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Technology Updated: 26 Nov 2018

The unstoppable rise of machine learning and chatbots, two trends to watch according BBVA Next Technologies' Tech Radar

The arrival of new blockchain platforms, advances in cloud computing and the consolidation of new machine-human interactions, are among the hottest trends according BBVA Next Technologies 'Tech Radar 2018', a report that shines the spotlight on some the most relevant tools and practices in 2018, as well as those that will mark the next years in fields such as big data and artificial intelligence.

Teresa Alameda (BBVA Creative)

"This 'Tech Radar' is a compass that allows us to anticipate future changes to ensure that we stay ahead of the game in terms of technological expertise," says BBVA Next Technologies CEO Ricardo Jurado. The purpose of this work is to review the level of adoption of certain technologies such as cloud computing, big data or the Internet of Things, which have emerged in recent years, and anticipate future trends.

The radar covers the different emerging technological fields on which this company specializes, including ‘blockchain’, ‘big data’, IoT, ‘cloud’, ‘machine learning’, cybersecurity and man machine interactions, to name a few. The report concludes that cloud computing and big data are, without a doubt, the most consolidated technologies, points at some of the elements that are slowing down progress of the Internet of Things and takes a takes a look at new blockchain platforms The radar also focuses on the rise of the new interfaces - such as chatbots, virtual reality or augmented reality - that the exhaustion of app market models is driving; and the role that regulations will play in the development of machine learning algorithms.

According to Víctor Morales, coordinator of the document and delivery manager at BBVA Next Technologies, “this work helps us make decisions regarding which technologies we need to monitor and subsequently adopt in the company."

Ethics, deep learning and regulation

The radar underscores a series of AI-related strategic trends to watch in the coming years, such "as the quick progress in the frontiers of deep learning, which is of great interest for BBVA Next Technologies."

On the other hand, the authors explain that, as artificial intelligence techniques advance and take hold in the tech industry, "they will start taking on more and more complex problems." One of them will be machine learning in decision making processes within complex dynamic systems, more commonly know as the 'reinforcement learning' problem. "We're seeing increasingly impressive progress in this area, especially in the convergence with deep learning techniques. At BBVA Next Technologies we consider that this is an area that's definitely worth exploring," the report says.

"Exhaustion symptoms of the application market is driving developers to explore new communication channels"

Besides going over the technologies that need to be monitored, the radar also analyzes how external factors, such as regulations, will determine how machine learning evolves in coming years. "As European privacy regulations progress, there's a growing interest in exploring ways to make models more transparent and fair," says the report.

In this context, the report notes that it will be necessary to keep an eye on scientific progress in the areas of "interpretability" and "fairness" to be able to enjoy a competitive advantage by applying more complex models to sensitive issues. "This will allow our data scientists to generate higher-quality models, and will increase our customers' trust in the models we create," they add.

The entry into force of the GDPR will pose another major challenge for companies using big-data technologies, as it will force them to reassess which of these technologies comply with the provisions set forth by the new directive.

The unstoppable rise of cloud computing and the hurdles to IoT

"In recent years, as technological partner of some of the top IBEX companies, we've witnesses the rise of cloud computing as a strategic element for many companies, a very significant leap forward considering that only a few years ago, these the use of this technologies was marginal," says Iván Fernández, cloud and big data architect at BBVA Next Technologies.

The radar analyzes in detail the different 'cloud' technologies that the company has used to undertake big data cloud projects, describing the advantages of each one of them. In general, it notes that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is still the public cloud that BBVA Next Technologies uses more often to deploy projects, although it also devotes some space to take a look at Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform's growth.

The radar also takes a look at the proliferation of IoT devices and services, noting that the field is still far from being a mature reality. The report cites "heterogeneity and incompatibility" between devices and solutions already in the market as key hurdles "slowing down tremendously" the sector's development.

Alternative blockchains 'worth exploring'

The radar also takes a look at some of blockchain's most noteworthy trends, after a period that has allowed the technology to "crystallize," but which has also brought "deep changes and reality checks." Thus, the report mentions the "uncontrolled growth" of ICOs early in the year, which later started being regulated. It also points at a series of less-known alternatives to blockchain, which, based promising results in early trials, should be considered worth "exploring," including Tezos, Cardano, Enigma and IOTA.

Beyond platform exploration, the radar notes that, due to the "extreme dynamism" of this technology's ecosystem, it is really important to keep working on proofs of concept based on both new (Cardano and Tezos) and existing (such as Ethereum) technologies, to understand how things are changing, BBVA Next Technologies also considers the development of distributed applications (ÐApps), “its best practices and implications in the paradigm shift." In 2019, the company also considers that it will be essential to monitor the evolution of the following consortiums: Hyperledger, R3, Enterprise Ethereum Alliance y Alastria.

Consolidation of the new forms of man-machine interactions

Finally, the report devotes a space to analyze novel ideas, concepts and paradigms that are changing "man-machine" interfaces in the face of the "exhaustion symptoms of the application market" which is driving developers to explore new communication channels. In this sense, the text mentions the "rise of chatbots" as solutions capable of bypassing the "increasing" reluctance among users to installing new apps.

Chatbot adoption rates will grow, driven by progress in key areas of Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technologies will allow "chatbots to understand us" better. Also, platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Slack and Telegram are moving fast to adopt these tools and are working to improve their functionalities in order to enable a "very complete interaction."

Although one of the biggest enhancements, according to the report, on which companies are working are on the ability of these systems to understand their users' contexts. "The inclusion of contexts (such as location, hour or prior experiences) in the conversational experience will help chatbots understand much better what users want and is essential to explore their full potential," say the authors.

“We actually validate these technologies through the projects in which we work, were we always try to leverage the latest trends”

As for Augmented Reality (AR), the report notes that ARKit and ARCore, two development tools, have helped democratize this technology. AI/AR convergence is another hot topic on which the report focuses. "Technologies such as computer vision are the pillar that will support the future integration of virtual elements in the real environment and the objects that comprise it," says the report.

As for Virtual reality (VR), the trend to watch in coming years will be VR Web applications, which allow "multiplatform developments, accessible for more and more users with a performance in applications that improves with every iteration of the main browsers."

A project by BBVA Next Technologies

Over 20 BBVA Next Technologies experts specializng in areas such as machine learning, big data, cloud computing, DevOps or cybersecurity have contributed to the report. As part of their ongoing trend monitoring efforts, these experts are able to detect new tech developments as they emerge. After this first moment, the "we actually validate these technologies through the projects in which we work, were we always try to leverage the latest trends," says Manuel Franco, cloud architect at BBVA Next Technologies.

This Tech Radar report is the first one released by BBVA Next Technologies, a company born out of the merger of two BBVA companies specializing in technological innovation: BEEVA, specializing in disruptive technologies, and i4S, a cybersecurity expert.