It’s been said many times, but technology seems to move at the speed of imagination these days. Most consumers think of smartphones and big-screen TVs when they think of the tech industry, but there’s so much more going on behind the scenes.
The following technology trends for 2020 aren’t flash-in-the-pan gimmicks or passing fads. We’ve selected these technologies because they stand to make the greatest impact on our lives, livelihoods, business models and economies, throughout 2020 and beyond.
1. Artificial Intelligence
About five in six Americans uses some kind of AI-based service on a daily basis. These include navigation apps, personal virtual assistants, company-owned chatbots and many others. In 2020, we should expect AI to become even more capable and useful.
AI makes our list today because its full potential goes far beyond Siri and Alexa. Some 73 million jobs could be at risk due to AI by 2030. However, AI creates new jobs, too — millions of them — across disciplines like development and programming, maintenance, testing, user support and others.
Research from NewVantage shows that just 14.6% of enterprises have deployed AI applications so far. They use these for everything from predicting demand to making efficiency tweaks to workflows. It could be a great time to develop and implement an AI tool to boost competitiveness.
According to findings by TechCrunch, blockchain was the second-fastest-growing category of technology jobs in 2017. Most people who are familiar with blockchain know it as the technology powering Bitcoin and other digital currencies. This alone makes it a consequential technology trend for 2020, but there’s a lot more to the picture.
There are nearly countless enterprise-level applications for blockchain. The chief advantage of blockchain is its immutable ledger. Individuals and groups can write data to the blockchain ledger, but these entries cannot be altered after-the-fact. Moreover, blockchain “chains” are decentralized and built on consensus, meaning no individual can override or control it.
The blockchain ledger doesn’t require third-party validation, meaning it could dramatically speed-up transactions of all kinds, including cross-border shipments. Blockchain can also be used to create automated “smart contracts.” After the terms are met, these contracts self-execute lines of code in enterprise planning platforms that kick the next stage of the transaction into motion.
Blockchain represents a newer, safer and more secure kind of data-sharing and collaboration between individuals, companies and organizations.
3. Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality is another major technological movement that has far-reaching implications in the consumer market and in commercial settings.
On the consumer side of things, augmented reality allows all kinds of creative pursuits, such as gaming and content creation. AR-enabled headsets and smartphones allow the user to superimpose digitally-rendered objects onto the space around them. A customer could, for example, browse an online furniture website and see exactly how that coveted loveseat would look in their own living room. Expect AR to become a permanent tool in the professional interior designer’s toolkit, too.
In industries like construction and manufacturing, AR is even more of an exciting proposition. Augmented reality allows assembly line workers, maintenance personnel, engineers, builders and other tradespeople to superimpose steps in a set of directions right into their peripheral vision as they perform their work. Or, AR could provide a client with a realistic idea of what a project will look like on completion.
Like blockchain, AR’s most important functions go far beyond the consumer applications, such as videogames. According to the most recent data from Statista, around 35% of businesses have adopted AR or VR technology into one or more of their business divisions.
4. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The miniaturization of technology over time means it’s now possible to connect almost any object to the internet. This is the concept underpinning the Internet of Things — the quickly growing network of connected devices that now numbers into the tens of billions. IEEE International expects there to be 50 billion such devices in operation by the end of 2020.
On the consumer side of things, the Internet of Things makes all kinds of convenience and comfort functions possible. Smart homes rely on IoT devices like temperature and occupancy sensors, Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi and geofencing to automated things like opening shades and blinds, starting the coffee maker, opening and closing the garage door and making sure the temperature in each room is always perfect for the number of people inside, and even individual inhabitants.
Driverless cars and smart cities are two of the most exciting technology “families” associated with the IoT. The cars of the future won’t just be connected to the internet — they’ll be able to “speak” with other cars and even city infrastructure to ensure smooth traffic flow and perfect synchronization with traffic signals.
Manufacturing and supply chain environments can make use of this connectivity to track throughput in each process and improve workflows, as well as track and report on the condition of shipments-in-progress. The IoT even allows machines to monitor their own condition, and raise an alarm when they detect an imminent parts failure.
Experts predict that the U.S. will require hundreds of thousands more IT professionals in the coming year to facilitate the swift and widespread adoption of IoT that’s on the way.
Technology may have delivered us into a so-called “trans-human” age, where biology meshes with technology to improve human health and boost our longevity. This technology is still in its infancy, but we can still get a good sense of where things are headed.
Biochips embedded in patients have the potential to detect oncoming diseases even before the first symptoms begin to appear. Molecular sensors can analyze the body’s chemicals and even individual biological elements, and deliver the relevant information to the patient or their care team.
Biohacking also encompasses the practices of artificially creating muscles, tissues, skin, organs and other body structures. More than simply replacing or repairing a damaged part of the body, biohacking may also enable the improvement of these structures.
This is a controversial avenue of scientific inquiry because it opens the door to questions like “What is a human?” and “At what point should a modified human no longer be considered as such?”
Technology Marches Forward in 2020
There’s no end in sight to the march of technological progress, and 2020 looks to continue that trend. Some of this tech is more mature than others, but each one holds vast promise to improve our lives and how we conduct business.
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