2017 has seen a number of disruptive technologies that became the topics of discussion around boardroom tables all over the world. Technologies such as AI, cloud, sophisticated security solution and the blockchain have become integral parts of companies\u2019 plans for the future. In this article, I am highlighting the top six key technology trends that are likely to dominate discussions in 2018.\u00a0\r\nTechnology Trends For 2018\r\nArtificial intelligence, machine learning with data analytics and business intelligence\r\nBusiness applications continue to churn out large volumes of data, and users are trying to mine that data to determine patterns and predict user behavior. In ecommerce, users want to know customers\u2019 buying patterns, which will help market products better. Website designers want to understand how visitors move through their sites in order to improve conversion rates. \r\n\r\nAnd companies want to analyse their sales data to correlate marketing dollars spent on sales dollars generated. Business intelligence and data analytics activities are becoming easier to perform, and that\u2019s driving their adoption in mainstream businesses that are seeking to make better, faster decisions. \r\nThe rise of AI-powered chatbots in customer service and support\r\nOver the past few years, chatbots \u2014 the automated, human-like chat responders \u2014 have been more an experiment, with limited adoption. Now, chatbots are becoming more mainstream as people see the benefits of those experiments, especially in customer service and support. Unlike human customer service and support reps, chatbots don\u2019t have the physical and mental inconsistencies that can degrade service levels. More, AI-powered chatbots are learning how to respond to customers and predict what they want. \r\n\r\nBased on customer history or questions customers ask during a chat session, AI-powered chatbots can ask users what they need and even ask leading questions, all to improve the support experience. \r\nUse of natural language processing as a new form of human-computer interface\r\nStar Trek fans aren\u2019t the only ones who\u2019ve been waiting for this prediction to manifest. Business users, too, are eager to have computers understand natural language. Take a sales manager who wants to generate a quarterly report. If the manager has to ask for it from an analytics specialist, the manager has to explain what she\u2019s looking for and hope the specialist accurately translates her request into something the computer can process in order to generate the information she wants. \r\n\r\nNatural language processing bypasses the analytics specialist and lets the manager work with a computer directly via speech. In response, the computer may generate a visual or auditory response, depending on the manager\u2019s preference.\r\nTightening of data protection laws\r\nEverything is heading towards digitisation. Every business process, every technology, everything done with information \u2014 from storing, transmitting, and processing it \u2014 it\u2019s all in digital form. Now, a lot of countries are recognising that their citizens\u2019 personal data needs to be protected. More, they\u2019re recognising that users have to opt-in to these digital relationships; and they have to know the reason their personal data is being provided to a data process or data consumer and know what the consumer will do with their data. \r\n\r\nTighter data protection laws are designed to secure their citizens\u2019 privacy as well as prevent data abuse and outright criminal activity such as fraud or theft. Most recent example of this is Europe\u2019s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While some countries like India are also coming up with data protection frameworks, others will enhance their current data protection framework.\u00a0\r\nContinuation of cloud adoption in mid-sized & larger enterprises\r\nCloud is a mindset. And governments and larger enterprises have been slower to adopt that mindset, preferring to a private cloud\/private data center strategy as a starting point. Now, the biggest barriers to their cloud adoption \u2014 security and data privacy risks \u2014 are well understood and processes and mechanisms have been put in place to mitigate them. Enterprises now also recognize that most cloud companies invest heavily in the security of their cloud infrastructure, platforms and cloud applications. \r\n\r\nAnd they recognise that, in most cases, the security teams of the cloud companies are much larger and much more experienced than their own. Overall, the larger enterprises are finally becoming comfortable and confident with cloud security and the cloud itself. Governments are also taking the steps to putting out citizen-facing non-sensitive data and applications on the cloud.\r\nUse of blockchain in enterprise security for identity management\r\nBlockchain provides a distributed, secure, and unique system of records, so you can have a strongly encrypted authentication mechanism that prevents malicious users from breaking in. This makes it a great choice in terms of enterprise security, especially for the identity access management system, which manages user logins and authentication. \r\n\r\nIn 2018, we\u2019ll likely start seeing blockchain adoption in areas such as banking, financial services, and healthcare.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis story is a part of our Predictions series where we bring to you the forecasts and predictions for the year 2018, hand-curated by the Inc42 editorial team and industry experts. You can read all the stories of Predictions 2018 series here.