It’s nearing the end of 2017, and with that we’re nearing the close of the second decade of the 21st century. It continues to be an exciting time for technology developments. If you haven’t kept up, here’s the latest major techie terms you’ll want to know for 2018.
Net Neutrality – In the United States, Net Neutrality is an ongoing activist cause. In brief, it’s the principle that Internet service providers not discriminate in their service, keeping Internet access level for all users. On and off, various companies and government officials have either advocated for or against Net Neutrality principles. There’s a current controversy over the head of the FCC repealing a measure which former president Obama signed into effect, which lightly impacts Net Neutrality. The issue is actually far deeper and more complex than most Internet activists seem to convey, but it’s nevertheless something for all net citizens to keep an eye on.
Cryptocurrency – The biggest news in 2017 technology was the sudden spike of crypto-currency value, especially Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency is a digital asset in which virtual “coins” and “minted” at a limited rate based on encryption algorithms; afterwards, the “coins” may be exchanged over electronic media. Bitcoin, the forerunner of cryptocurrencies, has in the past year gained 1429% at the time of this writing, topping $11,000 for one coin. Cryptocurrency may be traded in fractional amounts up to several decimal places. Advocates tout cryptocurrency’s use as a decentralized replacement for government-issued money; however, their volatile nature suggests more treating them like a commodity investment, like gold and platinum.
Blockchain – The method of verifying cryptocurrency transactions. A list of records, called blocks, are linked together in an orderly procession using a cryptography algorithm. This enables a broad network of decentralized control without having to trust anyone, since the encrypted transaction record keeps everyone honest. It’s the basis of all cryptocurrency. However, blockchain methods have broad uses beyond digital currency. Many companies are beginning to experiment with the blockchain model, with an eye to using similar methods in brokerage software, security, specialized devices, industrial sensors, and other industrial needs.
Internet of Things – Often abbreviated “IoT,” the Internet of Things is the Silicon Valley term for small, specialized devices which can communicate with each other and a network. Often termed “smart,” as in a “smart fridge” which automatically orders more milk from the grocery store when the last milk is gone, or “smart engines” which automatically schedule a maintenance appointment when it’s time for an oil change. Smart devices are a continued area of industrial research, and sometimes make it to the consumer level. One example of consumer-level IoT gadgets are fitness trackers, which monitor your body metrics and can communicate with your Facebook profile or phone to report the statistics of your workout.
Flat 2.0 – A term web and application designers use to designate the current popular design aesthetic. Flat 2.0 is a simple, vector-based design standard which is friendlier to smartphones and tablet screens. It’s “flat” because it doesn’t try to represent 3D shapes or realistic images, but has more of a stamped, iconic look instead. The “2.0“ part refers to how it uses simple 2-tone color schemes to represent shading. The look of Flat 2.0 is very much iconic, abstract, and scales down in size easily.
AI – An abbreviation for “Artificial Intelligence,” AI has been a topic on and off in tech circles for decades. However, recent years have seen a renaissance for AI research. Particularly exciting is the “emergent learning” model of AI, in which an algorithm or virtual model is “turned loose,” so to speak, in an environment and left to learn how to accomplish goals on its own. Picture if a robot was placed in a room and left to practice on its own until it could navigate without bumping into walls and falling over. Recent triumphs in AI this last year include conquering the Asian board game of Go, which was out of reach of previous generations of computer power. Driverless cars is another keen focus of AI research, with some predicting that autonomous automobiles could be on our city streets in as little as a decade.
There, that should bring everybody up to speed. See you in the future!