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FUTURE TRENDS – What to Watch in 2020

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A short guide to this year’s hottest trends and technologies

The impact of new technologies in business markets is hard to gauge. Early adopters would have you believe that their effect is immediate and game-changing, whilst those at the opposite end of the adopter spectrum advocate a ‘wait and see’ approach.

As a rule of thumb, the impact of new technology is overstated initially but underestimated in the following years. Let’s not forget also that a high proportion of new bells and whistles never get to ring at all.

What we can say with confidence is that in the 4th industrial revolution technology is evolving faster than ever. And here’s the rub; companies and individuals that don’t keep up with major tech trends run the risk of being left behind.

What, then, are the key trends businesses should be preparing for and at what stage in their evolution are they? Here, we list four that we think businesses will need to address in 2020.

1 5G Data Networks
Communications networks and connectivity are the oil that enables applications engines to function – especially in these days of cloud-based application deployment. Fast, reliable and robust networks are the postal service for customer service excellence.

5G networks have been heralded for quite a few years now, with the promise of big increases in speed and reliability. These claims are now set to be tested in the wild. While 5G mobile data networks became available for the first time in 2019, they were mostly still expensive and limited to confined areas or major cities. This is likely to be the year when 5G really starts to fly, with more affordable data plans and greatly improved coverage.

Yes, there will be handsets that can download HD films in an instant but a bigger attraction for businesses is the increase in connectivity options that will see mobile networks become more usable than wired networks running in to homes and businesses.

Companies must consider the business implications of having superfast and stable internet access anywhere and greater bandwidth that will enable machines, robots and autonomous vehicles to collect and transfer more data than ever.

2 Cyber Security
Cyber security is vitally important for any business – no-one wants to be a victim. The best way to mitigate against an attack is to have and maintain a viable security plan that encompasses threats from new technologies and applications.

Technology rarely develops in isolation and frequently has unintended consequences. The advent of faster, widespread 5G networks, for example, will elevate the risks for data protection.

Cyber security can no longer be an afterthought for businesses that must also pay close attention to compliance regulation. None of this stands still. GDPR is not ‘tick in a box’; it’s a regime that needs on-going maintenance to counter the threat from cyber criminals who some analysts believe will change their methodology from pure data theft and website hacking to attacks on the integrity of data itself.

This type of attack, in comparison to straightforward data theft, has the potential to cause long-term, reputational damage to individuals or groups by getting people to question the integrity of their data.

3 Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A1 The hottest topic
A1 The hottest topic

AI is the hottest topic of the day and probably the least understood. The first thing you need to do is forget every science fiction film you have ever seen, because for now that’s all they are – fiction.

That said, AI is likely to be the most transformative technical evolution of our time. At Microsoft’s 2019 Future Decoded exhibition in London at the end of 2019, Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft UK, said: “Artificial Intelligence is the engine of the 4th industrial revolution and is at the heart of the digital transformation currently reshaping business, government and society. Little surprise, then, that the global AI market is expected to be worth up to $15.7 trillion by 2030.”

Rose went on to say that business leaders need a bold strategy if they are to remain competitive on the world stage and that AI should be central to that strategy, pointing out that businesses that use AI perform on average 11.5% better than those that don’t:

*they are more productive (11%);
*have higher performance (12%); and
*experience better business outcomes (11%).

Forbes, the US reporter on technology, expects 2020 to see wider AI adoption and a growing pool of providers offering more tailored applications and services for specific or specialised tasks.

4 Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT
IoT

The Internet of Things refers to the rapidly growing network of connected objects that collect and exchange data using embedded sensors. Thermostats, cars, lights, refrigerators and other appliances can all be connected to the IoT.

Analysts forecast that there will be more than 64 billion IoT devices installed around the world by 2026.

Bernie McPhillips at IoT vendor Pangea argues that businesses that haven’t yet made the transition to datadriven decisions and IoT technology are already behind the competition and will lag further behind in 2020 as 5G and other powerful connectivity options drive massive growth in a number of areas, notably Industry 4.0.

He said: “There’s a ton of combinations when it comes to IoT devices, sensors and connectivity, all performing amazing tasks that used to be very manual and very timeconsuming. Now, you can measure and report accurately on every variable you can think of: temperature, proximity, pressure, vibration, height, depth, humidity, air quality – the list goes on.”

Other sectors in which McPhillips expects to see a great deal of AI activity include transport and logistics, retail and smart cars, where Cellular V2X (Vehicle to Everything) technology will advance in leaps and bounds with the aid of 5G.

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