This year, like previous years, featured a bevy of buzzword-laden technologies, but we at ZDNet are fatigued by the never-ending stream of acronyms. With that fatigue in mind, we put together a simple test for the year in technology. What technologies talked about today will actually matter in a decade?
Here's a look at the technologies compiled by Larry Dignan, Chris Duckett, Jason Hiner and Steve Ranger from 2018 that will matter as well as a few that simply didn't make the cut.
What'll matter in 2028:
2018 was the year the cloud matured and set on a course that'll resemble electric utilities by 2028. AWS' partnership with VMware gained momentum and the cloud giant outlined its broader ambitions at re:Invent 2018. Microsoft Azure and commercial cloud surged. Google hired former Oracle cloud chief Thomas Kurian to run Google Cloud Platform. And IBM developed a multicloud approach and bought Red Hat for $34 billion.
All the signs of enterprise adoption, M&A and more nuanced discussion about hybrid computing highlight how the cloud has matured. It's no longer zero sum, it's more of hybrid being the norm. Add it up and 2018 will go down as the year the cloud matured.
Machine learning is finding pattern-matching ways into every nook and cranny of computing, and we are only at the start of it. There is much work to come, as evidenced by how easy it is to fool current networks, and soon we need to enter the uncanny valley, and the possibility of a machine passing the Turing test.
During that time, we will need to answer the ethical and judicial issues that appear with AI use: If an autonomous car kills a pedestrian, who is to blame? How free is the market if machines are responsible for most of the stock trading? Are humans just getting in the way?
Looking to the bigger picture, domain specialisation by machines is assured, and will be ubiquitous. The progress towards a true general artificial intelligence will continue, but whether the final goal is met is unclear.
The IoT will be everywhere and nowhere by 2028; everywhere in that it will be seamlessly embedded into nearly everything we interact with, from doors to windows to bus stops to clothes. Nowhere in that we won't notice it at all. 5G should make is much easier to embed cheap low-energy sensors into pretty much anything we want to, so that it will be entirely possible to measure nearly every aspect of our existence.
That's fine when it comes to making sure our offices or factories are more efficient; it's slightly more worrying when it comes to tracking and monetising our individual behaviour. Much will depend on strong privacy rules protecting us from the worst excesses of big tech who will inevitably want to gather as much data as possible. But our track record so far isn't great.
Maybe, just maybe by 2028 the quantum revolution will finally have arrived. At the moment it's still at the early stages of development, but with some engineering luck ten years from now it could be, if not the standard, then a common add-on for organisations that look to harness supercomputing to crunch really big sets of data.
It certainly won't have replaced standard computing models, simply because classical computing is very good at solving many computing problems everyday. But there is a class of problems that quantum computers could make a lot easier. It's likely that, at least in this timeframe, quantum computers will be used in the same way as GPUs are used today; to take on extra difficult calculations that would overwhelm a CPU.
Digital transformation was the term of 2018 and 2017 as enterprises aimed to digitize their businesses, leverage data and fend off competition from upstarts. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from digital transformation is this: It never ends. A decade from now digital transformation will still be a thing but will probably get a new, trendier name. Today just like a decade from now enterprises will have to evolve their strategies or be run over.
We don't know how the next decade will look for any of these tech titans. But we do know one thing: Three of the four play a big role in the cloud. And Apple is rich enough to do whatever it wants in the future. Hell, Apple could even become a mutual fund or venture capital firm. Google and Microsoft already have massive war chests and Amazon isn't exactly poor. These tech giants will have the funds and culture to reinvent themselves repeatedly if needed.
Facebook ate up more digital pixels with press coverage than any other company. It's a lot of digital ink to be spilled on what will essentially see the same fate as AOL. Yeah, we know there's no trust in Facebook. Yes, we know it can be gamed. And yes, we know Facebook is addictive to some degree. And yes, we know that Facebook can do good too.
We also know that it's highly unlikely we'll be talking about Facebook in a decade and the folks that dropped the social network in 2018 are just the beginning of a mass exodus. By 2023, Facebook will be renamed Instagram. And by 2028 we won't remember either.
In 2018, Bitcoin was still headed to the moon, except in this case the moon fell out of the sky and left a flaming crater.
At the time of writing, the price of the digital currency was down by 75 percent from its December 2017 peak, and in the process, as taken down all manner of other cryptocurrencies piggy backing off of it.
None of the promises of Bitcoin have come to pass, and a great deal of electricity, silicon, and retirement savings have been wasted on this little experiment. Meanwhile, governments and business are cherry-picking ideas from cryptocurrency bubble in the form of private blockchains and smart contracts, that could well make their way into welfare payments soon.
With cashless payments continuing to increase around the world, for many people, fiat currency is mostly a digital asset.