Given the emergence of new technologies like Internet of Things  and Artificial Intelligence, experts posit that these technologies will shape the ICT sector in 2018, writes Emma Okonji

Citing the growth trajectory of technology evolution around Internet of Things(IoT)  and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 2017, technology experts have predicted that the new technologies would drive and shape activities of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in 2018.

They are of the view that IoT and AI technologies will rule the global technology space in 2018 and they have strongly advised technology companies to pull resources together and invest heavily in the trending technologies, in order to remain competitive in business in 2018 and beyond.

IoT trend in 2018

The IoT is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to connect to each other and exchange data.

Technology experts are of the view that more of these devices will be connected in 2018 and beyond.

Consumers and corporations alike are embracing the world-changing impact of IoT on global commerce and lifestyle.  The IoT  wasted no time spreading across the world and connecting millions of individuals. In just few years, after its debut, billions of devices have been connected and billions of sensors redefined how businesses operated and how people interacted with one another.

IHS, in its recent forecast, predicts that the IoT will grow to reach a staggering 75 billion devices by 2025.

While IHS and others are predicting massive increase in the amount of digitally-connected devices over the next decade, the BI Intelligence’s report on the IoT notes that nearly $6 trillion will be spent on IoT solutions in just the next five years, which will amount to rapid proliferation of IoT gadgets in 2018 and beyond.

As more consumers around the globe purchase smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets which connects them to the web, the expanse of the IoT will only grow ever-greater. Low-power, short-ranged networked devices will be increasingly pushed by companies hoping to cash in on the boom of new technology.

According to expert views, one of the largest impacts the IoT could have in 2018 is the waves of change it is bringing to retail.

Increasingly, tech-savvy companies eager to use new data are investing in sensors-based analytics, which allows them to, among other things, track which areas of their stores are the most visited by customers.

The November 2017 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report projected  the growth of mobile technology. “The number of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology subscriptions is growing rapidly, and we anticipate that LTE will become the dominant mobile access technology by the end of this year,” the report said.

AI trend in 2018

AI is intelligence displayed by machines  in contrast with the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. Technology experts are developing robots that use AI to carryout different operations at work places that were hitherto done by humans.

Accenture, a global technology solution company with presence in Nigeria, recently showcased its latest technology capabilities that will enable businesses across different sectors in the country, boost their productivity and efficiency through its recent innovations and investments in AI), Virtual Reality (VR), robotics and blockchain.

Addressing the media on its new technology initiatives driven by AI, VR, robotics and blockchain, the Managing Director, Accenture Nigeria Mr. Niyi Tayo, said AI and robotics will rule the world in 2018. He strongly advised organisations to act fast on developing their AI Journey for 2018.

Also, key findings from the Ericsson Mobility Report, showed that Augmented Reality (AR) and VR technologies can enhance visitors’ and remote spectators’ experience of events, making them available in new ways.

The Ericsson Mobility Report said 4G systems would continue to support event visitors with services, but in the near future, 5G technology would have the capability to transform their experience. According to the report, at future events and connected venues, with high traffic density and increasing use of demanding services such as AR and VR, proactive management and automation will be essential to meet committed service levels.

The Ericsson report further said that growth in mobile traffic at events can be attributed to changes in user behavior, especially among younger people, and that spectators now mainly share or stream live videos and engage with social networks at events, as well as increasingly creating and uploading their own content, using AI.

Fear over job cut with AI, AR, VR

Although technology experts are advising organisations to invest heavily in AI, AR, and VR, there is, however, a growing concern that the new technologies are capable of eliminating human efforts at work place, thereby causing job loss, as against job creation to accommodate the large chunk of school graduates that pass out of the school system on a yearly basis.

The labour force is worried that robotics will displace humans initially engaged at work places, since robotics could do the same job that human beings are meant to do, using artificial intelligence.

But in a quick reaction to dispel such growing fears, the Accenture Nigeria boss, Tayo said robotics would only complement human efforts in work place and create more technology innovation at work place that would boost employment.

The Managing Director, Galaxy Backbone, Mr. Yusuf Kazaure, in corroborating with Tayo’s views, said technology evolution would continue to create new avenues for job creation, since human will be involved in the development of robotics and and other newer technologies that are evolving.

Other trending technologies in 2018

Apart from AI and IoT that have been predicted to transform the ICT space in 2018, technology experts are of the view that technology platforms like FinTech and Over the Top Technology  (OTT), which caused a lot of technology disruptions in 2017 in the ICT sector, will also cause more disruptions in 2018.

While FinTech brought a whole lot of disruptions in the financial services sector in 2017, using latest technology solutions to change the face of financial services delivery in the banking sector, OTT technology is expected to still continue with its disruptive trend in 2018.

Describing the disruptions in the technology space created by FinTech, Accenture Nigeria, said the new technology capabilities would help Nigeria leverage on the fourth industrial revolution, which is about knowledge economy.

FinTechs are technology players with speciality in financial services app that defines how financial transactions are carried out in a most convenient way.

 Tayo said: “We want businesses in Nigeria, from banking to manufacturing, health, construction, education, retail, security, and other sectors to take advantage of the innovations we have created to improve their businesses. We believe as one of the biggest economy in Africa, the time to seize the future is now.”

While the FinTech brought disruptions in the financial services sector, the OTT technology brought a lot of disruptions in the telecommunications sector, by providing free telecoms services like voice calls and data services (SMS messages). OTT players were able to make use of the internet to provide such free services, while riding on the network of legacy telecommunications operators, thus squeezing the revenue drive of telecoms operators.

Telecoms consumers enjoyed the free telecoms services in 2017, and the trend will still continue in 2018 and beyond, according to expert views.


The place of broadband

In all of these new and trending technologies, their success largely depends on broadband availability and affordability, since broadband drives the new technology evolution. But unfortunately, broadband penetration is still low in Nigeria, a situation that has skyrocketed the cost of internet, making it difficult for most Nigerians to access the internet.

Although Nigeria has a target of 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018, but critics have said the possibility of attaining 30 per cent broadband penetration in 2018, from its current 21 per cent penetration, remains a mirage.

Managing Director, Huawei Nigeria, Mr. Kevin Li, however, advised the federal government to begin aggressive investment in broadband in order to boost broadband penetration and access across the nooks and crannies of the country, since FinTech and AI and other newer technologies, largely depend on broadband accessibility.