Trends 2018 - a look ahead at the tech industry



28. February 2018


3:14 min


AI, Data Privacy, Digital/Physical, Future of Design

A unique, grounded, and raw look at the year ahead. How online goes offline, offline goes online, and we'll let other decide our future for us.

Here are 5 interesting trends we see for 2018


Online has been the center of attention for the collection of personal data. Tracking our application usage, our internet usage, our spending habits, and over the last half decade, more directly tracking out movements through GPS and video capture technology within public spaces.

In the last few years, data collection has gone "offline". Cameras in cities track our movements, Uber tracks our traffic patterns, and Amazon tracks our in-store purchases. In the Netherlands, Albert Heijn, the top supermarket, is tracking customers purchases through a "tap-n-go" system. Monolith, a company dedicated to in-store analytics uses cameras to track and monitor customers, giving digital analytics to physical environments.

It's not simply public spaces. As the Smart Home ecosystem grows, people are welcoming listening and tracking devices into their homes.

  1. How can enough value be offered for consumers to welcome these types of devices into their home?
  2. How can companies communicate the type of information they are collecting, and build transparent trust with users?
  3. How can companies better complete a customer profile with this type of physical world information?

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"I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet."
Over the summer the CEO of Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, essentially decided to kick the Daily Stormer, a rightwing conservative website, off the internet. The internet community had a collective cheer about companies standing up to hate speech and racism.

Throughout the year, personal rating systems for AirBnb and Uber has continued to serve as a benchmark for a person's worth on a platform. We've heralded these rating systems as positive as they serve to give us better service, but lambast the idea that China would implement a social score for individuals similar to this.

Finally, with the uptick in fake or questionable news, droves of users and politicians have demanded Facebook begin to regulate and remove what is subjectively and objectively fake news.

In all of these situations, we have seen a user outcry for those few in charge to regulate what we see, and how we act. Without thinking of the long-term effects of asking corporations to impose their guidelines for content on us, we may find ourselves where we're at the mercy of these companies and what they find appropriate for our consumption.

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Data privacy has become front and center over the last year with multiple hacks including Equifax, losing personal data of hundreds of thousands of American customers. Across the ocean, the European Union prepares to implement the General Data Protection Regulation which restricts companies' ability to collect data without consent. People across the world are understanding that they are being tracked

While individuals have expressed initial outrage at the usage of their personal data, the noise quickly dies down. We have yet to see a substantial dip in consumers sharing personal information. In fact, as the ironically named Zuckerberg law suggests, we'll likely see people continue to share twice as much personal information each year in exchange for the services they get.

Connected home products are becoming more prominent across the world, and net neutrality was recently repealed in the US. Companies globally continue to offer personalized services to users as a key differentiator, and consumers are ready to accept them in exchange for sharing personal data. If anything, the convenience and value these products have provided is a testament that what people say and do is different. In the end, offer enough value, and people will give up personal data in exchange.

The questions companies should ask themselves, is how they are clear on the data they collect, and how they offer clarity and trust as a strategic advantage.

As the quote goes, "if you're not buying the product you are the product", but that's ok.


As more people look at rectangular glass in their hands and put on head phones to shut out the physical world in favor of the digital world, one thing has become clear - the digital is crushing the physical, and we won't stop it.

Augmented reality, both visual and auditory, is arriving. Virtual reality is allowing people to transport themselves to places or events far away from their homes. Support bots and virtual friends are replacing real people. We speak of this and have seen this happen as if it's new, but trends never arrive unforeseen. In truth, this has been happening over the last several years. We speak more through messaging then on the phone. We talk to bots through chat in customer service. We don't answer our doorbells because we would already know if someone was coming. We post to social media in one-way rants over a conversational exchange. We demand more "likes" over in-depth relationships. In the morning, we used to pick up the newspaper, now we pick up Instagram to see other people's lives and see messages we missed in the night.

The digital is already crushing the physical and it will continue as AR, VR, and digital communication continue to improve, become faster, and more efficient. We can't say it's shallow since we've all been a part in it happening.

Companies should reflect on how and if they want to develop meaningful digital relationships through their products, or simply capitalize on our shortening attention spans. As designers, we can think about our responsibility in the creation of digital connections and relationships, as they continue to move our physical social selves to digital.

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During a conversation with founder Dennis Mortensen, it was asked if he had designers on his team for the creation of Amy and Andrew.'s virtual assistants who only exist in text-based emails. He responded "of course", they had hired a person from the drama department at Harvard.

As the type of products shift, to those of virtual reality, artificial intelligences, and behavior-based systems, designers will also need to change. The previous mecca of design, UI creation of applications and websites - "rectangle designers" - will slowly atrophy as it reaches a maturity plateau. As any system matures, and the patterns and tools in that system become repeatable, it becomes ripe for automation, which AI can provide.

Artificial intelligence and templated systems will be able to handle screen-based design. AI will only eat design completely if we assume design itself does not evolve alongside technology. Design as it progresses will look more at trust, connection, relationships, and behaviors. Designer teams will need to become more diverse mixing in psychology and business. Artificial intelligence won't kill design as predicted; it will simply make it evolve.

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