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29 December 2017

The Imagination Technologies 2018 predictions

Jo Ashford, December 29th, 2017 – It’s the time of year again when we gaze into our crystal ball and see if we can discern what will be coming our way in 2018. As someone wise once said, the future is always in motion, which does make it rather difficult to predict. That’s all part of the fun though, so once again we present to you our predictions for 2018.

AI will continue its rapid growth in 2018

AI has not followed the hype curve in the traditional sense. It was hyped and then went straight into reality, without entering the ‘trough of disillusionment’ (although we’ve had some internal debate as to whether AI has been overhyped or not). This is rare and has fuelled a more rapid adoption of the technology and what it can offer. In 2018, pretty much every corner of the semiconductor industry will be impacted by AI technologies, and segments such as consumer, commercial, automotive, robotics, IoT and data centres will be transformed. The introduction of a neural network API on Android (Android NN) will see a huge rise in the number of AI applications on mobile, while neural networks accelerators will vastly improve the performance of AI on embedded and mobile devices.

Augmented Reality (AR) glasses will have a second coming

In 2017 the AR market saw some major milestones, with the announcements of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. This resulted in developers working on numerous new and exciting consumer-orientated AR apps and games and gave a clear sign that after a false start glasses will be an important part of the AR future.

AR glasses have massive potential in the industrial market. Several warehouses are investing in the technology for logistics operations to increase productivity and enhance the bottom-line. One warehouse experimenting with the technology expects to see productivity improvements of around 12% and Amazon is believed to be looking to AR glasses for its warehouse pickers.

Mass market adoption of AR glasses will depend on cost. They will need to be reasonably priced, and it’s our belief that early adopters are only likely to invest if they cost about the same as a high-end smartphone. The glasses also need to be sleeker in design, losing the bulky and heavy look for which they have been known. Issues regarding battery life also need to be addressed.

2018 will be the year that early adopters start wearing AR glasses, bringing AR experiences to the wearer, not just for gaming and day-to-day life, but also in industrial settings, like warehouses, where they can start to demonstrate meaningful ROI.

VR will stagnate

Adoption of VR will remain low, based on low-volume, high-end gaming and professional applications. Daydream and Google Cardboard will also dwindle because it simply isn’t compelling enough to engage consumers. Simply put, the form factor isn’t right, the controller is awkward and most notably, the graphics resolution and quality aren’t sufficient to make it a more mainstream proposition.

The first 5G network will go live

While we’re still at least three years away from this high-speed wireless service being deployed, 2018 will still be a big year for 5G. In the coming year, we’ll see several early trials come to fruition and there will be much publicity around the results that will shape how the network is deployed. It’s expected that the first 5G network will go live for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, transforming the experience of watching live events – although there is scepticism at the chances of meeting this deadline. The switch to 5G is much more than ‘just’ faster data; it’s the communication channel that will enable self-driving cars, VR headsets, delivery drones and billions of interconnected devices. Therefore, it’s understandable that more time is required to carry out all the significant and costly infrastructure upgrades and changes that will be necessary. In 2018, a lot of progress will be made towards making 5G a reality.

Security in IoT will continue to be a challenge

Despite being one of the most promising developments in technology, the IoT is creating great opportunities for cybercriminals. 2017 had an increasing number of cyber security hacks and it’s fair to say some of them weren’t your typical corporate breach. There were viral, state-sponsored ransomware incidents, and leaks of spy tools to name just two notable examples. However, there were no major hacks on IoT devices that resulted in serious damage despite the expectation that an IoT or smart ecosystem insecurity would have been exploited – something like a leading smart home ecosystem being compromised or IoT devices being taken offline in a denial-of-service attack.

If looking back on 2017 is any sign, combined with the prediction that IoT will grow to reach a staggering 75 billion devices by 2025, 2018 is going to be an interesting year. The need for multi-domain security is more real than ever before and it will soon be accepted as an essential way to protect embedded devices.

Autonomous cars will become entertainment spaces

From a silicon perspective, IP that is licensed in 2018 will appear in cars around the 2023 timeframe. The car will morph from what it is today — a forward-facing, full engaged driving platform — to a vehicle that is an entertainment space, an office or a living room. Ultimately, it will become whatever the occupant wants it to be. The front windscreen will become an augmented reality display, with driver-centric information on one side and passenger information on the other.

As we move from Level 3 autonomy upwards, increasing power will be required from the GPU and related accelerators to enable the autonomous driving function — probably a 10x for each jump between the levels. From a graphics perspective, while today you might have one or two screens in a car with Full HD resolution by 2023 this will transform up to multiple 4K displays. 2018 will be a critical year in terms of producing the IP that will enable this change.

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