2018: The year of digital disruption

Rob Edwards, Managing Director at FARM Digital shares his thoughts on why 2018 looks set to be a year of digital disruption

Guest Writer | 9th Feb 18
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Rob Edwards, Managing Director at FARM Digital shares his thoughts on why 2018 looks set to be a year of digital disruption

In 1991, the World Wide Web became publicly available. In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook. In 2011, Apple launched Siri, the first modern digital virtual assistant installed on a smartphone. Each of these technologies are considered landmarks in the history of innovation and have turned industries upside down. However, the next wave is hot on their tails.

New connected technologies are challenging traditional sectors and redefining business and society in general. Prior to 2017, these technologies were simply bleeding edge, with an unclear picture around how to apply them. Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, was once the exclusive domain of computer-science researchers and academics. Today, people of all ages, perhaps even unbeknown to them, are using AI in their everyday life.

In digital, we are increasingly being approached by forward-thinking companies that want to stay ahead of the curve and adopt these technologies to transform their business. These businesses are kick-starting a revolution and forcing industries to change gear, or risk being left behind.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the technologies set to shake things up in 2018.


Artificial intelligence and cognitive technology

In 1950 English Mathematician Alan Turing published a paper entitled Computing Machinery and Intelligence which opened the door to the field that would be referred to as artificial intelligence (AI). Cognitive technology is the application of AI to simulate human thought processes in a computerised model. Cognitive computing involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works.

Almost 70 years later, AI and cognitive technology is becoming the norm. In fact, some argue the age of ‘mobile-first’ is over as we move to the generation of ‘AI-first’. AI is still in its infancy and it is set to get smarter.

According to Constellation Research, by 2025, the AI market will surpass $100 billion and IDC states, by 2018, 75% of developer teams will include AI functionality in one or more application or service.

We work across a variety of sectors, with organisations that want to optimise their use of digital to incite positive change. The charity sector is becoming increasingly willing to push digital boundaries, and chatbots are an impactful application of cognitive technology. They are proving to be a popular project due to the cost and productivity benefits. According to Gartner, by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human.

For a charity that is reliant on volunteers and has a large number of incoming queries, a chatbot offers an initial touch point to answer simple questions. A chatbot can filter enquiries to ensure a human is only involved when a question cannot be answered.

It is likely, in 2018, chatbots will become a staple digital asset.



Blockchain is a digital ledger that provides a secure way of making and recording transactions, agreements and contracts. Coupled with cryptocurrencies, it has incited a media frenzy, however, the opportunities it presents for business is yet to be truly explored.

As noted by Deloitte, a ‘vast eco-system of cross industry use cases are emerging’ including:

  • Europe’s largest shipping port, Rotterdam, has launched a research lab to explore the technology’s applications in logistics.
  • Utilities in North America and Europe are using blockchain to manage billing at electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Blockchain is disrupting social media by giving users an opportunity to own and control their images and content.

Albeit small, this list is growing and 2018 will see businesses assess how they can get the most out of the blockchain phenomenon. The potential benefits of blockchain are evident, with transparency being the driver for mainstream adoption.

Any transaction recorded in blockchain is verified and approved by consensus among the other participants in the network. This not only makes fraud more difficult, as you would need to fool many parties simultaneously, it could also improve an organisation’s reputation for their commitment to transparency. Blockchain also offers a chronological record of events making audits more efficient and speeds up the rate of transactions with instantaneous settlement.

In the charity sector, the most obvious advantage of adopting a blockchain cryptocurrency strategy is reducing foreign exchange fees transferring money across borders. Often, to get charitable funds to the people that need it most, involves losing a percentage to bank fees. This could be eliminated by implementing a cryptocurrency strategy.


Virtual reality and augmented reality

To date, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been fuelled by a small community of enthusiasts and have yet to be adopted by the mainstream or B2B market. There are numerous reasons why this is the case, availability of content being one of them, but 2018 could be the year this changes.

FIFA announced it will offer a new feature for the 2018 Russian World Cup which will enable fans to watch the matches in virtual reality – both as a live experience and as 360° video-on-demand. And you can’t get much more mainstream than that!

However, it is industries that rely on empathy and the art of storytelling that will truly benefit from VR and AR. The immersive experience places the audience at the heart of the cause. The United Nation’s “Clouds Over Sidra” project with UNICEF, created an experience to fundraise for those affected by the crisis in Syria. The mini-documentary followed the life of a 12-year-old refugee in a bid to get fundraisers from across the globe to understand the situation.

The results were remarkable; one in six people that viewed the VR experience made a donation to UNICEF – more than twice the standard rate of giving. Using innovative technology such as VR as a tool for on the ground fundraising could dramatically change the non-profit landscape.

These are just three of the technologies that made an impact in 2017 but they are set to gain traction in 2018. We are already working with our clients to integrate cognitive services, chatbots and blockchain into their infrastructure, so if you are an organisation with aspirations to innovate and challenge the norm, contact us today.