One of the hardest, as well as most underestimated, aspects of building a company is having to overcome and adapt to ever-changing market conditions. As we enter the new year, startups, both big and small, must find ways to filter through a flood of emerging technologies to best cater to an evolving set of customer preferences.
While there are a number of trends that show significant promise, there are a few that stick out with particularly high potential. Here are four technologies that are poised to impact every startup in 2018.
- Machine learning.
At a high level, machine learning is an implementation of artificial intelligence that enables “systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.”
This is a foundational piece of technology that will likely empower the next generation of entrepreneurs. Startups are just now beginning to find unique and clever ways to leverage these intelligent machine learning models in order to abstract key insights from their data sets and automate processes.
Furthermore, given the recent influx of ML/AI engineers, machine-learning algorithms are quickly becoming radically more efficient and accessible to businesses of all sizes. In other words, every startup will, sooner rather than later, have access to this powerful technology.
ML is already being used in a variety of different ways. Key tenets of frontier technologies, like autonomous vehicles, are predicated on the advancements of machine learning. Companies like Apple and Facebook are implementing machine learning at scale to train neural nets and build intelligent prediction models.
These intelligent algorithms have not only supplanted the need for manual labor, but also eradicated bias and human error. We can expect to see a number of innovations in this space, as data mining and intelligence become more ubiquitous among large corporations as well as early stage companies.
If you have been paying any attention whatsoever to the fintech world over the past few months, then you are likely more than familiar with the term “blockchain.” But what do accessible blockchain systems really mean for startups? While the long term implications of blockchain promise a fairer and wholly decentralized society, there are many short term benefits of digital assets and automated supply chains that startups can get excited about today.
2018 will see a deluge of startups and services enter this space. This downpour will fill out the broader ecosystem and dramatically accelerate the development of the backend technology. First movers will play an essential role in the upstart of this new economy.
Look at TrustToken, a highly anticipated blockchain startup that is building a legally enforceable protocol for blockchain-based ownership and control of real-world assets. This platform could enable businesses (even companies that are new to blockchain) to easily issue tokens for their assets or products.
Effectively, TrustToken’s process provides token-holders with the security of a highly encrypted digital asset without compromising its applications to the world’s $256 trillion worth of real-world assets. As more blockchain startups like TrustToken gain access to funding, resources and talent, it will be interesting to see which emerge as the leaders of this revolutionary new space.
- Augmented reality.
Though it has been talked about for years, with early iterations of Pokémon Go topping the headlines, augmented reality (AR), relative to other technologies, has yet to stick among the masses. 2018, though, finally looks to be the year that we see wide scale adoption of augmented reality. But why is now the right time?
Smartphones, perhaps the lowest hanging and most accessible device layer of AR, are finally powerful enough to support highly customizable and dynamic augmented experiences. With developer environments improving, there are likely to be applications of augmented reality that affect every niche imaginable. There has never been a better time for applications of augmented reality to go viral on mobile. From basic navigation services to interactive games, AR is primed to substantially impact the real world.
One particular industry that will soon employ AR is retail, as companies seek to significantly enhance their in-store shopping experience. Though we are still in the early days of globally adopted AR, we can expect to see the unification of the real and digital world continue to gain momentum over the next few years.
In 2017, we saw influential companies, like Amazon and Google, release their first few iterations of a voice-controlled consumer product. Alexa and Google Home’s relative success, while imperfect in many ways, have validated the market for voice-controlled technologies. From simple tasks, like starting the air conditioning or changing the music, to more complex requests, like booking dinner reservations, these intelligent assistants are improving quickly.
Companies, like Fin, are blending artificial intelligence and outsourced human-labor to prove that on-demand assistants will soon be able to take on larger and more complex challenges. Soon enough, these ‘bots’ will serve as the backbone of society, performing a number of tasks and making our lives significantly more efficient.