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The world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol (right), making his first move against Google’s artificial intelligence programme AlphaGo during the fourth match of Google DeepMind Challenge Match in Seoul, South Korea, in March last year. REUTERS PIC

THE year is coming to a close. It has been a challenging and yet rewarding one from the tech perspective. The world has seen the endless possibilities of what technology can do and yet, they still haven’t seen them all.

Capping some of the most significant technology breakthroughs of the year, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation made their presence felt significantly. Though nothing new, more and more jobs will be automated as technology advances. Devices are getting smarter through increased automation and AI. They are learning from our behaviour and providing solutions. It’s bound to happen as I see it, with the world embracing it unconsciously.

Not only does AI take precedence in the business world, it also dominates the entertainment side of life. First, AI defeated our world chess champions, next, Google’s DeepMind Alpha Go defeated the world’s best Go player. No doubt, in time, AI will spawn more innovations in all aspects of our lives, whether it be at work or in our homes.

Facial recognition is no longer a myth. Face++, a startup company in China has revolutionised the way we work, live and play. While it has existed for decades, it is only now that it is accurate and secure enough to be used in financial transactions. In fact, people in China are already using this tech in their daily financial transactions. So, next year you might just be able to pay for your shoping with your face.

Autonomous technology also made a significant mark this year with automobile companies such as General Motors and Tesla, as well as Google, producing self-driving vehicles. Though this is still only available in the United States, it is only a matter of time before the technology goes worldwide since GM is already planning to introduce its ride-sharing service with self-driving cars by 2019.

Our smartphones continue to get smarter and sleeker. Major key mobile phone makers like Apple, Samsung, LG and Google are taking technology and design to new heights by ditching the bezels of the past with new edge-to-edge displays, as well as vibrant displays of graphics.

Voice assistant technology also took a leap this year. These amazing devices have changed the way we live, allowing hands-free action for greater safety. Basically, the performances have been elevated with supercharge technology from Google, Apple and Alexa, allowing us to search, order, direct and practically talk ourselves into doing what we need done with our voice assistant.

Social media applications, such as WeChat applications, have progressed to a whole new level that not many foresaw coming. In China, bankers and traders are trading on the WeChat platform this year. Deals and sales are also going through this platform regularly, where users buy, make payments and carry out transactions daily, instead of just using it as a means of communication.

While we talk about the positive aspects of tech, major technology issues also arose this year. Perhaps the most infamous one was security problems. The ransomware attacks of WannaCry and NotPetya held the world to ransom this year, forcing us to face the fact that we are vulnerable to cyber world war. The world needs to learn quickly from these bot attacks and prepare for future ones.

Data management is still a major issue this year with no major solutions on how to safeguard data on the Internet. This has always been a major drawback for individuals as well as conglomerates as there are still many loopholes that cybercriminals can take advantage of.

Notwithstanding the ups and downs, we are ending the year well with new peaks in technological progress.

Amazon Echo and Google Home are going to be the highlight, changing our daily lives with a combination of AI and machine learning technology. And, Augmented Reality is going to continue to spread like wildfire and be more readily available in our smart devices.

Advances in the Internet of Things have captured a lot of attention and will be elevated in many industries in the coming year.

It is predicted that by next year, every major smartphone will be implanted with a dedicated AI chip.

There are even rumours that flying cars are already a work in progress. Bring on 2018.

Ahmad Kushairi is the editor of BOTs, the weekly tech section in Life&Times. Trained in Maths, he has since traded his problem-solving skills with writing about how tech has helped to transform the world for the better. He can be reached via kushairi@mediaprima.com.my