3 Trends to Watch in 2018

It’s my favourite time of the year again. A good time to look back and learn and to look forward at what might come our way.

So, the first bit, looking back and learning. This time last year I wrote ‘3 technologies to Watch in 2017’ which included Start-up Banks, Virtual Personal Assistants, and Cellular IoT. I think at least the first two of these were quite spot-on. 

Looking at the start-up bank community we saw Monzo who are probably the most popular launch their full current account and raise almost £100 million including £2 million in crowdfunding. This time last year they were at around £20 million spent through their system and 200,000 customers, now they’re in to £100s millions spent and around half a million customers. Other big players such as Starling Bank also went from strength to strength and the very popular N26 (a German start-up bank) announced they’re launching in the UK too.

On to Virtual Personal Assistants. This was definitely the year for VPAs. The Amazon Alexa continued to dominate the market with the ever popular Echo range of devices and a number of companies announced Alexa integrations in to their products such as cars and TVs. We also saw the launch of the Google Home range of smart speakers and Apple announced their yet to be released smart speaker with Siri integration (interestingly they delayed the launch missing the critical Christmas market).

With Cellular IoT there were a number of grand plans from service providers that were continually delayed throughout 2017. Vodafone had promised commercial launches (although not in the UK) in the first half of 2017 which were subsequently delayed until the second half. We did though see plans and trials continue to develop with  both O2 and Vodafone UK announcing initial trials on their UK networks. I don’t think Cellular IoT quite had the year I was expecting.

Now for the interesting bit. What to look forward to and focus on in 2018. I’ve changed it slightly to look at general trends rather than just technology.

1. 5G Hype

With the first release (Phase 1) of 5G standards by the 3GPP in December 2017 we can expect the 5G hype train to continue rolling on throughout 2018. I don’t think we’ll actually see much in the way of real 5G deployments but there’s no doubt the service provider marketing departments will be doing everything they can to use the ‘5G’ term. We will see more and more trials taking place and hopefully some real plans for proper deployments at least on a small scale. Do be very weary of the hype though, take all press releases mentioning 5G with a pinch of salt and ask if it’s actually just 4G. Oh and follow Dean Bubley and William Webb who both give great views on the subject and see straight through the marketing hype.

2. Declining Social Media Usage

This is something I’ve picked up a number of weak signals on. It could just be my filter bubble but I think it’s something worth watching. There seems to be a trend developing in people feeling that social media usage is not good for their mental health. This has come about following a number of studies on the subject and sites such as Twitter becoming rather toxic throughout 2017 (although some of Twitter’s policies towards the end of the year may subdue this). Personally, I’ve noticed a huge decline in the amount that friends and family post to Facebook. Even going on the chronological timeline (Menu —> Most Recent) it’s still full of company posts rather than friends posting.

Another thing I’m increasingly seeing is people taking breaks from their devices, from simply keeping it on ‘do not disturb’/silent to going on digital detoxes. This is something to look out for in 2018.

Additionally, there seems to have been a shift towards more private use of social media, mainly through the use of messaging apps like WhatsApp. Where previously friends would communicate on Facebook they’re now doing it more privately in WhatsApp group messages. Personally, my communication is now almost entirely through this method.

3. Enhanced Privacy

Now I wasn’t quite sure what to have has my third trend, I debated between Enhanced Privacy and Multi-Cloud Architectures but thought multi-cloud was a bit too techy (perhaps I’ll do a separate post on that topic). While privacy has been a big topic for a number of years, mainly since the Snowden revelations, I think it’s picking up another tail wind. The general pubic are becoming much more aware of the subject following a number of high profile data breaches throughout 2017 and the previous couple of years. In 2018 we also see the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) across the EU including the UK. Although GDPR doesn’t contain anything much more than we already have across various legislation the size of the potential fines has caused companies to finally sit up and listen. 

We’re seeing companies of all shapes and sizes really start to think about the personal data they hold and take action to anonymise it or remove it entirely, and provide mechanisms for all the aspects of GDPR such as the right to access, erasure and portability. This has already led to companies for example getting rid of their marketing newsletters (presumably they don’t get the return to be able to take the risk of non-compliance).

I think we’re going to see companies thinking much more carefully about the data they collect, hold and process, leading to much more privacy for the general public.


So there’s a few things that are worth watching through 2018. 

What else should be on the list?