What are the trends to watch in 2018?

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Forecasts are usually a waste of time

At the start of the year, a number of predictions are made about what may disrupt life and business in the year ahead.

If we start, instead, by taking a look back, some of the biggest stories of 2017 came as a surprise.

Was anyone surprised by Trump’s policies?

The policies of the Trump administration are perhaps more of a series of road bumps to be endured rather than a revolution in how things are done.

Despite the US withdrawal from the Paris accord, it remains a leader in electric car technology and its technology companies still dominate global markets.

Attempts to support old industries will probably result in the money going to executives at large oil, gas and coal firms rather than actually helping people and communities with cleaner energy and new opportunities.

And the effect of the policies may well be to hand the Chinese a leadership position in the actual manufacturing of clean energy technology as well as increasing dominance over emerging markets.

The Brexit process was triggered

The UK will leave the European Union.

How and when and how much it will cost and who will win and lose are still being discussed.

The UK is not in a strong position.

It faces a juggernaut which is its main export and import partner and takes a long time to decide anything.

The EU can take its time – the UK needs decisions to be made soon.

And that pressure means the UK may have to settle for less than it hopes for.

Cyber-security and hacking are making headline news

2017 was full of news about Russian involvement in the US election and the extent to which foreign nations are carrying out cyber-warfare.

At the same time, criminals are targeting individuals and businesses.

Government and business are increasingly conscious of the risk of being hacked – but are still working out what to do in response.

The Grenfell fire caused 71 deaths and will result in changes to building regulations and fire safety

As more of us begin to live in cities and high-rises, the Grenfell Tower Fire has to spur action to improve safety in such buildings.

Better, more energy-effient infrastructure is needed to both prevent electrical fires from starting in the first place and stopping them quickly when something fails.

Electric cars may have reached a tipping point

Electric cars sales are still low, but their public perception as a viable alternative to petrol and diesel cars may have reached a crucial point.

Falling battery prices and increasing government support, including long-term targets to make electric cars the norm are helping the industry.

Bitcoin – bubble or not?

It’s probably one…

So, what could happen in 2018?

Security should be on our minds.

Recent news about hardware and software vulnerabilities should not be a surprise.

There are always bugs in systems.

The weakest point, however, is usually people.

Many organisations still need to really get to grips with digitisation and what it could do for them.

It’s not just doing things with computers the way they are done on paper.

And it’s not simply moving to the cloud – that is a particular type of solution – the point is what type of solution actually works for us in a particular situation.

Digitisation and security go hand in hand – we should use computers to do more, and we should be able to keep what we do on those computers confidential and secure from competitors and hackers.

The increasing complexity of everything, however, means that specialisation is now normal.

Advanced economies look at Everything as a Service, where we can find organisations and people to help with specific tasks.

It’s more about the specific solution OR the specific person that does something.

And, as no one wants to take the risk of paying up front for something they don’t understand and can’t use, paying to try things out and then use them if they work seems to be the model for the majority of products.

Unless you’re Apple, in which case you can deliberately slow down your old stuff to make people buy your new stuff…

So, for all those services, we really need to start looking at global/local partnerships.

For example, what’s stopping us from working with admin assistants in the Philippines, sysadmins in Brazil or developers in India?

Well, in 2017, nothing did…

The fact that countries are increasingly nationalistic and making it harder for people to cross boundaries, partly as a result of global terrorism, makes less and less difference in a world where everyone is connected by the Internet.

We should be looking for partners and services wherever they are – and select them based on what they do and how much they charge – and how much value we get.

Then there is the mail…

Many of us probably do the majority of our shopping online.

Vans are the fastest growing automotive segment because of all the deliveries being made.

We can order stuff from China or Taiwan on Ebay and have it here in a few weeks. If we pay more, we can have it tomorrow from the UK in the mail.

The mail order business is simply going to grow – shops are turning into places where we go and browse, like catalogs.

And then there will be all the things that no one predicted

As Donald Rumsfeld said in 2002:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

In 2018 – the unknown unknowns will be the ones that get the biggest headlines.

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