Data will continue to transform the way we work and interact with others; in fact, data will impact pretty much 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 artificial intelligence (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.
Trend 1: The Increasing Datafication of Our Lives — How We’re All Leaving Our (Digital) Mark on the World
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, more than three-quarters (77 percent) 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, dinner reservation or delivery order; and even relax at home watching the latest Netflix smash or read from your tablet, you continue to data-ify 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 that 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. This growth makes it possible for companies to create new products and services as well as ways to optimize decisions and operations. In 2018 we will see the emergence of more devices that generate data and more devices that will process and analyze data directly.
Trend 3: The Exponential Growth in Computing Power Is Fueling Incredible Technological Advances
The huge growth in computing power we experienced in recent years has made it possible to utilize the enormous growth in data we collect, store and analyze. We now can process unstructured data, and we use 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. In 2018 will see an even greater increase in computing power, and more companies will overcome their computing limitations by deploying cloud solutions and big data infrastructure.
Trend 4: 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, AI has advanced to such a level, owing to the explosion of data, that computers can teach themselves and can learn in a manner similar to the way the human brain does (think artificial neural networks). AI is helping computers take on humanlike 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 if it hasn’t already.
Trend 5: Automation Is an Unstoppable Freight Train, and We Should Be Jumping Aboard
As computers become more intelligent, they can do more for us. Therefore, 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 other industries. This trend will undoubtedly alter many current job functions, but that change will free humans to do jobs that aren’t suited to a 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 decentralized, 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 uses 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 three more) trends, download my free eBook: 9 Mega Technology Trends: And How They Are Re-Shaping Our world.
Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling business author, keynote speaker and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He is one of the world’s most highly respected voices anywhere when it comes to data in business and has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the world’s top 5 business influencers. You can join Bernard’s network simply by clicking here, explore his website here: bernardmarr.com, or follow him on Twitter @bernardmarr