2020. A year that once had a futuristic ring to it. A year we imagined with flying cars and robot butlers. Alas, technology hasn’t advanced that far just yet! Though we've seen plenty of impressive new technology, like artificial intelligence and phones that unlock by scanning our faces, it's not quite the world we imagined we would be living in when we thought of 2020. That said, business and innovation is accelerating at break-neck speed, with no signs of slowing down.
Technology trends continue to reflect an ever-demanding, technologically savvy society, and we have pulled together 6 of the tech trends that we think will have a big impact on both business—the way we work—and society—the way we live—as we head into a new decade.
Many of these trends have been predicted as having a big impact on business from some time, which is a reflection on the speed of change, and the decreasing cost of making “futuristic”, new technology available to all, moving it toward the mainstream.Take Artificial Intelligence for example. Several years ago, developments in AI were in their infancy. Now, while many aspects of AI are commonplace in our lives, new developments mean it’s still going to be one of the most impactful trends in the coming year.
It’s important to note that not all businesses must adopt all of these trending ideas and technologies. Company leaders must decide what combination of the trends will drive the most innovation and strategy.
2020 Tech Trend #1: Robots will be more accessible to companies
It’s been a long-standing fear for many people in easy-to-automate jobs that robots will one day take their jobs. Ten years ago these sorts of predictions would conjure up images of the Jetsons’ ‘Rosie the Robot Maid’ sitting in a factory doing what a human once did. While seemingly far-fetched at the time, the reality is, robots have been commonplace in the industrial world for some time, and machines are starting to take over tasks traditionally undertaken by a human—and not just transaction based jobs like those on an assembly line. Jobs already replaced by robots—or at risk of being replaced in the near future—include, picking and packing staff in warehouses and fulfillment centers, customer service operators, office assistants, writers, pharmacists, and more. Robots will continue to expand influence in the business world and in our homes, and highly sophisticated automation, also referred to as hyper-automation, will be commonplace, where technology moves beyond augmentation that replaces a human capability and into augmentation that creates superhuman capabilities.
Typically, however, robots are an expensive alternative to humans, especially in the lower-paying jobs that machines are best designed to take-over. For small-to-medium sized businesses to benefit from robotics, they must invest heavily at the beginning, and it can take years before they are able to realize a return on their investment. Robots as a service (RaaS) fills that niche, providing all the benefits of robotic process automation on a lease basis, with access to software by subscription, removing the need for small businesses to purchase the equipment outright. RaaS is predicted to be a $34 billion industry by 2026 (Source).
2020 Tech Trend #2: AI will continue to advance in leaps and bounds
There was no shortage or Artificial Intelligence advancements in 2019. One notable example was the successful training of a robot hand called Dactyl that adopted the real-world environment and solved the Rubik’s cube. 2020 is going to see more AI breakthroughs. While many developments this year will take place in research environments, we will eventually see advanced AI move to the enterprise. In fact, AI is already an integral part of many organizations, if only in a small capacity. Take HR for example. AI can be used to fulfill every stage of the hiring process—from deciding which jobs need filling, writing job descriptions, vetting resumes, scheduling interviews, interviewing candidates and even on-boarding new employees—faster, and at a lower cost than humans could ever achieve.
As advanced AI becomes more known to the public it raises legitimate questions about security, privacy and trust. The deeper the advancements into AI, the more trust will evaporate. We are living in an unprecedented era of big data, and AI uses data. Lots and lots of data. The evolution of new technology driven by data is creating a trust crisis as consumers become more aware of not only how their data is being collected, but also how their data is being used—possibly against them. Advances in speech, text and image generation, for example, have enabled the creation of “deepfakes”—photo, video or audio that takes a person in an existing image or video and replace them with someone else's likeness—that could be used for activities like political disruption or automated phishing attacks.
There’s one thing for sure. We are at the tip of the AI iceberg and there is much more to be discovered.
2020 Tech Trend #3: Voice interfaces are set to become more advanced.
It was only a few years ago that voice-activated commands became mainstream, yet here they are set to become even more advanced. In an ever-evolving digital world where speed, efficiency, and convenience are constantly being optimized, more and more people are making use of voice-activated technology and it is heavily integrated into everyday life in tools such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa. According to TechCrunch, the smart voice AI market reached a critical stage in 2018, with around 41% of U.S. consumers owning a voice-activated speaker, an increase of 21.5% in comparison to 2017.
However, as consumers, we are rarely satisfied, and technology companies are only too willing to create more sophisticated versions of our favourite tools, from introducing more humanized and culturally diverse options (because we, as humans, like to connect with other human beings) to voice assistants that can decipher contextual factors using Natural Language Processing which is the ability for a machine to understand language like a human and then take action from that information. Voice assistants will also continue to offer more individualized experiences as they get better at differentiating between voices.
2020 Tech Trend #4: Customer engagement will become a brand differentiator
Customer engagement will become a brand differentiator in 2020. We are fickle human beings and we are easily influenced by ‘bigger and better’. Customer expectations are at an all time high when it comes to communication and engagement, and any business not willing to take this seriously will miss the boat, leaving themselves stranded as their customers set sail with a competitor.
Communication will no longer be thought of as in silos or channels in the consumer’s mind. There is just communication. Relevant and contextual communication, where and when the customer needs it. Consumers want to engage with a brand the way they want to, whether it’s by phone, email, social media, text message etc. And they want it to feel like a human interaction, even if they know it’s not. A chatbot, for example, that understands what the consumer is asking, and displays emotions such as empathy is key to human conversation, and critical for business’ success. Integrating AI into the customer experience will make it easier to overcome language barriers and do business around the globe while at the same time freeing up human personnel for other tasks, streamlining services, creating efficiencies and enabling a better customer experience.
Ultimately, if a business can’t—or won't—be available where and when the customer needs them, they are going to lose business. That’s a fact. This doesn’t mean businesses must make use of all channels. What it does mean is that they should use the behavioral data they have available to understand how to best communicate with customers in terms of channel and content, both reactively and proactively.
2020 Tech Trend #5: Cyber-risks will reach new heights
As new technology continues to evolve, so too does the threat landscape. For many businesses, cybersecurity issues are becoming a day-to-day struggle. In fact, security breaches have increased by 67% since 2014 (Source) and according to the American Identity Theft Resource Center, nearly 31 million records were exposed in the 13 most significant breaches in the first half of 2019. Data breaches, ransomware, and phishing scams are not going away. Cybercrime is big business, and as long as there is money to be made, data breaches are going to continue.
Heading into 2020, cybercriminals are going to use increasingly more sophisticated ways to attack companies. Aside from phishing attacks via email, SMS texting attacks, communications on social media platforms, and even phone calls with a live person are all growing in popularity as a means to trick victims into handing over personal data, login credentials, or even money directly. Attacks on connected devices—smart homes, smartwatches, virtual assistants, etc.—will also rise owing to existing gaps and lack of standards concerning its security.
Companies are responding to the threats by putting cybersecurity at the top of their priority lists. Data from the International Data Corporation shows that global spending on cybersecurity solutions is anticipated to top $103 billion this year, and Gartner predicts worldwide spending on cybersecurity to reach $133.7 billion in 2022.
2020 Tech Trend #6: Virtual and augmented reality will be more commonplace.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world, and has been around since the 1980s. Today VR is most commonly used for entertainment and educational purposes, whereby realistic images, sounds and other sensations are generated to simulate a user's physical presence in a virtual environment. Employers are embracing VR as a more efficient and effective tool for on-the-job training.
Augmented Reality (also known as Mixed Reality), however, is a newer concept that is not fully understood by everyone from an application perspective. AR places digital content in the context of the real world, essentially overlaying information on what you see in the world around you. The popular 2016 game, Pokemon Go, sent millions of people worldwide on digital scavenger hunts to hunt down and collect cartoon characters within the context of their own reality.
2020 could see more practical applications of AR, especially in the retail world, for example, giving customers the ability to try before they buy, whether clothes or stationary. The next generation of wireless network, 5G, will work as a catalyst for more mainstream use of Augmented Reality.
Our workplaces are changing thanks to new technologies that are being deployed, including robotics, AI, voice-assisted technology, chatbots, and more, promising the opportunity to enhance the customer experience, create efficiencies, and reduce costs. They are also altering the tasks humans will complete, how work gets done, and creating new jobs and responsibilities for humans. If these predictions prove out, 2020 could be a transformative year for tech and the role it plays in society.
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:
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