The future isn’t easy to predict, especially when it comes to tech. Technology is accelerating at an ever-faster pace and plays an integral role in our work and personal lives.
While predictions are not easy, they are interesting and useful. Being involved in the tech business, the team at PCS has insight into what might be next in tech. We’ve compiled our top four technology trends for 2019. These are the technologies that will make the biggest advancements and have the most significant impacts on our lives in 2019.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence, or AI, has been an important tech trend for the past few years, and we’ll continue to reach more milestones this year. AI will be the driving force behind many of the other technologies that make a significant impact in 2019.
AI refers to the ability of computers to think similarly to humans or use human reasoning to guide how they operate. Using AI, machines can take in information, analyze it and use it to improve how they function or to reach conclusions. AI powers applications such as speech recognition, machine vision, big data analysis and much more. It’s the technology that enables machines to learn how to play games like chess and Go well enough to beat professional human players.
An AI-powered robot has even been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. The robot is named Sophia, and she can:
- Express emotions
- Remember people she’s met
Since her creation, Sophia has traveled around the world on a publicity tour, and in 2019, she’ll star in her own reality show. The company that created Sophia, Hanson Robotics, has also launched a Kickstarter campaign for Little Sophia, a 14-inch tall robot designed to help kids learn about coding, AI and other tech topics.
How AI Will Evolve in 2019
In 2019, we’ll continue to see AI develop technologically, politically and culturally. More businesses, including those outside the tech industry, will also start to integrate AI into their operations. According to a recent survey conducted by PwC, 20 percent of organizations intend to roll out AI enterprise-wide in 2019. AI certainly won’t reach its peak in 2019, but more businesses will move from pilot programs to implementing AI into their daily activities on a broader scale.
According to Deloitte Analytics senior adviser Thomas H. Davenport, there are three stages companies will go through as they work toward fully implementing AI:
- The first stage he calls assisted intelligence. In this stage, companies make data-driven business decisions using big data, the cloud and science-based approaches to decision making. Most companies using AI are at this stage.
- In 2019, we’ll see companies moving to the next stage — augmented intelligence. In this phase, machine learning programs will use an existing data management system to support human analytical capabilities.
- Further into the future, we’ll enter the autonomous intelligence stage, in which computer systems can act upon the information they receive.
If you want to get started with AI or expand your use of AI in 2019, it’s important to formalize your approach so you can make the most of this technology. Bring together developers, IT professionals and business leaders to create an AI strategy and assign AI-related responsibilities. It can also be useful to focus on using AI for specific tasks rather than complete processes. You can use many AI algorithms for multiple similar tasks with some slight modifications. This enables you to quickly scale your solutions across your organization and get results faster.
Also, pay attention to regulations and standards related to big data and AI, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, which governs commercial use of customer data in the European Union. The evolving AI policy landscape will have an increasingly significant impact on businesses in 2019.
2. Smart Drones
Drones are another technology we’ve been hearing about for some time that will really take off in 2019. This year, we’ll see smarter drones and increased use of drones in various industries.
Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), are small aircraft that operate without a human pilot on board and are typically controlled remotely. Drones were originally developed for military applications, but today they have many uses. They are often affixed with a still or video camera but can also carry a range of other sensors.
Consumers fly drones recreationally. Businesses use them in a slew of different ways:
- News organizations take aerial photos and videos
- Utility companies and government organizations conduct inspections of infrastructure
- Scientists attach sensors to UAVs to collect research data
- Farmers perform soil analysis and shoot pods filled with seeds and nutrients into their fields
The list of applications goes on and on.
One application we’ve heard about for some time is the use of drones to deliver items, such as fast food and small packages, to consumers. Amazon made its first Prime Air delivery in 2016, but drone delivery is not yet widely used. Amazon has been working on drone delivery for some time and says its Prime Air service will one day use drones to deliver packages weighing up to five pounds within 30 minutes.
How Smart Drones Will Evolve in 2019
While there are still some hurdles to overcome, we’re making progress toward drone delivery becoming a reality, and 2019 will be a big year for it. Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration approved 10 companies — not including Amazon — to be part of a pilot program to advance drone deliveries. This month, Airbus started a new trial project in which drones deliver packages to ships located offshore in ports. Using UAVs in this way is expected to make deliveries up to six times faster and reduce costs by as much as 90 percent.
One thing that is helping advance the UAV industry? The rise of autonomous drones. UAVs are increasingly able to operate with humans on the ground beneath them directly controlling them. This will enable operators to launch and fly drones from anywhere in the world, making the use of drones much more efficient and cost-effective.
Regulations are another important topic related to drones. We’ll continue to see the regulatory landscape regarding UAVs evolve in 2019. This year, we will likely see a new requirement from the FAA for the remote identification of drones, which will allow regulators to see which drones are in the air at any given time. This project will lay the groundwork for unmanned aircraft system traffic management, the long-term objective. This system will enable fleets of drones to operate autonomously on a large scale. If you plan on using UAVs for your business, it’s crucial you stay up-to-date on the regulations that apply in your area.
3. Virtual Doctors
Another one of the latest technology trends for 2019 is virtual health, also called telemedicine. This digital approach to health care has been expanding in recent years and will break into the mainstream in 2019. This year, we’ll start seeing newer innovations and greater acceptance of virtual health.
Virtual health refers to the use of information and telecommunication technologies to deliver health care services to patients at a distance. It may also refer to medical professionals using these technologies to confer with others in the health care field.
There are various technologies that doctors may use to treat patients remotely:
- Synchronous Video Conferencing: One common approach is the use of synchronous video conferencing. This allows patients to video chat with their doctor using their computer, tablet or smartphone during a virtual appointment.
- Asynchronous Video: Patients may also use asynchronous video to, for example, send a prerecorded health history to a doctor.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: Another type of telehealth is remote patient monitoring. This refers to the use of smart devices that record medical data, such as blood pressure or heart rate information, and send it to a doctor. This might be a specialized device, but it could also be something like a smartwatch.
- Mobile Health: Another approach is mobile health, which refers to the use of mobile devices such as smartphones to provide information or send health-related messages. Mobile health may involve the use of mobile applications, targeted texts or mass notifications about a disease outbreak or other health risk.
Telemedicine is most useful for minor, everyday health issues such as colds, the flu and bronchitis. Talking with a doctor over live video can save patients considerable amounts of time as compared to physically going to a doctor’s office. Patients can video chat with their regular doctors or with a doctor they only see virtually. Telemedicine can be especially valuable to people who live in remote places and don’t have quick access to a physical doctor’s office.
According to a recent study by the American Medical Association, around 15 percent of doctors work in a practice that uses virtual health technologies to interact with patients. About 11 percent work in practices that use telehealth to communicate with other medical professionals. The researchers also found that the use of telemedicine varies by specialty. Radiologists, psychiatrists and cardiologists use it the most to interact with patients, while allergists, immunologists, gastroenterologists and OB-GYNs use it the least.
How Virtual Doctors Will Evolve in 2019
This year, we’ll see the use of virtual health increase in part due to changes in reimbursement. In 2018, the CHRONIC Care Act and new billing codes were introduced and helped pave the way for increased adoption of telemedicine. Further changes in these areas will bring telehealth further into the mainstream in 2019.
Technological advancements will play a role as well. Virtual medicine innovators have already started using AI to improve diagnoses, recommend treatments and more. As these systems gather more data, they’ll become more valuable and play a more integral role in health care. 5G, the next generation of mobile communications technology, will also support the use of virtual health technologies.
4. Self-Driving Cars
We can expect some major announcements from self-driving car companies in 2019. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said that the company is on track to release a fully self-driving car before the year ends. Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Waymo plans to open an 85,000-square-foot facility in Mesa, Arizona, in the second half of this year, which will help it add to its existing fleet of around 600 self-driving vehicles. These are just two of many companies working on autonomous vehicle technology.
Even if these promises do come true, regulations might still require a human to be behind the wheel. That’s how Waymo currently operates its autonomous car ride-hailing service, and Musk offered this caveat to his promise.
What exactly do Musk and other leaders in the autonomous vehicle space mean when they talk about self-driving vehicles? A fully autonomous car would be one that would not require the driver to take any action to operate the vehicle safely. No such vehicles are currently available for purchase, but there are some partially autonomous cars available.
To better describe autonomous vehicles, researchers define five layers of autonomy.
- Level One: The car may control individual systems one at a time. Examples include cruise control and automatic braking.
- Level Two: The car can operate two automated functions at once, such as acceleration and steering. These vehicles still need a human driver for safe operation.
- Level Three: Under some conditions, the car can operate all safety-critical functions, but the driver must be prepared to take over when alerted.
- Level Four: The car operates completely autonomously in many driving scenarios but may still occasionally require a human driver to take over.
- Level Five: The car can operate completely autonomously in every situation.
How Self-Driving Cars Will Evolve in 2019
We won’t see any level-five vehicles in 2019, but there’s a good chance we’ll see some level four cars on the road, at least as part of tests. Level-four vehicles may even be available to the public and may not require a safety operator.
Self-driving vehicles will be introduced in some areas before others. Currently, autonomous car companies operate their vehicles in areas where driving conditions are relatively favorable and predictable. Places with calm weather, simple traffic patterns and slower speed limits are likely to see the first self-driving vehicles.
Several companies are either operating or testing self-driving ride-hailing services in select cities around the country, including:
- General Motors
These three and more are at varying stages with these initiatives and may make some major announcements related to them this year.
There are still technical and legal hurdles to overcome before we get to level-five autonomous vehicles. Eventually, we’ll be able to work, hang out and even sleep as autonomous cars drive us around. The broad adoption of self-driving vehicles is expected to result in safer roadways, smoother traffic patterns and less need for infrastructure such as parking lots. While we’re not quite there yet, the automotive and tech industries are expected to make some noteworthy strides this year.
Contact PCS to Learn More About Information Technology in 2019 and the Future
At PCS, we’re technology experts who keep up with the latest IT trends for 2019 and beyond, and we’re here to help you navigate the ever-changing world of tech. Our IT services can help you make the most of your technology while freeing you up to focus on your core business.
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