As December brings the year to a close once more, and we all dust off our Nostradamus cloaks of wisdom, it is time once again to scribble down some predictions for the technology year ahead. Ones that hopefully outlast the dramatic falling of needles from my guaranteed non-drop Christmas Tree.

Making technology pot shots for 2019 is likely the simplest of futurology tasks at the moment.  The world next year is gearing up to be; well, anybody’s guess; and you don’t need Google Deepmind or IBM Watson to predict that. Making tech predictions or being a politician?  Let me think….

So, like most of our politicians today, I thought I would entirely duck answering the question, abdicate myself from all responsibility, and flatly refuse to make a fantasy tech league.

Instead, and in the spirit of gratitude to minds greater than my own, my festive gift this Christmas is to recommend a short list of some wise men and women you can follow on twitter, and who by my reckoning will make far more sense of the world in 2019 than I ever could.

I lie awake at night wishing I had the number of twitter fans to convince you to buy into my view that 2019 is going to be a year when the pieces in the future of digital truly do start slotting into place.  That we might be starting the true decade of digital empowerment across industry and society.  That business and IT will converge around a vision where the art of the possible becomes the science of the practical.  That 2019 becomes a year of digital enlightenment.

Unfortunately, given my number of followers, and I dearly love you all, I would not make Newbury’s list of top technology futurologists, let alone West Berkshire. 

Instead, and I hope they forgive me, especially as I might be paraphrasing some of their thoughts, I would like to point you in the direction of some genuinely learned people I follow on social media whose views I believe provide insight into how 2019 will likely pan out.

So, in no particular order…

Ethical AI@RobMcCargow from PWC brings what can only be described as a prag-topian (neither utopian or dystopian) view of the current reality and future potential of AI as anybody you could follow on twitter.  My take on Rob’s timeline in 2018 is that the hype around AI is deafening, maddening, and irksome, and the media’s continued hyperbole around AI does a great disservice to us all.  The front-page headlines of AI saving or destroying humanity obfuscate the true practical business and societal potential of this incredibly powerful technology.  My take on 2018; a consensus is emerging around the importance of advancing the ethical frameworks, checks and balances, legislation and regulation, rights and responsibilities that must be put in place to ensure the world can cope with AI and that AI can realise its potential for the world.  With the release of the UK House of Lord report on AI in the early part of the year promoting the UK as a centre of AI ethical best practice, 2019 will hopefully tackle AI’s responsible use, an issue that rightly concerns the public, and ensure the worries created by fanciful news headlines do not dilute the potential of AI in business and wider society.  Rob’s timeline is my place to visit when I want a world-view of AI and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

IoT @dez_blanchfield has a timeline so laden with IoT insights that it would be easy to believe he survives on 2 hours sleep and even then, he has sensors transmitting wise words on how IoT has moved from hype to compelling reality.   I am proud to have been a very small part of some of the last 5 years of IoT development in places like Brazil but sit on Dez’s timeline for a moment and you will see that those three little letters are being accelerated by the rapid emergence of 5G, Edge Computing, Machine Learning, Serverless Computing and Blockchain.  These building blocks of IoT enablement make development of smart environments at scale a practical and commercial reality.  In fact, the massive growth in IoT has been empowered by the dramtic fall in the costs of resources needed to develop systems in a way unimaginable just a few years ago.  IoT functions in Azure or Google making innovation as readily available to students starting up as it has been to mega business looking to transform themselves into IoT service providers.  Prototype Smart Cities can be developed in Smart Bedrooms, and just a short time spent on Dez’s timeline you can see why 2019 will see IoT potential become a much faster reality and one that has been democratised to anybody with a spark of innovation or problem solving.

The Developable Infrastructure@susiewee leads a rising star initiative within infrastructure and software giant Cisco’s called DevNet. I first saw Susie present at Cisco Partner summit a few years ago when she extoled the concept of DevX – a view that the next wave of innovation from infrastructures such as networking, security, or collaboration tools, would come not solely from the vendor making the products, but from the ability of anybody to develop on top of them or integrate them into bigger systems through API enabled open interfaces.  Since that first presentation, the Cisco Devnet community has become a movement of people and companies creating some truly inspiring innovation that build above and beyond the platform itself.  I am sure it was Susie (or maybe I dreamt it in a bar in Vegas) that said that within a few years ‘everybody will be a developer’. Whatever the provenance of the quote, I think in 2019 this becomes ever more a reality.  Infrastructure as Code is one thing – infrastructure as an entire development platform is incredibly exciting.  I am struggling to think of a major tech manufacturer who isn’t moving to a software driven, Open API development model, and that is hugely powerful democratisation opportunity for businesses and individuals.  In 2019, organisations will be able to tailor and tune their underlying technologies to a highly specific need or share their innovations in the community where their genesis of an idea can be evolved by the crowd.  So, engineers, grab your GitHub and Python youtube videos and learn how to change the world.

And to finish; no self-respecting techno geek should have a twitter feed that does not include @evankirstel – my online guru, oracle, and all-round good egg, whose timeline covers every aspect of the fast-changing technology world.  From drones to blockchain, IoT to hyperloops, cyber security to artificial intelligence, dancing robots to drone delivery, you cannot fail to not find something interesting, innovative and well curated on Evan’s twitter feed.  He has been my favourite tech influencer for a few years and 2018 could be said to be one of his best vintages.  I shall keep on following and so should you.

Anyway, that’s it – no predictions, and only four recommendations, but hopefully something from these four influencers will stimulate your mind in 2019 as they have mine in 2018.

Happy Christmas and New Year whatever it brings.

Chris Gabriel