Five technologies set to change the world in 2019

Mark Johnson's picture

This year a number of potentially game-changing new technologies will be let loose on the world, so we’ve been assessing which ones are likely to be the main players set to change all our lives.

Blockchain

Mention cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, to anyone and they may roll their eyes at the controversial form of digital cash. 2018 was not an easy year for the new form of digital dosh. 

However, less is known of the platform upon which cyber cash is traded. This is the blockchain and 2019 could see it really come into its own. The blockchain is a ledger system that uses other computers to verify transactions, and cryptocurrencies are just one of the products that can run on it.

2019 is likely to see blockchain technology ramp up as a place for record keeping and transactions to be stored and verified. According to Forbes, global companies such as IBM and Walmart are pushing ahead with pilot programmes using the ledger system.

Blockchain: Global companies taking greater interest

It's also being used as a force for good. Ford Motor Company has partnered with IBM to track the source of minerals needed for making smartphones and electric cars, which should help eradicate the use of child labour in places like the cobalt mines of the Congo.

Disrupters in the pulsating fintech sector are also big on the blockchain, as well as players in the retail, property and manufacturing sectors. Expect to read a lot more about this in the coming months. 

Internet of Things

Long gone are the days when the internet was that thing you connected to from an ugly grey box in the corner of your spare room. Now it’s in every part of our lives, connecting us 24 hours a day, and the internet of things promises to connect even more everyday devices, such as cars, fridges, home security and even our clothes, to the web.

But there’s an unlikely shift in store this year, because IoT is set to get a bit of a conscience. Global research group Gartner believes that chief information officers at leading companies will be forced to address the social, ethical and legal aspects of deploying IoT technologies.

IoT: Internet of Things will connect almost everything

Gartner says CIOs will need to educate themselves and their staff in the ethics of their IoT strategy. Independent regulators and external auditors are also likely to get involved in monitoring how companies' IoT endeavours affect the rights of individuals at the consumer level in a post GDPR and ‘MeToo’ world.

5G

We’re all watching much more video content and live streaming on our devices these days, and with new technologies like the Internet of Things and augmented and virtual reality waiting in the wings, demand for more and faster spectrum space has never been greater.

The introduction of the fifth generation of mobile networks later this year is set to help meet that demand. Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has begun a 5G spectrum auction, which will see 40MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band and 150MHz of spectrum in the 3.4GHz band. 

But don’t get your hopes up of enjoying superfast video calls just yet, because although the networks themselves may start rolling out 5G this year, it’s not really likely to be widely available to the general public until next year, perhaps even later.

Gimme a G: O2 is already trialling 5G in London

Last summer, though, UK mobile firm O2 wrote to every company in the FTSE100 inviting them to take part in its 5G Testbed trials, and it’s also trialling 5G at its London concert venue, The O2 Arena. So watch this space.

AI

Many of us have welcomed Alexa, Siri and Cortana into our lives as the latest must have gadgets in the home. But these artificial intelligence voice assistants are just the start.

2019 could see a proliferation of artificial intelligence technology into the world of business, manufacturing and the home.

From autonomous drones used in farming, to AI systems in vehicles allowing them to communicate with each other to ease traffic jams, the world will become more reliant on digital intelligence than ever before.

AI - Will artificial intelligence prove more than just a friendly voice?

AI is already being deployed on the shop floors of manufacturing companies to predict machine faults and failures. Moreover, consultancy group, McKinsey, reports that AI-driven predictive maintenance can increase productivity by up to 20 percent and cut maintenance costs by up to 10 percent, so expect to see a surge in the inclusion of AI systems on company production lines this year.

And those lovely digital assistants we’re using at home are set to become even more pervasive this year, according to industry website aitrends.com. It reports that commercial cousins to the likes of Alexa, called virtual agents, are now being used by companies such as Amazon, Apple, Artificial Solutions, Assist AI, Creative Virtual, Google, IBM, IPsoft, Microsoft and Satisfi.

Quantum Computing

It may sound like something from the pages of a sci-fi novel, but quantum computing could be about to revolutionise our world. This is mainly due to its ability to solve huge, complex, mathematical problems in a fraction of the time it takes the fastest computers to do today. 

Not only is it on its way, it’s already here. Well, kind of. Earlier this month tech giant IBM launched what it claimed is the world’s first commercial quantum computer, at the CES 2019 show in the US.

The 20-qubit Q System One is made up of quantum hardware, cryogenic engineering, precision electronics and quantum firmware all housed in a futuristic-looking airtight glass box.

Quantum leap: Subatomic computing is here, claims IBM

"This new system is critical in expanding quantum computing beyond the walls of the research lab as we work to develop practical quantum applications for business and science," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of Hybrid Cloud and director of IBM Research, at the time of the launch.

Quantum computing uses qubits rather than bits, like classical computers do, and could prove a paradigm shifting force across every industry from pharmaceuticals and chemicals to energy and even the internet itself.