules aim to better protect consumers when they pay online, promote the development and use of innovative online and mobile payments such as through open banking, and make cross-border European payment services safer.
    • PSD2 will break down the banks monopoly on their user’s data. It will allow ‘merchants’, businesses like Amazon, to retrieve your account data from your bank – with your permission. That means when you buy something they can make a payment for you, without having to redirect you to another service (like PayPal or Visa).
    • For consumers who hold more than one bank account, the changes would also allow businesses, known in the legislation as Account Information Service Providers, to display all their account information in one place for them. Attention however to data ownership (see also GDPR).
    • Banks are currently still struggling to find the business model. I expect to see a lot happening from mid 2018 onwards, and impacting many customers in the way that manage their digital bank relationships.

For some of us

  • Smart speakers and personal assistants are coming to us in full speed. Next to the existing Google Home and Amazon Echo products (both companies showed further products at the CES), also Apple will launch its own new product, called Apple HomePod, in a few days (Feb 9 in some countries).
    • At Apple, it starts with Music and the Siri assistant, but this will grow to further integration in your home in the coming future. Important in 2018 !
    • Prices vary from 50 EUR at Amazon to 350 EUR at Apple, depending on size,  functionalities and quality.
  • What3words is a geocoding system for the communication of locations with a resolution of three metres. What3words encodes geographic coordinates into three dictionary words. For example, the torch of the Statue of Liberty is located at “toned.melt.ship”. This differs from most other location encoding systems in that it displays three words rather than long strings of numbers or letters.
    • It is developed by What3Words, and an announcement was made last week that Mercedes Benz is not just integrating this into their cars, but also invest in this company.
    • I am pretty sure we will see much more of this company and solution in 2018.

I trust you better understand that many things are happening around “Digital” and you are slightly more knowledgeable now.

If you are young or old, a simple handcrafting company or a highly industrialised company, or whatever you are or do on planet Earth, you must step into the Digital World now. It is our future.

Take care,

Bas

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