Tech Trends 2019: what you need to know for the year ahead

Bringing together an expert panel of the UK’s top technology journalists, Brands2Life’s annual Tech Trends event sparked debate on the biggest themes that will shape the next 12 months and beyond. Against the backdrop of continued political uncertainty, there was a big emphasis on the role of ethics, trust and transparency within the industry, as well as a continued focus on some of the game changing technologies of the years to come. Read on to learn more about the seven trends you need on your radar.

UK AND EUROPE LEAD THE CHARGE ON HEALTH TECH

Facing a major funding crisis and an ageing population, the NHS has committed to investing in new tech in a bid to cut costs. This could prove to be hugely fruitful for the UK tech sector and start-up scene, with key players starting to target new contracts as a result.

One area of healthcare set to be a big focus for the NHS is digital consultation, with GPs turning to telephone and video conferencing to see patients. The NHS wants to make the service available to everyone in the UK within the next five years to help ease the pressure on GP surgeries. Companies such as Babylon Health and LIVI have paved the way in this field, yet investors caution that telemedicine businesses could be challenged by simpler tech, like Skype, in future.

This year could also see greater collaboration between the NHS and major tech players such as Google and Apple, with increased interest in the sharing of patient information, like medical records and activity data. But, according to one panellist, there’s a backlash brewing over the tech giants’ foray into healthcare, with growing public distrust about how personal data is being used and shared.

A GROWING ‘QUANTIFIABLE SELF’ MOVEMENT

As wearables continue to grow in popularity, we are becoming increasingly accustomed to logging every aspect of our lives – from steps taken to calories burnt, to our blood pressure, ECG and sleep patterns. Linked to this greater awareness of our own health and fitness is the increasing movement towards remote patient monitoring, with initiatives such as DeepMind’s Streams and My Inhealthcare leading the charge. Such apps alert nurses and doctors of a patient’s vital stats remotely, giving them a much more accurate picture of the individual’s wellbeing than is normally disclosed in face-to-face consultations.

CONTINUAL AI INNOVATION

One panellist shared an example of how visual recognition technology is being used to bridge the gap between the sighted and the blind. Microsoft’s Seeing AI app enables people with visual impairments to ‘see’ the world in a way they could not otherwise, describing the physical attributes of the person or object in front of them.

While there is still some way to go with the quality of this technology, the more interesting question to ask is how the AI knows which characteristics to share in the first place? Software engineers are grappling with these issues as part of the development of future apps and algorithms.

While the panel agreed that AI is not a panacea, there was a general feeling that we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of what’s possible. Expect to see greater innovation in this field across multiple industry sectors in the year ahead. 

A LONG ROAD AHEAD FOR AUTONOMOUS CARS

Tech innovation in autonomous cars has come an extraordinarily long way in a short space of time. However, the panel agreed that the vision of driverless vehicles on every road is a lot further away than we might think, with the last two per cent of the puzzle the very hardest to crack. There are still significant ethical and safety questions to consider, which will change the rules of the road, how our car insurance is calculated and even our attitudes to driving in general.

For many years ahead, we will have a combination of driverless and driver-operated vehicles on our roads. One panellist predicted that this could cause major tension between automated cars, which are built to be excessively cautious and safe, and human drivers, who can sometimes display more aggressive tendencies on the road.

ROBOTICS STILL SEEKING A ROLE

The robot revolution is underway, with lots of innovations on show at this year’s CES. Yet, the panel talked about how, if the revolution is to be truly successful, our humanoid counterparts must find a purpose beyond acting as companions for us. The most useful robots are those that help complete mundane tasks, such as the household chores we face every single day.

This year, we’ll continue to see AI contribute to the subtle smartening of these devices, without too much intrusion in our daily lives. A case in point: one the most talked about gadgets at CES was a smart IoT device – Mui, by a Japanese start-up – that lets you control lots of functions around your home and looks like a plank of wood. In 2019, following a year when ‘techlash’ entered our industry’s vernacular, perhaps the immediate future is about tech that doesn’t look like tech.

VOICE ACTIVATED EVERYTHING

Last year saw major developments in the voice control market, with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home taking centre stage. Over the next 12 months, expect to see many more devices in and out of the home becoming voice activated, even bicycles!

GREATER CONTROL OVER INFORMATION MANIPULATION

According to the panel, we could see both political and economic interference getting more sophisticated this year, with hacker tactics becoming more refined. The panel warned that social platforms must exercise greater control over information manipulation during the upcoming European elections.

Part of this comes down to being able to identify the original source of information. While it is often easy to tell the difference between bots and genuine profiles on social media, the lines become increasingly blurred when humans start sharing views and opinions originally generated by bots. If you don’t know who you’re dealing with, how can you trust the source?

Brands2Life Tech Trends is an annual media panel event where expert commentators provide their predictions on the biggest technology trends for the year ahead.


This year’s event took place on 17th January 2019, featuring a media panel of:

  • ALIYA RAM, European Technology Correspondent, Financial Times
  • GEOFF WHITE, Freelance Technology Journalist, Channel 4 News / BBC / Forbes
  • PARMY OLSON, Senior Technology Writer, Forbes Magazine
  • RORY CELLAN-JONES, Technology Correspondent, BBC

To discuss how we can help you navigate the impact of these trends how you tell your business’ story,  get in touch!

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