It's that time of year where everyone starts making lists; things that have been good, things that have been bad, New Years Resolutions for 2019 that they'll have given up on by January 12th...
As we're good sports, here's a roundup of some of the things we think have been interesting in the world of technology in 2018.
We can’t avoid this one, so let’s get this out of the way…
GDPR happened early this year causing many a webmaster to scramble around their websites checking what cookies they use, who they share user information with, and what a data processor is.
As another side effect, every single User Experience professional in Europe experienced a nervous breakdown. The barrage of pop up consent boxes and banners across websites forced UX-ers to break a lot of established usability rules, as well as breaking their own hearts.
To make matters worse, 2019 will see the repeal of the EU ePrivacy Directive which will be replaced with the ePrivacy Regulation. This fiddles about a lot with the forms of required consent for cookies, proposing that internet companies become responsible for obtaining a users specific consent. Unfortunately no one has figured out how to do this yet, so that's going to be a lot of fun.
Moving onto the fun stuff, one of the biggest trends in 2018 has been the unstoppable rise of the Internet of Things. For those not already in the know, IoT essentially means connecting everyday objects to the Internet. You might already use some of these in your home; Hive, Amazon Echo, Google Home Hubs and Dash buttons are all examples of IoT technology.
At Pentascape, our team is frequently distracted by potential IoT projects. It took me threatening violence to prevent our engineers installing "milk level" sensors in our fridge. Fortunately some of our client projects offer us the opportunity to dabble, and with the general interconnectedness of stuff and things set to be a continuing focus for manufacturers in 2019, it's a technology we can all be invested in.
So just what might the future hold? How about our engineers dreams come true and you can have a fridge that automatically orders milk before you run out. What if that milk is then delivered by drone? These are all things that are already available, but that in 2019 will likely become much more commercially viable, affordable, and accepted as the new normal.
A specific example of IoT tech, many homes now play resident to an AI Assistant, usually an Amazon Echo or a Google Home Hub. These devices allow you to access all that the Internet has to offer and control your smart home devices, all with voice commands.
People have been wary of allowing AI into their homes, presumably in fear of it turning into a HAL 9000 situation, but the last year has seen this tech become mainstream. This is in response to our increasing dependency on the Internet for things like ordering shopping, making it seem "safer" when those trusted companies such as Amazon start to roll out their versions of AI tech.
What 2018 has brought so far however, has been a rather primitive form of AI. It doesn't exactly learn very much, although advances like Google Duplex (which scared the crap out of everyone) and Amazon Rekognition (another potentially terrifying premise) have real potential for making commercially available AI behave more human. Setbacks such as the Echo that couldn't understand a Glaswegian accent, or the bug that caused it to laugh maniacally for no reason at all, have garnered far more media attention that any of the technological advances, effectively relegating AI assistants to being novelty items.
It's probably going to be a while before your AI home-help can act in the same capacity as a human, but at least that will delay it from holding you hostage in your own home. For now.
All this technology chattering away to the Internet means a demand for better connectivity, both at home and on the go.
The latest generation mobile network technology is set to roll out in the UK in 2019 bringing (theoretically) over 3x increase in current 4G speeds. It is expected to be expensive though - mobile network companies will be looking to recoup their costs of implementing the network.
This is off the back of the fresh hell that was a 24 hour O2 4G network outage affecting 32 MILLION users. O2 helpfully alerted users to this outage through their online status page, rather forgetting that none of their users currently had mobile internet access. The fault was ultimately determined to be the result of an expired certificate, leaving the entire developer community quietly chortling to themselves at such an epic balls-up (except for the ones employed by Ericsson).
OK so Pentascape might not be trending globally in 2018, but as it’s at the centre of our world it makes the cut.
We completed some great projects in 2018 and forged brilliant new partnerships. We refined and developed our skills, dabbled with new technologies, and drank an awful lot of tea. We even had the time to rapidly prototype some new tools, which we will be telling you more about in 2019.
Most importantly, we refined our offering, gaining greater clarity about what it is we can do for people and their businesses. Ultimately we create code. That code might look like a website, or web application. It might live in a browser extension. It might be what you use to run your business, or something your clients use to run theirs. We help bring new ideas to market, build prototypes as proof of concept, or help save old code from extinction.
If you are ever in need of developers, user experience experts, solutions architects, sysadmins, general nerds, or even just a fellow human to bounce an idea off of, we can help.
Here’s to 2019.