Data will continue to transform the way we work, interact with others and pretty much impact every facet of our lives. One of the most common questions I get in my seminars and on social media is about the future of data science, big data and AI. To provide some signposts I have pulled together six data-science trends everyone should understand. Here are my predictions of the key trends that will be changing the world in 2018 and beyond.
Trend 1: The increasing datafication of our lives, and how we’re all leaving our (digital) mark
More than 15 million texts were sent per minute in 2017. That’s just one way we leave digital breadcrumbs as we go about our everyday activities. According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans own a smartphone and every time you use it to get from Point A to Point B, check your social media accounts, send a text or search the day’s headlines you create more data. When you shop online, place a lunch or dinner reservation or delivery order, and even relax at home watching the latest Netflix smash or reading from your tablet, you continue to data-fy your life. In 2018, we will have more data to play with than ever before.
Trend 2: The Internet of Things (IoT) means everyday devices are becoming smarter
Things rather than humans are generating data thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), all the smart devices and machines that communicate with one another. These days, almost anything can be made “smart” from refrigerators to your Fitbit to the thermostat in your home. The way they become smart is that they can interact with each other and decide a course of action without any human intervention. Intel predicts there will be 200 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020. Regardless of how many IoT devices there will be in the future, the number will grow and this growth makes it possible for companies to create new products and services and ways to optimise decisions and operations. In 2018 will have more devices that generate data and more devices that will process and analyse the data directly.
Trend 3: The exponential growth in computing power is fuelling incredible technological advances
The huge growth in computing power we experienced in recent years has made it possible to make use of the enormous growth in data we collect, store and analyse. We are now able to process unstructured data, and we utilise the cloud to store data and perform computing tasks using software and applications that are outside of our computers. We’re closer than ever to creating a commercially viable quantum computer that will be exponentially more powerful than today’s computers. 2018 will see an even greater increase in computing power and more companies will overcome their computing limitation by deploying cloud solutions and big data infrastructure.
Trend 4: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning mean computers can now mimic the human brain
Although computers have been able to solve problems up to this point, we wouldn’t consider them to be “smart,” because a human had to tell (program) them what to do. Now, artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced to such a level, thanks to the explosion of data, that computers can teach themselves and can learn in a similar way the human brain does (think artificial neural networks). AI is helping computers take on human-like tasks and they can see, read, listen, speak and even gauge our emotions. In 2018, regardless of the industry you’re in, AI will likely have an impact on the way you do business in the very near future if it hasn’t already.
Trend 5: Automation is an unstoppable freight train, and we should be jumping aboard
As computers get more intelligent, they can do more for us, and that means ultimately even more processes, systems, functions and decisions can be automated or carried out by robots. Automation is already deployed in factories and manufacturing, self-driving cars and trucks, and more. This trend will undoubtedly alter many current job functions, but that will free up humans to do jobs that aren’t suited to machine and to complete more strategic, creative and complex tasks. In 2018, data will help to automate many more processes. Every company must consider what currently can be automated in their operations and how humans and machines can best work together.
Trend 6: Blockchain technology will overhaul how we store, share and protect data
Blockchain is a very practical, incredibly useful solution to the problem of storing, authenticating and protecting information in a decentralised, extremely secure database. Blockchains are incredibly secure because editing rights are only given to the parts of the blockchain that individual users own. Blockchain technology is the structure behind the virtual currency Bitcoin, which is receiving so much attention right now. At the moment, only a tiny fraction of businesses are using blockchain technology but in 2018 we will see an explosion of applications that will transform industries as well as the field of data science.
If you would like to learn more about these (and 3 more) trends then please download my free eBook: 9 Mega Technology Trends: And How They Are Re-Shaping Our world.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.