Programming Trends in 2018 – New Libraries, New Approaches

The world of development moves fast and changes continuously. Unlike many other fields there’s rarely an easily scheduled calendar for hardware and software specific updates, as they tend to turn up when they’re discovered or as soon as they’re ready (albeit possibly in Beta form). So we’ve highlighted a few of the wider programming and development trends we’ve spotted in 2018, which we think are worth keeping an eye on this year.

Programming trends are unusual in that they can both lead other trends, for example, technology will often be at the forefront of new and cutting edge developments in digital, entertainment or innovation-led fashions. Conversely, as the world rushes to join in, developers are required to reproduce or create alternative versions of the new big thing, meaning a rise and demand for skills in that area of development.

The Internet of Things is still big news in 2018 with security increasingly coming to the forefront of most people’s minds as the novelty of in-home smart devices is replaced by greater understanding of their capabilities and weaknesses. Blockchain solutions are at the forefront of security conversations.

In the UK, new 5G testbeds and the Digital Catapult programme are bringing visions of truly connected smart cities closer, with developments focusing on delivering “an environment of hyper connectivity and real-time representations” as the Internet of Things transforms into an Internet of Place, meaning that mobile isn’t going anywhere just yet.

Developers in these areas will need to continue to stay mindful to shifting public attitudes around security and use of data, as well as new laws and European directives about consumer data protection.

Wearables make the trend list every wear but never quite seem to break though further into the mainstream than fitness programming. However, as integrated smart fabric technology continues to improve, and battery / control options grow ever smaller and lighter, we’re finally reaching a point where realistic and actually wearable tech becomes closer to finding a way into our everyday wardrobes. Recent textile developments include a fabric that converts kinetic energy into electricity, developed by Chalmers Institute of Technology researchers Anja Lund and Christian Müller. The woven fabric generates electricity when it is stretched or placed under pressure, and can create enough power to light an LED, send wireless signals or drive a small calculator or digital watch.

Digital agencies who have spent several years ensuring that all of their clients have a branded presence across all social media channels are starting to see the limitations of social, as brand channels divide into influencer-led shop windows (Instagram and Snapchat) and real time, highly visible customer service / complaints departments (Twitter and Facebook). With this is mind agencies are pushing clients in two very different directions.

Firstly we see the consumer service / complaints side of the business edging toward AI, chatbots and automated real time messaging for fast and standard responses to regular customer queries and complaints. Chatbots Magazine predicts that more than 85% of customer support communications will be fully automated by 2020.

Secondly, brands continue to embrace the buzzwords that dominated 2017, AR and VR, which, despite the Pokémon Go effect, haven’t quite filtered down into the mainstream yet. It’s happening fast though, with most lifestyle and luxury brands channeling large chunks of their advertising budgets into experiential (experience led) marketing in 2018, of which VR and AR experiences will play an increasingly large part.

The advent of multi-person experiences will see a large increase in VR and AR for branded entertainment and content purposes as well as games, especially as soon as multi-person experiences increase, leading to greatly increased opportunities for creative development for programmers with an interest in these areas. Unlike gaming, where development can take many years to produce one huge product, branded content opportunities will require fast front end turnaround and the ability to build multiple variations of existing tech at very high speed. These branded experiences will also be required to be more agile, working across a wider variety of hardware for a wider variety of consumers. Device agnostic is a given.

Maker spaces and the build community might feel like old news in 2018, but they’re continuing to grow rapidly, with spaces and resources like 3D printers being built into traditional libraries and schools as standard. Globally there has been a huge increase in interest in the making community in countries like China, as people turn away from traditional tech manufacturing into smaller and more creative outlets for their programming skills and technical abilities.

China now has the largest number of makerspaces in the world, and expects to increase the number to over 10,000 by 2020, creating three million jobs.

Programming trends in 2018 will need to reflect this new, nimble system of manufacturing, where ultra rapid prototyping and smaller scale personalised product development replace traditional, slow, expensive manufacturing processes.

The makerspace movement has become an environment where software – hardware collaborations are created, refined and prototyped, creating huge opportunities for the next generation of creative technologists who will need to be equally skilled in coding and electronics.