Last updateFri, 22 Feb 2019 1pm

2017 revisited: Echo, AI, Bitcoin, net neutrality, Equaifax, iPhone X

Every year at this time I take a look back at the top tech news stories of the year just past.  Of course my list is incomplete, but here are a few I considered worth noting.

On the computer hardware front some people might call 2017 “The Year of Alexa.”  It has actually been several years that Amazon has been working on the “Echo” and throughout this year of 2017 has rolled out other products using this technology.  This line of products has suddenly moved us all a lot closer to the “Star Trek” computer interface, one having no keyboard, no mouse, and no screen.  You simply talk to the computer and voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant named Alexa talks back.  About 20 million Echo devices have been sold to date.

On the software front it is hard to argue against AI or Artificial Intelligence being the big tech story of the year, such as in the aforementioned Amazon Echo.  That is until we put things in perspective and compare the US$50 million that companies are estimated to invest in AI by 2020 with the estimated US$200 billion (with a B!) that will be invested in big data analytics so that companies can track what we do online in order for them to expose us to ever more effective advertising.

On the financial front some people might say 2017 was the year of Bitcoin.  A year ago this and other crypto currencies were nearly unknown insofar as public awareness is concerned.  That all changed as Bitcoin virtual currency surpassed the Dutch tulip bulb craze of 1634-37 to become the biggest speculative economic bubble in human history.  If this virtual currency gains wide acceptance it has the potential to revolutionize the financial world.  Or if it is just a bubble, it could pop.

On the political front 2017 was another pivotal year for net neutrality.  In the United States,  the Trump administration has already reversed Obama era policies that threatened to over-regulate the industry and stifle innovation.  The relaxed rules, however, could allow the big telecoms to benefit at the expense of consumers.  Industry and government that have yet to find a viable middle ground while bouncing from one political extreme to the other is the worst possible course.

In security matters, the hacking of the database at Equafax probably impacted the largest single group of people. Almost half of all adult Americans had their personal data compromised.  This was thanks to Equafax’s inability to apply a simple software update that would have prevented the attack.

Telecommunications news was dominated by Apple’s new iPhone X that does not offer a huge amount of additional utility. But who cares?  It is a thing of beauty with styling that the whole smart phone industry is likely to imitate.

The common thread running through all of these stories is the future impact that each could have on 2018 and far beyond.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico.  The opinions expressed are his own.  He may be contacted through his web site at SMAguru.com.

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