We're in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and technology is advancing faster than ever before. Businesses and individuals who fail to keep up with key technology trends risk falling by the wayside. Understanding key trends will allow people and companies to prepare and seize opportunities. As an economic and technology futurist, it is my job to look ahead and identify key trends. In this article, I share with you seven upcoming trends that everyone should prepare for in 2020.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most transformative technological advances of our time. As I highlighted in my book Artificial Intelligence in Practice, most companies have begun to explore how they can use AI to improve customer experience and streamline their business processes. This will continue until 2020, and as people become more accustomed to working with AI, developing and implementing our own AI-based systems will remain an expensive undertaking for most companies.BERLIN WEATHER
For this reason, most AI applications will continue to be supported by as-a-service platform providers, which allow us to simply input our own data and pay for algorithms or computing resources while using it.
Currently, these platforms, offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft, for example, are quite broad and require (often expensive) custom solutions to apply to an organization's specific tasks. Over the course of 2020, we will see broader acceptance and a growing pool of vendors who will likely begin to offer more tailored applications and services for specific or specialized tasks. This means that no company has any excuses for not using AI.
The fifth generation of mobile internet connections will give us super-fast download and upload speeds and more stable connections. Although 5G mobile data networks were first available in 2019, they were typically still expensive and limited to operating in narrow areas or large cities. 2020 is likely to be the year 5G really takes flight, with more affordable data plans and much better coverage, meaning anyone can join.
Superfast data networks won't just give us the ability to stream higher quality movies and music when we're on the road. The surge in speeds means that mobile networks will be even more useful than the wired networks that run to our homes and businesses. Businesses need to consider the business implications of super-fast and stable internet access anywhere. Increased bandwidth will allow machines, robots and autonomous vehicles to collect and transmit more data than ever before, leading to the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart machines.
While we are not yet at the point where we can routinely travel or even see autonomous vehicles in 2020, they will undoubtedly continue to generate a lot of excitement.
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has said he expects his company to develop a truly "complete" autonomous vehicle by 2010, and the number of vehicles that can be operated with less autonomy - such as automatic braking and lane change - will increase. In addition, other systems in the car that are not directly related to driving, such as safety and entertainment functions, will become increasingly automated and rely on data collection and analysis. Google's sister company, Waymo, has just completed a trial of autonomous taxis in California, where they transported over 6200 people in the first month.
Of course, it won't just be cars - trucks and shipping will become more autonomous, and breakthroughs in this area will likely continue to make headlines in 2020.
As autonomous driving technology matures, we will also hear more and more about measures being taken by regulators, legislators and authorities. Changes in legislation, existing infrastructure and public attitudes are likely to be needed before autonomous driving becomes a practical reality for most of us. Over the course of 2020, the debate on autonomous driving is likely to spread beyond the tech world as more and more people feel that the question is not "if" but "when" it will become a reality.
Technology is currently changing healthcare at an unprecedented rate. Our ability to collect data from wearable devices, such as Smartwatches, will increasingly allow us to predict and treat health problems in people before they have any symptoms.
In terms of treatment, we will see a much more personalized approach. This is also known as precision medicine, which enables doctors to prescribe and use drugs and therapies more accurately for a given patient through a data-driven understanding of the likely effectiveness of drugs and therapies.
While this is not a new idea, recent technological breakthroughs, particularly in genomics and artificial intelligence, are allowing us to better understand how different human bodies are better or worse equipped to fight certain diseases and how they may respond to different types of drugs or therapies.
In 2020, we will see new applications of predictive care and the introduction of more individualized and effective treatments to ensure better outcomes for individual patients.
In computer language, "vision" refers to systems that are able to identify objects, places, features or people from visual images - captured by a camera or sensor. This technology allows a smartphone camera to identify which part of a captured image is a face and supports technologies such as Google Image Search.
As we enter 2020, we will see computer vision-enabled tools and technologies being used for more and more applications. This is critical to how autonomous cars "see" danger and navigate around it. Computer vision cameras are being used on production lines to check for defective products or equipment, and security cameras will be able to alert us to any unusual events without the need for 24/7 monitoring.
Computer vision also enables facial recognition, something we'll be hearing a lot about in 2020. We've already seen how useful this technology is in controlling access to our smartphones in the case of Apple's FaceID, and how Dubai Airport is using it to improve customer travel. However, as the number of use cases increases in 2020, we will also see more debate on how to limit the use of this technology, as it can undermine privacy and enable "Big Brother"-like government control.
Extended Reality (XR) is a collective term that covers several new and emerging technologies used to create more immersive digital experiences. More specifically, it refers to virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Virtual Reality (VR) offers a fully digitized experience in which you enter a computer-created world using headsets that mask the real world. Augmented Reality (AR) superimposes the real world onto digital objects using screens or smartphone displays (think snapchat filters). Mixed Reality (MR) is an extension of AR, i.e. users can interact with digital objects placed in the real world (think of playing a holographic piano placed in your room through an AR headset).
These technologies have been around for a few years now, but they're largely confined to the entertainment world - the Oculus Rift and Vive headsets provide cutting-edge video game technology, and smartphone features like camera filters and Pokemon Go-style games are the most visible examples of AR.
Starting in 2020, all of this is likely to change as businesses come to terms with the wealth of exciting possibilities that both current forms of XR offer. Virtual and augmented reality will increasingly be used for training and simulation and will offer new opportunities for customer interaction.
Blockchain is a technology trend that I've covered extensively this year, and yet you'll probably still get blank stares when it's mentioned in non-tech companies. But that may finally change in 2020. Blockchain is essentially a digital ledger used to record transactions, but it is secure because of its encrypted and decentralised nature. In 2019, some commentators began to argue that the technology was overhyped and perhaps not as useful as initially thought. However, further investment from the likes of FedEx, IBM, Walmart and Mastercard in 2019 is likely to see the first tangible results and, if successful, could quickly lead to greater acceptance from smaller businesses.
And if all goes according to plan, Facebook's introduction of its own blockchain-based "Libra" cryptos, now Libra, will also cause a stir in 2020.
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