Six Technology Convergences to Watch in 2018

Disruption doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Companies must see beyond individual technologies and look for where convergence is fostering the unprecedented

The scope and pace of technological innovation is ascendant, advancing at a pace that is impossible to keep up with. Much ado about artificial intelligence, blockchain, the internet of things, virtual reality, … the list of emerging technologies continues to grow. But for the buzz, all the investment, and all the 2017 roundups and 2018 predictions, we often fail to remember technology’s secret.

The most powerful disruptions rarely occur from single technologies but well-timed convergence of multiple existing technologies to foster something altogether unprecedented.

In my analysis of the impacts of emerging technology, I identify how and where people, organizations, and ecosystems are being transformed by technological convergence. Here are six convergences to watch out for in the coming year.

1. Biometric authentication + mobile pay = the interface for digital identity

2017 was a breakout year for biometric-enabled payment. Now that just about every mobile giant has shipped handset with touch and face identification, these capabilities are quickly becoming ubiquitous. Indeed some 89 percent of smartphones will be biometrically enabled within just two years, according Acuity Market Intelligence. Already, financial services and retailers are flocking towards biometrics, not only in their ongoing quests to make payment more seamless, but for improved security.

But the intersection of biometric authentication with mobile payment is about more than an iris-, fingerprint-, or voice-enabled credit card, it’s about clearing a significant cultural barrier in the interface for digital identity. In 2018, expect to see many more examples of biometrics used for broader identity authentication, such as:

  • Airport security scanning (such as done by JetBlue, Delta, and Clear)
  • Consumer IoT authentication
  • Pharmacy dispensary of medications
  • Medical records access

Taken in sum, these mark a significant pivot in the interface we use to verify our identities, and how we access our property and services as a result.

2. Virtual agents + smart home appliances = the catalyst for consumer IoT adoption

For all the headlines about chatbots, the real stars of 2017 were their more sophisticated cousins, virtual agents. These deep-learning-based multimodal, multichannel, conversational, and highly personalized software agents are already becoming standard to support hands-free use cases.

Google’s assistant tells you precisely when to leave for your flight given current commute and weather conditions. Amazon’s Alexa easily handles purchase and logistics if simply commanded, “Alexa, order me the same cat litter I bought last month.” While smart speakers have been around for a few years, 2017 was the year these agents started popping up in other consumer electronics. Alexa is now integrated in devices from more than 60 manufacturers; Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana aren’t far behind. Expect countless others to be announced at CES this year.

The integration of these agents across hardware marks an important turning point for consumer IoT, a market that has continuously fallen short of revenue and adoption projections. Instead of highly fragmented smart homes, smart appliances, and smart cars each requiring different apps, virtual agents (VAs) represent the potential for continuity across. Not only are VAs voice-interactive, but their ability to continuously learn (via individual and aggregate data) over time means those providing IoT products and services can better wield context to provide actual value.

3. Edge computation + consumer devices = erosion of the cloud

Keep reading this post here on InfoWorld, where it was originally published. 

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