What can techies expect in the Year of the Boar?

Experts predict the major technology trends for 2019

In keeping with our annual tradition, we once again present the views of industry experts on what was great and what was hyped (or overhyped) in 2018. Our contributors also gave their insight on what technology will blossom in 2019.

As ever, this is a “straw poll” of people’s opinions. What did we find? Here’s a snapshot of opinions from Hong Kong 2018.

Tech we weren’t thrilled with in 2018:

“It’s hard to get excited about 5G when the demos I saw at the 2018 Mobile World Congress emphasized promised speed but failed to showcase the promised magic of the technology,” says Kristie Lu Stout, anchor/correspondent, CNN International.

“Yes, it’s a work in progress. Yes, we won’t see 5G properly roll out until a few years from now. But the industry needs to be careful not to oversell its potential.

“5G isn’t going to be just about speed, but about life-changing services,” says Lu Stout. “I look forward seeing that demo.”

“Blockchain and the decentralized ledger system have yet to deliver the vast breakthrough that is promised by its advocates,” says Charles Mok, Hong Kong’s Legislative Councillor for Information Technology. “Though we see more experimentation around the DLT in different scenarios, especially in the financial services sector, the long term viability and ROI of adopting blockchain faces a reality check.”

“For enterprises to integrate blockchain technologies into their workflow,” says Mok, “figuring out interoperability, standardization and risk management on blockchain-based platforms will be crucial. It will take time for blockchain to gain traction beyond cryptocurrency and go  mainstream.”

“The most famous use of blockchain technology is cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which is a digital record of transactions that cannot be altered,” says Winnie Tang, honorary professor at the Department of Computer Science, University of Hong Kong and founder of the Smart City Consortium. “It is said to have the huge potential to disrupt financial services as well as other industries—but the problem is that there is no killer
application that only blockchain can accomplish in the real world.”

Tang says that, according to Gartner’s 2018 CIO Survey, “only 1% of CIOs confirmed having adopted blockchain technology within their organizations, and only 8% of CIOs were planning or actively experimenting with blockchain in the near future.”

However, blockchain technology gained traction in Hong Kong this year. “Cyberport witnessed the development of blockchain in our community,”  says Peter Yan, CEO, Cyberport. “The blockchain ecosystem is growing fast, [like] our digital technology enterprises.”

Yan cited Cyberport-based examples of blockchain progress: financial services provider Standard Kepler, “a incubatee [which] has raised over US$480 million to date,” and Hash Key, which “will leverage the innovative ecosystem of Cyberport to develop a blockchain incubator and accelerator.”

Intelligence...the artificial kind

“While the promise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is exciting,” says Darrell Ryman, CTO, AXA Hong Kong, “most [firms] struggle to understand the data within their organization and its quality, which poses a problem in deriving real value from technologies like AI and Big Data.”

However, Ted Suen, president of the Hong Kong Computer Society, finds AI intriguing. “The world was shocked by the fast development of AI with Go champions beaten by the computer program AlphaGo,” he says.

“AI/Big Data is one of the key technology clusters of Cyberport [and] is [also] the mainstream of digital technology development,” says Yan from Cyberport.” People now have AI assistants embedded in their computer systems, platforms and software.”

Tech that excited us in 2018:

“AI,” says Government CIO Victor Lam. “With the maturity of big data analytics and machine learning, AI has become a mainstream technology providing many useful applications, e.g. chatbots being widely used in call centers, video analytics to determine certain scenarios for follow-up actions or decision-making, robotics applications for re-industrialization, etc. The HK government is implementing AI solutions for businesses, including: estimating journey times, video analytics for deterring illegal parking, and chatbots for 1823 and GovHK.

“Recognizing AI as one of Hong Kong’s strengths, the Hong Kong government and local organizations are deeply invested into AI,” says Bong Chan, Southern Region TMT managing partner for Deloitte China. “The Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) has funded 57 projects involving AI and robotics over the past three years.

In the Smart City Blueprint published at the end of 2017, the government stated its commitment to build infrastructure that allows for more  application of AI in both the public and private sectors, from transport to cyber security.”

“Integrating data into business analytics is one of the major trends that enterprises are investing heavily in,” says Charles Mok. “Companies sitting
on massive troves of data are leveraging increased processing power to prepare, analyze, and extract insight.”

“The most exciting technology scene in Hong Kong this year is the number of startups,” says Winnie Tang. “Startup community Whub estimates that 2,800 startups have been established here as of September 2018, compared with 2,200—from a 2017 InvestHK survey. The total funds raised increased from HK$450 million last year to at least HK$1.9 billion in the first nine months of 2018.”

Tech predicted to thrill in 2019:

“Fake news. Cyberbullying. Stealth influence campaigns. In 2018, big tech firms may have issued their mea culpas for these ills, but 2019 will be a year of action, says CNN’s Lu Stout. “Facebook, Google, Twitter and others must provide more meaningful safeguards to improve security, ensure privacy and earn back trust. They also must act fast before increasingly tech-savvy regulators dictate the terms.”

“With the GDPR, companies are forced to improve compliance with the new requirements,” says Charles Mok. “The new regulatory regime holding
companies accountable for how they treat data is showing effects globally. Defense against cybersecurity threats and protection of personal data will emerge as important themes for enterprises seeking to prevent becoming victims of ransomware and other cyberattacks.”

“With the improvement of Natural Language Processing and AI algorithms, I think conversational interface technology will be getting more attention in 2019,” says Victor Lam. “The user experience for chatbots is also expected to improve with voice gradually replacing text input.”

“Data is the “new oil” to drive new economic development and emerging technologies like big data analysis and AI,” says Winnie Tang.

"A centralized real-time geographic information system (GIS) platform like Common Operational Picture (COP) should be implemented to coordinate recovery efforts,” she says. “COP can serve as a platform for command and coordination, allowing commanders to keep abreast on the latest and comprehensive field situation, issue orders and allocate resources in disaster relief operations.”

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