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Some of the life-changing tech trends the world will see in 2019.

From automated transportation, to digital pills  and social credit algorithms, technological
advancements are growing at the speed of light.

The big question is, can we keep up with the pace?

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Computer Society, based in New York City, predicts some of the future tech
trends for 2019.

Deep learning accelerators, assisted transportation, and the
Internet of Bodies (IoB) lead their 2019 technology outlook.

Some local experts weigh in on this from an African perspective and contribute and identify some of the tech trends we can look out for.

Assisted automated transportation

Assisted transportation is already in use in some countries.

The phenomena of self-driving cars has been growing.

Although many critics fear that it still needs more time to
test and trial, IEEE experts predict that there will be a wide recognition for
fully autonomous vehicles this year.

“I don’t think self-driving cars would solve a major social
need in Africa at the moment,” says Aatish Ramkaran, who is a Digital Architect
at Nedbank and Co-Founder of Blockchain Entrepreneurs Club South Africa.

“What we really need are better, more affordable mass
passenger transport systems, as the majority of the South African workforce
live significant distances from their workplaces,”

Ramkaran adds.

This technology in autonomous vehicles is highly dependent
on deep learning accelerators.

Early last month, a robot was struck down by a self-driving
Tesla Model S.

Electrical engineer Darryn Cornish predicts that it may take
a while before self-driving cars become a trend in Africa, “mainly because we
don’t have a law around it”.

He currently serves as the chair for the IEEE in South Africa and is pursuing his PhD in high voltage physics at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Your social media could reveal your credit score

The IEEE report states that these are algorithms that use
facial recognition and other advanced biometrics to identify a person and
retrieve data about that person from social media and other digital profiles
for the purpose of approval or denial of access to consumer products or social

“In our increasingly networked world, the combination of
biometrics and blended social data streams can turn a brief observation into a
judgment of whether a person is a good or bad risk or worthy of public social
sanction,” says the report.

“Using social media to check credit scores could work for
someone who doesn’t have the transaction history that’s built with a bank
account,” Ramkaran says.

He says this method attempts to build a psychological
profile using your social media behavior, rather than your banking history, to
indicate whether you would honor your loan repayment.

“Discovery Bank, which claims to be the first behavioural
bank, is taking this a step further by not only observing, but actually
influencing your behavior,” he says.

At the moment, China has been popular for planning to
incorporate a nationwide social credit system.

It is due to be fully operational nationwide by 2020.

However, a report by Business Insider critiques this method
of checking credit scores as people with low credit scores in China have been
banned from flying, as well as banning students from certain universities as
they have been considered bad students.

“Li Xiaolin, a lawyer who was placed on the list in 2015, found himself unable to purchase plane tickets home while on a work trip, Human Rights Watch reported. He also couldn’t apply for credit cards,” says Business Insider.

Internet implants?

We’ve heard of Internet of Things, a buzz phrase that came
with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Internet of Bodies (IoB), on the other hand, is exactly
that; internet activity found within the human body.

There have already been external self-monitoring
technologies such as fitness trackers and smart glasses.

IEEE now predicts that “digital pills are entering
mainstream medicine, and body-attached, implantable, and embedded IoB devices
are also beginning to interact with sensors in the environment”.

“These devices yield richer data that enable more
interesting and useful applications, but also raise concerns about security,
privacy, physical harm, and abuse,” the report says.

Critics, however, are concerned that they could be setting
dangerous precedents and courts and regulatory bodies may not be ready for them

“The biggest concern for a while now has been around the
transparency and protection of personal data being collected by devices and
their service providers on consumers that wear or have ingested Internet of
Bodies type devices,” says Lee Naik, CEO, TransUnion

Africa and a digital and technology transformation expert.

Examples of these are smart contact lenses that are being
developed to monitor glucose levels and could eliminate the daily blood sugar
pinprick for people with diabetes.

Other devices are the Bluetooth-equipped electronic pills
being developed to monitor the inner workings of the  body.

They could eventually broadcast what you’ve eaten or whether
you’ve taken drugs.

Another emerging piece of technology related to the IoB is
the radio-frequency identification chip that can contain details of a person’s
bank details and identification in a chip implanted in the body.

In a report by The Independent, a company by the name of
Biohax has implanted chips in more than 4,000 people.

“Further regulation will be required to protect consumer
interests in relation to the Internet of Bodies, specifically to deal with the
security of consumer personal data which needs to be effectively protected in
balance with consumers receiving further benefits from innovation in this
space,” Naik says.

Despite some of the concerns around IoB, a recent study
published by Market Research Future reveals that the global smart contact
lenses market is set to thrive at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 10.4% during
the forecast period 2017 to 2023.

This could potentially change the way personal health is monitored and personal data is kept, connecting the body to the internet forever.

Cyber security pre-installed

IEEE experts suggest that a new generation of security
mechanism is merging.

The traditional method of protecting computer systems looked
at software such as anti-virus.

But now, new software uses an active approach such as hooks
that can be activated when new types of attacks are exposed and
machine-learning mechanisms to identify sophisticated attacks.

Already, cyber security solutions company McAfee announced
at the Consumer Electronics Show 2019 that it would extend its collaboration
with PC hardware giant Dell to provide pre-installed security software for its
PCs and laptops.

According to Techradar, Dell Consumer and small business customers who purchase a new PC or laptop will also have the option to protect all of their devices with McAfee by installing the company’s cross-device software on their smartphones and tablets.

Selling your electricity to your neighbor

According to Cornish, this year, we may see the move from a
concentrated power producer such as Eskom to a micro grid system.

The concentrated power is usually produced in a certain
location and then distributed via transmission lines where it is used by the

With a micro grid system, it uses a distributed power

“Little communities have their own little power grids and
can generate power where they use it,” Cornish says.

“In other words, your house would have solar power and
whatever energy you have extra you would sell onto a grid and your whole
community is a micro grid and a system controls who gets power and when.”

Ramkaran says this trend would really work well in Africa.

“The major issue holding back these ‘micro-grids’ are not
technological. We are perfectly capable of building these systems, just look at
Australia and Germany, but regulatory hurdles prevent their implementation
locally,” he says.

Another trend is the emergence of a worldwide power grid.

According to a Reuters report, the world’s first ±1100-kV
ultra-high voltage direct current transmission line was put into operation last
month in China, marking the project with the highest voltage, the biggest
transmission capacity, the longest transmission distance and the most advanced
in technology in the world, running 3,293 kilometers long and having a
transmission capacity of 12 million kW.

“There are many talks with China, Europe and Asia, to create
a huge high voltage transmission line along the entire continent and possibly
down to Africa. And it would be a worldwide grid that everyone could connect

“If we are suffering with power problems, we could buy power from China or Russia or whoever has spare capacity, so we get rid of that capacity issue,” says Cornish, who predicts this could happen in South Africa in the next five years.

Consumers the new producers

With the rise of blockchain data, crowdsourcing has become a
growing trend, according to Cornish.

Using a blockchain platform for crowdsourcing helps solve a
variety of tasks through a collective approach.

“We are moving towards a crowdsourced idea instead of having
monolithic entities who create and consumers who consume. We are now going into
the phase where consumers are now producers,” says Cornish.

According to Markets Insider, one of the world’s first
blockchain-based e-commerce verification platform launched a platform by
integrating blockchain, AI and crowdsourcing.

The platform SimplyBrand aims to end online counterfeiting
through a safe and trustworthy digital commerce ecosystem in conjunction with
strategic partner Cobinhood, a leading cryptocurrency service platform
featuring zero-trading-fee exchange as well as an end-to-end ICO service

They launched their token pre-sale early last month.

Within this ecosystem, crowdsourced participants who report
fake products through the SimplyBrand App can “earn token rewards to purchase
brand privileged items or sell them on exchange, while brands can buy tokens
from exchange and purchase brand-protection services,” according to Reuters.

“It would be interesting to see how we will be leveraging
from that but we will be seeing much more of that,” Cornish says.

Ramkaran says that this trend of peer-to-peer exchange is intensifying.

“With established platforms like Airbnb and Uber, people have become comfortable with buying goods and services from others, however, they’ve also become aware of the high transaction fees they’re charged,” he says.

Personal data becomes personal advertising

Cornish predicts the rise of big data analytics.

Big data is known as extremely large data sets that may be
analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations,
especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.

“If you go into big data, you can start telling a lot about
how a person lives. For example, if someone goes every Friday to buy a specific
item, you could tell whether they get wages as opposed to salaries just from
that load.”

“If you had their health data like Discovery does, you could
collect that data and start targeting ads like Google.”

However, Cornish suggests that it would be interesting to
see if Google would go ahead and collect consumer data as well. 

Naik says that businesses will start to invest in data
science and AI to drive insights from their large and growing big data.

“Big Data will be central to helping businesses understand
consumers better and develop products that best address consumer needs. Ultimately,
big data and artificial intelligence will be a big driver of business strategy
in future,” he says.

Ramkaran says that focus has shifted from ‘Big Data’ to
‘Machine and Deep Learning’, as companies have found more value in how
specially trained algorithms interpret and make decisions on data.

“Tech giants like Facebook and Google have mastered the art
of collecting your personal data, for free, which they leverage for massive
advertising revenues.

“People are beginning to realize how they’re being exploited
and manipulated, but based on the sheer numbers of connected users and power
that these platforms have, it won’t be an easy fight,” adds Ramkaran.

 But with big data
analytics as such, the ethics of tapping into personal information may be of concern.

Cornish predicts that it may take two years or more before
big data analytics will trend.

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