Spot ETFs, AI Autonomy, Fintech’s Inclusivity and iGaming Ethics

By Mary Pedler, founder of Dubai-based INPUT Comms agency

If I were to put 2023 in tech in a single phrase, it felt like being at the heart of an ongoing revolution. And if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be ‘rollercoaster.’

From the mainstream breakthrough of AI to SEC’s crackdown on exchanges, from BTC’s fluctuations between $16k and $44k to the aftermath of FTX’s collapse, the past year’s events in AI, fintech, and crypto resembled a dance into the uncharted, where two steps forward are inevitably followed by a step back. 

Indeed, the recent spot ETF approval and Bitcoin’s rise speak volumes about investor confidence and market potential. How sustainable is this growth, though? Are we going to find a balance between regulations and innovation? And what does 2024 hold in store for the industry? 

A technology forecast would be nothing without insights from those in the trenches – so I went straight to industry experts for their takes on what’s next. Here’s my synthesis of where they see things heading in 2024 across several cutting-edge sectors.


Crypto: A Year of Dramatic Ups and Downs


The past year in cryptocurrency was a tapestry of highs and lows. The collapse of FTX sent shockwaves through the market, yet in stark contrast, Bitcoin’s 156% surge and Ripple’s legal victory illustrated the resilience and evolving nature of this space. 

Still, one of the main highlights was months-long anticipation of spot Bitcoin ETF approval – finalised in early January by a ‘yes’ from the SEC. As Grayscale, ARK, BlackRock (iShares), VanEck, and others finally see the green light, it likely marks a turning point for the industry, where more institutional investors step in. 

Gracy Chen, Marketing Director At BitGet, says, “A Bitcoin spot ETF offers investors an alternative to CEXs and DEXs. High-net-worth clients might choose seasoned asset management firms over crypto exchanges. Bitcoin ETF broadens awareness, offering exchanges with more asset options, faster settlements, and lower fees, outshining traditional asset management companies.”

The global crypto landscape is poised for significant shifts. However, even though the influx of institutional capital might stabilise the market, it also risks diluting the decentralised ethos that forms the backbone of cryptocurrency – so keeping a balance is crucial.

BTC halving is another major event that will happen in April 2024. Historically, every halving cycle has been the triggering point of a bull run; it’ll be worth noticing if the dynamics still hold or if we see a shift in the pattern.


From Generative AI to Autonomous Operations


Sabin Dima of projects a future where Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will fundamentally change our interaction with technology. “AI agents will soon operate autonomously, driven by overarching goals rather than specific prompts,” he says. 

Until recently, AI could create images from given prompts; this year, we might witness tech giants like OpenAI, Google, and Meta pushing the boundaries further, venturing into realms like video generation from textual prompts. The development of multimodal AI systems is also on the horizon, where AI will learn from various forms of media to create enriched, context-aware outputs.

This year could mark a significant leap in how AI integrates into our daily lives, reshaping our interactions with technology and bringing forth new ethical and practical dilemmas.


iGaming: With Growth Comes Responsibility


The growth trajectory of the iGaming industry has been staggering. With a market valuation of $88.65 billion in 2023, it’s projected to reach $96.89 billion by the end of 2024. 

Oleg Bevz, Advisor at Playnance, provides a critical perspective, acknowledging the industry’s upheaval and inherent risks: “We all understand that iGaming is far from being the kindest niche in the world. The iGaming industry is now both at its peak and its most dangerous point. Almost every fourth person gambles at least once a year. So our goal as project owners is to make it transparent and let people get their dopamine fairly.”

iGaming companies will likely keep exploring augmented reality (AR) and generative AI to bring in new levels of personalisation, including tailored game recommendations to customised bonus offers and targeted marketing campaigns, though utilisation challenges still remain. I also expect the player-centric approach to solidify its position as a growing trend in game development. 


Fintech For Inclusivity


According to 2023’s McKinsey report, the fintech industry has seen significant expansion: publicly traded fintechs reached a market capitalisation of $550 billion in July 2023, doubling since 2019. By that time, the sector was also boasting over 272 fintech unicorns, collectively valued at $936 billion. 

Nikolay Denisenko, the co-founder of Brighty App, believes fintechs can play a key role in supporting inclusivity in 2024: “On the societal level, fintech’s impact on inclusivity will be more pronounced. Access to financial services will be more widespread, bridging gaps and empowering individuals who were previously excluded from the traditional banking system.” 

While fintech can potentially increase financial access, challenges like digital literacy and unequal infrastructure access remain. However, with the industry focused on sustainability and growth, I am positive we will see progress here. Additionally, the expansion of DeFi protocols may drive further adoption of digital currencies. 

The potential integration of artificial intelligence in banking is set to be another key theme in 2024. I expect financial institutions to keep experimenting with how generative AI could help distill advanced insights into spending patterns and offer highly tailored experiences to their users. Still, potential privacy concerns also remain a challenge. 


Call for Mindful Transformation


In the past year, we’ve ridden the rollercoaster of crypto, had a glimpse of the transformative potential of AI, tackled the ethical complexities of iGaming, and heard the inclusive promises of fintech. Surely enough, these sectors are not evolving in isolation anymore.

Building on the foundations laid in 2023 and earlier, 2024 is shaping to be a year of monumental shifts, marked by a more profound integration of these technologies in our daily lives, transformation of traditional industries, and alteration of societal and ethical frameworks.

However, the pace of progress should not blind us to the need for sustainable practices, ethical integrity, and social well-being. Let’s embrace this new era with optimism – and the mindfulness it demands.