While many of us at this time of year turn our thoughts to political elections, Thanksgiving menus and holiday gift-buying, business analysts are zealously forecasting what lies beyond the 2018 horizon.

By comparing forecasts from a number of reputable outfits such as Forbes.com, Business News Daily, Inc.com, Mic, Gartner, and a few others, you begin to see a hierarchy of the tech industries most frequently cited in the coming year. At the top of the list: Artificial intelligence, cannabis, virtual reality and augmented reality, biotech, and blockchain. As 2017 grows wizened and old, we think it’s worth scouting out the top five, and then some.

Artificial intelligence

Unquestionably now a feature of everyday life, artificial intelligence is the most frequently cited tech sector among the outlooks we reviewed. A Bank of America Merrill Lynch report, noted by GoBankingRates.com, recently stated that “AI analytics research will reach $70 billion by 2020, an impressive growth spurt from $8.2 billion in 2013.”

Some of the more remarkable strides being made lately include Google’s voice-recognition technology, Facebook’s facial-recognition technology, and the field of computer vision, a technology that applies artificial intelligence to interpret and act on visual data and which caught a lot of buzz earlier this year. Computer-vision technology attracted $522 million and 69 deals in 2016 and can be applied to child development, social media networks, and web analytics.

Marijuana

Cannabis remains one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation. “Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form.” And the trend continues to broaden. Even in conservative South Dakota, one of three medical-marijuana initiatives has passed its first hurdle for the 2018 state ballot, according to the Cannabist.

But a major setback occurred late this year with the historic wildfires in northern California, which struck amid the fall cannabis harvest, even as growers in the “Emerald Triangle” were preparing for the implementation of adult-use cannabis sales on Jan. 1.

Virtual reality, augmented reality

Hard to believe that VR and AR equipment has been widely available for barely more than two years. The popularity of VR technology is through the roof. About a year ago, Deloitte predicted that VR would see its first billion-dollar year in 2016. According to Statista, that prediction was trampled nearly fourfold. “By the time 2018 rolls around,” Inc.com reported, “revenue for virtual reality and its close cousin augmented reality is expected to climb to over $7 billion, and by the end of 2021, that number will explode to $75 billion.”

Biotech, including synthetics

The size of the biotech industry overall boggles the mind. Globally the biotech market is expected to be valued at $727.1 billion by 2025, a growth rate of 7.4 percent.

Cited as one of the best sectors for starting a business within the industry in 2017 is synthetic biology, “the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems, and the re-design of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes” (Nature.com). Some of the most progressive research in the field, as Inc.com reports, includes regenerative medicine technologies, methods for tackling the toughest ailments like dementia and cancer, and improving crop yield to stem the global tide of hunger.

The field of synthetics biology is just a complex as you might imagine. CRISPR gene editing technology is probably the most commonly recognized development in this vast, amorphous field.

Blockchain-based cryptocurrencies

Now that cryptocurrency has been endorsed as a legit option by the banking industry, Gartner predicts that “by the year 2020, the banking industry will derive $1B of business value from the use of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies.” Daniel Newman, a contributing writer for Forbes.com, believes that “while the financial industry will be the first to begin utilizing this amazing tool, numerous others — from healthcare to entertainment to hospitality — will not be far behind.” He points to some Gartner figures that speak to the booming interest in blockchain, citing a Datamation prediction that the financial industry will adopt blockchain first.

Others worth mentioning

Other tech sectors frequently mentioned in 2018 outlooks include green and renewable energy, drone technology, content marketing, and mobile tech (autonomous vehicles). Beyond (actually, below) these are other familiar sectors: SaaS, healthcare, 3D printing, edtech, fraud detection, the ubiquitous IoT, and a variety of others.

Finding one’s way into the future, whether as an investor, founder or other entrepreneur calls for clear-sightedness, forward-thinking boldness, and sound mentoring — virtues belonging to one of America’s leading entrepreneurial and innovation centers, tekMountain, based in Wilmington, NC. With the turn of the year, turn to tekMountain for your personalized tech outlook.

 

This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda Sipes, and Zach Cioffi with lead writer Bill DiNome.

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