Digital Skills Academy
Tech trends: separating fact from science fiction

Tech trends: separating fact from science fiction

Trends are as common in tech as they are in fashion, but which are the ones most likely to last?

Bots are getting busier

Bots are the new minions of the world wide web. Turning up almost everywhere, recent estimates suggest there is now more bot traffic than human traffic on the web. “Almost 52 per cent of all web traffic now comes from non-human sources. And we expect this to continue as bots find their way into many more websites,” says Daniel Griffin, industry expert lecturer and curriculum lead on the application development stream at Digital Skills.

Progressive web apps

Identified by Google and other tech giants as one of the most significant developments for mobile app design, progressive web apps, such as Twitter’s mobile app, provide the same utilities as conventional installed apps including offline web pages, push notifications and fast speed load times. But in comparison, progressive web apps do not need to be installed on your device. “Developers can create light and easily updated applications that behave as if they were installed on the device, even adding a home screen icon for easy access,” says Griffin.

The fundamental frameworks

AngularJS, Google’s JavaScript-based open-source web application, was given a facelift this year in an effort to overcome obstacles many were facing in the development of single-page applications (SPAs). Perhaps the most universally recognisable SPA is Google’s Gmail. Even though you click on a message in the inbox, the browser remains on the same webpage. JavaScript code simultaneously conceals the inbox while displaying the opened message.

But critics argue the release of Angular, Version 5, was poorly handled by the world’s largest search engine. “It was intended to be the first release where the tech community would stop talking about version numbers and just refer to the framework as Angular,” says Griffin. “But Google failed to create the ubiquitous use of AngularJS it had anticipated and developers became increasingly frustrated by the protracted delays over the last year. This left a gap for Facebook’s React.js to fill and it enabled Zuckerberg to gain a sizeable chunk of the market. Still we can expect new versions of AngularJSevery six months from Google.”

Do-it-yourself app development

Never have individual developers had so much power to take things into their own hands. “Technologies like Github’s popular Electron project are creating opportunities for app developers to use their existing web skillset to produce desktop software,” says Corey Butler, chief technology officer at MediaTech Ventures. “Products like Slack, Spotify and Skype are well-known examples of Electron desktop apps. If you know HTML, CSS and some JavaScript, you too can be a desktop software developer.”

Move over VR, let AR take over

Virtual reality (VR) has already established itself as a mainstream tool in a variety of sectors – from gaming to military training. Now, says startup adviser, growth hacker and venture capitalist Paul O’Brien, it’s time for VR to take a back seat. Augmented reality (AR) seamlessly blends reality and virtual, taking us even deeper into a world where the lines between reality and the artificial continue to blur. Instead of replacing a user’s view of reality – such as VR – app developers are finding creative ways to upgrade user’s existing reality. AR is an exciting space that addresses human senses in a more comprehensive manner. “VR showed us how we might experience the world,” says O’Brien. “Now that we’ve seen it, what we really want is AR.”

I’m bringing security back

Renewed interest in security of data storage has been led principally by the growing number of converts to the Church of Blockchain, the digital data storage facility that underpins all cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin. Once considered the nefarious safe house for those lurking on the dark web, blockchain’s new reputation as the world’s most secure “digital ledger” is being taken seriously by everyone from hackers to central banks.

“Cryptography is seeing renewed interest amongst app developers,” says Butler. “The tech spotlight has moved from bit-torrent to blockchain, as developers clamour to use blockchain’s ‘secure shared ledger’ concept as a foundation for new apps.” Beyond Bitcoin, blockchain technology provides a baseline for building your own platform, establishing trust between users, and facilitating transactions.

“Not to be left out, web browsers are also on the security bandwagon,” adds Butler. “Most major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Safari) now require valid SSL certificates (ie https://) to leverage new ‘Power APIs’, such as geolocation or WebRTC (an open-source project providing web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication for free). As a result, app developers are ramping up their security skills in order to make use of all the cool new features browsers have to offer.”

Voice apps

“While vocal apps show promise, there are challenges, warns Butler. “Professional audio production isn’t a common skillset amongst app developers. However, innovative apps can be produced thanks to the combined efforts of audio and technology professionals, making this an exciting media trend to keep an eye on.”

There’s no need to worry that the tech industry will ever get complacent. Keeping up with the rapid pace of change is the only problem. “We’ve seen some really interesting changes in the field already this year,” says Griffin. “And it’s looking like 2018 will be a year the engineers of tomorrow will look back upon fondly.”

This article first appeared in The Irish Times , on March 14 2018.