Technology is evolving at an exponential pace and undoubtedly a year from now the landscape will look different than it does today. Here are what tech insiders see coming around the bend.

1. There's a high probability we're headed for recession

"We've been putting the economy on performance-enhancing drugs in the form of cheap debt for the past decade. Now that party is coming to an end as the feds raise interest rates to fight inflation and we're going to feel some painful withdrawal. As interest rates go up, regular families are going to spend more money serving their mortgage and line of credit and have less money to spend at local restaurants and shops. When a recession arrives, everyone is going to pull back on spending at the same time leaving small businesses in a lurch. That means small business owners need to get their finances in order. Now is the time to reduce expenses, not the time to expand."

--Ian Crosby, cofounder and CEO of Bench Accounting, one of the top 30 fastest growing tech companies in North America which has raised over $53 million and employs over 300 people

2. Blockchain finds a killer (app), and the commercial rush begins

"Many companies are struggling to understand the return on an investment for blockchain development. In 2019, that will start to change when real-world use cases illuminate blockchain's potential to disrupt industries. For example, blockchain could have spared a lot of sickness and pain from the recent E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce. Not to mention the expense of the FDA's broad recommendation to destroy all romaine lettuce on the market because the agency couldn't identify the specific source and extent of the problem. Blockchain can efficiently track the journey of produce all along the supply chain, from farm to table, through the decentralized ledger technology. A public health crisis is averted. And the buzz about the events accelerates adoption of blockchain across a wide range of related companies and industries."

--Chris Reichard, EVP of enterprise and blockchain solutions for ArcTouch, a San Francisco-based company that has designed and developed more than 500 custom mobile, blockchain and IoT products for over 200 clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups

3. 2019 will be the year that commercial drone integration really takes flight

"This year, we saw the industry take some big steps forward, thanks in large part to the launch of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP). Some of the country's leading companies and government municipalities began testing new use cases for commercial drones, from food delivery to emergency response support. Next year, we'll start to see the impact of that innovation across industries, along with regulatory improvements driven by the IPP to better and more quickly support the safe integration of drones. Coupled with increasing consumer support -- 71% support drone use in their communities today and that number will only continue to rise -- we'll see particular growth in public safety, where drones are already helping to improve response times and reduce crime rates around the globe."

--Chris Rittler, CEO of Cape, a cloud platform for drone telepresence and data management, partnered with the City of San Diego, as one of 10 participants in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program

4. Brands that stand for nothing will be left behind

"Purpose and the potential for brands to enact positive change isn't anything new, and we've seen corporate citizenship and traditional CSR efforts become part of many companies for decades. But now we're seeing that consumers are demanding more. They will support with their wallets companies that are authentic and accountable, and punish those that aren't. In 2019, we'll see more brands recognize that, take steps to go beyond being a good corporate citizen and authentically link their brand identity tightly to purpose."

--Lloyd Adams, managing director of the East region at SAP, a multinational software corporation serving over 413,000 customers in over 180 countries

5. Preparation for the exponential growth of data will become a key challenge and opportunity

"A recent report forecasts that the global datasphere will reach 175 zettabytes in size by 2025, with growth mainly driven by enterprise businesses increasingly storing their data in the public cloud. But this data in and of itself is worthless unless it is acted upon and processed. Technologies like AI, machine learning and advanced analytics all require heavy computing power and rely on ubiquitous, secure and fast access to data in order to be effective. In 2019, we can expect to see more businesses across all industries utilize these new tools to extract value or completely transform their business models. The first to win the data games will be the future winners."

--Jeff Fochtman, VP of global marketing at Seagate, a provider of data storage solutions powering Fortune 500 companies for over 40 years 

6. Innovators in healthcare, manufacturing and retail will demonstrate what 5G is capable of

"[Next year] will be a big year for 5G here in the U.S., and with it will be the start of a new era of wireless connectivity defined by blazing speed and minimal latency. [It] will put the power of fiber in your pocket, home, workplace and cities and create limitless possibilities for consumers and businesses. Over time it will help enable IOT, smart cities, connected devices, autonomous driving along with emerging use cases."

--Tim Baxter, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America, a $30 billion-plus consumer and enterprise technology company

7. Relationship-building will outpower transactional focus

"In 2019, digital marketing will make a major shift from a transactional focus (doing business, getting things done) to an experiential focus (building a relationship). Consumers will reward enterprises that deliver a holistic, branded experience. Smart enterprises will be investing in developing this kind of complete experience instead of a siloed experience of a particular unit or transaction. Marketing that is driven by experience is an incredibly powerful way to build, maintain, and strengthen relationships."

--Sunil Karkera, global head of TCS Interactive at Tata Consulting Services, an IT services, consulting and business solutions organization.

8. Businesses will get the bill for their IoT projects

"The concept of digital transformation has been sweeping industries for years, but 2019 is going to be the year that business leaders will get the bill for all the IoT and IIoT projects that they have been piloting. This will cause challenges for operational technology (OT) teams in particular, as they haven't experienced the realization that IT has understood for years: the cloud's benefits of speed and agility outweigh its price tag. To overcome this, IT and OT teams need to work together on the planning and execution of implementation, especially as emerging technology like AI, edge computing and new security models are coming into the forefront."

--John Fryer, senior director of industry solutions at Stratus Technologies, a provider of continuous availability solutions for mission-critical applications servicing global Fortune 500 companies and small medium sized businesses for more than 35 years

9. Credit cards will offer more benefits

"Getting more from your credit card is a trend for 2019, from valuable perks and benefits to convenient new features. You can swipe, dip and now tap your card for convenient contactless payments. Consumers understand their credit cards are so much more than a piece of plastic, or metal, as is the case of the Chase Sapphire credit cards. Points serve as an extension of the credit cards you already carry in your pocket and can be redeemed for just about anything from flights and hotels, to gift cards and experiences or even cash back and products."

--Farnoosh Torabi, chief financial education ambassador at Chase, the U.S. consumer and commercial banking business of JPMorgan Chase and Co. (NYSE: JPM) with assets of $2.6 trillion and operations worldwide, serving nearly half of America's households with a broad range of financial services

10. Virtual assistants will be common in both B2C and B2B environments

"As they are becoming exponentially smarter, virtual assistants and speech-enabled systems such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google Home have been increasingly adopted by consumers. We will see this wave spill over into business applications in 2019 driving the development and proliferation of new, informal user interfaces driven by speech, gestures, or pen scribbles, bringing consumer grade user experiences to the workplace." 

--Peter Maier, co-president of SAP Industries, who has been with SAP for more than 33 years, and currently oversees 25 industries ranging from consumer to manufacturing to financial services

11. AI will be used to re-skill the industrial workforce

"The grey-out of the baby boomer generation will continue to accelerate in 2019, which is further exacerbated by the low interest of millennials into blue collar occupations. It is not uncommon for key technical roles to have 50 to 75 percent of the workforce within five years of retirement. The promise or fear (depending on your perspective) of automated machines is a long way from reality in the last tactical mile. Until then, we need a strategy to re-skill the existing workforce and entice the next generation to install, maintain, repair and operate the current infrastructure. This means using AI that is designed for the people who put warm hands on cold steel every day to make sure trains roll, planes fly and buildings run. These tools are the technology the youth of today will be drawn to, as blue collar work begins to be defined not by what is between your hands but rather using what is between your ears."

--Gabe Batstone, founder and CEO of Contextere, providing artificial and real-time intelligence for the industrial workforce, helping to improve first-time right rates by twenty percent and reduce non-productive time by 30 percent with support from Lockheed Martin, Samsung and BMW

12. People will take more control of their power usage

"Thanks to the internet of things and big data, companies and individuals have more information at their disposal than ever before. This includes data from power consumption and energy resources, which ties back to each of our carbon footprints. 2019 will be the year individuals and businesses of all size start to take control of their power usage and play a bigger role in how it is managed. With new regulations finally in place, particularly in states like California, individuals are taking steps to pay more attention to how energy is sourced and used most efficiently."

--Chad Forrest, cofounder and CFO of Concentric Power, which offers a Clean Power Station that has led to a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 60 percent reduction in total energy costs for customers like Taylor Farms

13. AI-powered robots will enable better communication in healthcare

"Patients will feel understood by AI-powered robots in 2019 and doctors will depend on them to communicate medical information. As robots continue interacting with people in hospitals and in their homes on a daily basis, robots will learn about each patient to help tailor information and customize treatment plans. AI will be able to address exactly what the patient might be going through and will be able to better flag symptoms of depression and anxiety. People will also spend less time communicating with their doctor's directly and will work with robots and their algorithms to communicate key findings to the doctor."

--Dr. Cory Kidd, founder and CEO of Catalia Health, a patient care management company that recently joined the American Heart Association to deliver support and care to the 117 million patients in the US managing chronic conditions

14. 2019 will be the year of the platform

"In 2019, enterprises are specifically going to focus on data security and data sensitivity. GDPR legislation has bitten into company cultures--almost every single company is concerned with sharing their data on cloud-based platforms, and it will only continue to accelerate through 2019. From a machine learning perspective, the frameworks for building platforms with FAMGA are not fit for purpose. We will see more advanced machine learning and AI systems that are immersive. CIOs are realizing that through improper implementation of such disruptive technologies, security weaknesses have been built inside of their organizations. In order for these advanced systems to benefit enterprises, establishing clear requirements and investing in the education of the technology is integral for proficient deployment. We should expect to see CIOs adopting platforms that allows developers to store info with your own security models and is more applicable to the needs of the future."

--Lawrence Flynn, CEO at Artificial Solutions, a conversational AI platform for enterprise customers in the financial services, telecommunications, and automotive industries which was named the Best Use of Innovation in Customer Engagement: Engage Awards 2018, Star Performer in 2018 Speech Industry Awards, Received the honor of 2018 IDC Innovator, and Best Intelligent Assistant Innovation at the AIconics 2018

15. Virtual reality applications will grow

"We're at the beginning in terms of what's possible in VR storytelling, games and applications. Next year and beyond, you'll see an explosion in industrial, medical and educational VR applications. Also, as both veteran and up-and-coming directors start to understand the medium, we'll see new immersive films and games emerge. It won't happen as quickly as the tech giants and venture capitalists were predicting, but it is happening."

--John Hamilton, CEO at UNLTD, which produces branded and original content for VR, including the world's first interactive VR series "Trinity" which was released to 150-plus VR arcades across the globe

16. More farmers will turn to the microbiome to produce more food, more sustainably

"We're gaining a new appreciation for the microbes that live all around us, and nowhere is this more apparent than in agriculture. Over the next decade, the $200 billion fertilizer industry will shift from purely chemical additions to soil to a more natural nutrient source, the microbes that live on plant roots and produce nitrogen for them. It's a win-win: microbes are the tool that the next generation of farmers will use to feed their crops, producing the sustainable food that consumers are looking for, and preserving our air and water at the same time. As a result, the crop microbiome will become a cornerstone of agricultural production."

--Keira Havens, industry and regulatory affairs manager at Pivot Bio, a company harnessing the crop microbiome to develop microbes for modern agriculture which was named one of Forbes Agtech Most Innovative Startups and has received backing from Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures

17. Drone security solutions will be implemented

"We're going to see a continued rise in the number of consumer and commercial drones in our airspace. Because of this, security professionals will recognize the need for airspace security provided by radar-enabled detection systems. Public safety officials will acknowledge the need to adopt new technology to perform their duties in a safe airspace. Cities, airports, stadiums and law enforcement will start allocating budget to have the tools in place to evaluate objects that enter the airspace and take action when needed."

--Timothy Bean, CEO at Fortem Technologies, a privately held, venture-backed company which delivers military-tested, commercially available solutions that detect, identify and classify drones in real time to maintain airspace safety, while also actively protecting no-fly zones

18. Health researchers will engage the individual rather than the institution

"Health data will be recognized as a liquid asset that is owned and controlled by the individual, and that researchers will engage directly with individuals (rather than institutions) to gain access. The revolution to a person-centric research model will be driven by the need for richer data sets that better characterize individuals, their health status and how wellness or disease vary over time. Patient-reported data will enhance clinical information as it grows in scope and importance."

--Dawn Barry, president of LunaPBC and co-founder of LunaDNA, a health and DNA data platform approved by the SEC to offer ownership shares to individuals for sharing data

Correction: An earlier version misattributed the above quote about relationship building. The source of the quote is Sunil Karkera.

Published on: Dec 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.