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Science & Technology Series: Expert Comment

Science & Technology trends in 2018

Captain Tilmann Gabriel, Dr David Haynes and Dr Tarek Besold from City's School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering consider the influential technologies and issues likely to emerge in 2018.
by City Press Office (General enquiries)

Captain Tilmann Gabriel, Senior Lecturer and Director of Aviation Management Programmes

One of the main issues in 2018 will be the further development of drones and the regulations around commercial drone operations. The increase in drone service opportunities from Amazon and food deliveries to autoflight taxis (all coming from developments in sophisticated military usage) are driving the hasty design of regulations and licenses.

Yet another significant technological development, is the further design of electric propulsion aircraft, such as the most recent collaboration between Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Siemens.

A third development (not so much technological in nature) is the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) driven design of the future education of aviation personnel away from pure knowledge tests to core competencies, measured by observable behaviours. This will revolutionise the aviation industry. ICAO will be  publishing comments on this in 2018 for implementation in 2020. This will completely change the education system  pertaining to pilots, aircraft engineers and air traffic controllers.

Dr Tarek Besold, Lecturer in Data Science

One of the recent big talking points regarding AI-related innovation has been the development of AI systems for the healthcare and well-being sectors. The projects which have been announced over the last months – a good few of which are due to see first product releases in 2018 – address the health industry (hospitals, medical practitioners, etc.) and individual users.

Powered by recent advances in Machine Learning, we can now statistically leverage the information contained in large data sets, for instance AI-supported anomaly detection and diagnostics in medical imaging systems. This is developing rapidly and the automated assessment (and possibly even predictive analytics) of medical records appears to be within reach.

But also on an individual level, activity trackers like Fitbits almost certainly have only been the first step to unlocking the full potential of the combination between wearable technology and AI. From training assistants, offering personalized workout recommendations based on the user’s goals and the recordings of an activity tracker, to meditation apps supporting people’s mindfulness and relaxation activities, the sector is buzzing with R&D activity. Personalized  health might witness significant success in 2018, with AI-based smartphone apps or consumer software offering a quick self-assessment for certain medical conditions, or supporting patients over the course of protracted therapy plans.

Dr David Haynes, IC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for Information Science

Inevitably, anyone interested in privacy and data protection will have their thoughts dominated by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will be introduced in May 2018.  Although this is an EU regulation, it will affect trading partners (as we expect the UK will become) as well as EU member states (as the UK is now).  There is a froth of activity, which looks like a re-run of Y2K when more pessimistic commentators predicted that planes would fall out of the sky and banks would stop working at the turn of the Millennium.  This was predicted because of a bug in legacy systems that could not compute dates beyond 31st December 1999.  The Information Commissioner herself has warned against a catastrophic or revolutionary view of the changes that will result from implementation of GDPR.

Privacy awareness will grow and will be in the spotlight because of the new legislation, but it is unlikely to be a revolutionary change.  There will be greater emphasis on a ‘highway code’ for us as individuals when we use online resources and particularly when we use social media.  Legislating to make the Internet safer is probably not going to be effective, because sites operated from abroad are literally beyond the reach of the law.

However, if we as individuals understand the potential risks associated with online use, we can adjust our behaviour accordingly, in much the way that young people are taught road traffic safety awareness. I predict that there will be a greater emphasis on the use of social media to facilitate ‘live’ or real interactions with others rather than as a substitute for them.  We are already seeing the rise of live music events facilitated by the digital music revolution and the growth of special interest group get-togethers using social media platforms such as ‘’.

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