2017 was kind of a ridiculus year for the world of tech. Uber managed to lose $22bn in value, Twitter became a platform for world leaders to bicker, fake news online became a very real problem offline, and humanity continued to embrace the AI invasion – not only welcoming artificial intelligence into their homes but also into their mouths.
We’re all hoping this year will bring greater stability, far fewer bombshells and a whole lot less
1. Fewer Apps, More Control
Back in 2009, Apple trademarked the phrase "There's an App for That!" and suddenly it seemed like not only was there an app for everything, there was a plethora of them.
In 2018, the over-saturation of applications has yet to be solved. Now there are almost ten times as many apps available across the Apple and Android marketplaces, and the emergence of new smart appliances means the number is only set to grow.
Apps are supposed to shorten the customer journey, providing seamless experience and ease-of-access whilst still performing a vital function. So having to navigate a network of hundreds of apps just to get through your day seems counter-intuitive. And constrantly struggling with a lack of storage on your device isn't ideal either.
This year we’ll see many organisations improve user experience by simply creating applications that provide users with a convenient way to manage several functionalities from a central location.
Some organisations will happily integrate functionality from other applications into their own, while others will allow users to seamlessly access and control their products from other apps. Slack is a fantastic example of how new functionalities are regularly integrated into an existing app that your users are already using.
2. The Year of the Bots
2017 was the year that AI chatbots hit the mainstream, from Amazon Alexa and Google Home to Expedia’s customer service chatbot and Disney's innovative Zootopia chatbot, which allowed users to converse and solve crimes with an AI based on the film’s Judy Hopps character.
Chatbots have become so pervasive that by 2020 it’s predicted AI will handle 95% of customer interactions. However, this is only the beginning of what can be achieved, and 2018 will likely see bots move toward being connected to all of your apps and integral to everyday living.
Instead of just responding to requests, they’ll be able to receive data from just about any source you want to connect them to and provide useful information whenever you need it. For example:
- Warning you when a purchase you’re making online will take you into your overdraft
- Notifying you that your parking ticket is going to run out in 15 minutes and offering to add an extra hour
- Automatically adding films and TV shows to your Netflix watchlist when friends recommend them, or you read a good review
- Booking doctor’s appointments or repeat prescriptions when you’re starting to run low on medication.
So, it’s hardly surprising businesses are rushing to ensure their products can be controlled by AI bots through services like Alexa for Business. Whether it’s Cortana, Alexa, Siri or somebody entirely new, now that bots are in our homes and devices it’s unlikely they’ll leave
3. UI Evolved
Ultimately, the rise in voice-controlled technology is part of something much bigger, and 2018 will be the year businesses start moving past user-interfaces that require physical interaction. Just as desktop tech is increasingly being replaced by mobile counterparts, devices that rely heavily on fingers and thumbs will give way to the “touchless” interface.
Voice-activation entering the mainstream was the beginning of the end for swiping, tapping, scrolling and clicking, but the new wave of UI evolution will change the way we receive data – especially when we’re on the move.
The launch of the Apple Watch 4 later in the year could prove pivotal in this move away from traditional UIs. Although yes, smartwatches are technically a screen, they allow you to keep your phone in your pocket and are perfect for voice input.
Google’s Pixel Buds didn’t exactly set the world alight, but as wireless headphones grow in popularity their ability to work in harmony with voice-activated AI-bots will be improved until smart-buds offer a seamless user experience. Likewise, the failure of Google Glass has led to smartglasses being tweaked and retooled into something much more useful. The new Vuzix Blade smartglasses are Alexa-enabled and pair to your smartphone for hands-free access to your apps.
4. Consumers Regain Control of Their Data
The EU data protection laws were created before mobile phones got smart and most households had the internet. And they haven’t really changed since. In May, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into play, and we’ll finally update data guidelines to reflect the huge changes in the way we create, use, and collect digital information.
Simply put, if you’re a public-sector organisation or business that handles consumer or customer data, you need to sit up and take note because the way you operate may need to drastically change.
Under GDPR, you’ll be more accountable for how you handle people's personal information, including a requirement for better data protection policies, more transparency of why and how you’re handling such data, and, perhaps most importantly, the need to obtain positive consent to process customer data.
Consumers will also now have much more power to access the information you hold about them. If they submit a request to see their data, you’ll now have to supply a copy of that information free of charge and, in some cases, they’ll have the right to get that data erased.
The most talked about element of GDPR is the fines. The new regulations are far more complex and have greater reach, so there are naturally more reasons a business can be fined. The fines will also punish businesses more harshly, easily outstripping the current maximum penalty of £500,000.
If you’re worried about falling foul of the new regulations, a great place to start is ICO’s official 12-step guide to getting prepared for the change.
5. Edge Computing Emerges
As IoT devices become more advanced they need to relay increasingly large amounts of data to their central system for processing. Obviously, as the amount of data being sent increases there are several problems that can arise, such as connectivity issues, bandwidth constraints and longer waiting times. Simply put, as IoT devices get more powerful, traditional cloud networking is too slow.
In 2018, edge computing is likely to emerge as a popular solution. This will change the game when it comes to network infrastructure design, moving content collection, information processing and delivery closer to data sources – closer to the edge of a network.
Basically, edge computing is when IoT devices are given the processing power required to collect and analyse data, before determining the correct course of action for themselves.
By enabling IoT devices to function autonomously, you remove the need for any communication between the device and its central system, in turn removing the split-second delay that results. It also ensures devices can continue to operate even when no connection to the central system exists. These are obviously both vital for products like self-driving cars or medical equipment.
2018 is going to be a year of intense transformation for businesses and consumers, so getting to grips with these 5 trends could pave the way to success. As experts in helping businesses operate better in the digital world, we understand the adoption of any new technology or strategy comes with a degree of risk. Simply ensuring all changes are made with customer experience in mind goes a long way in balancing that risk.
To find out more about what makes a grear customer experience, download our Periodic Table of Customer Experience today.