Trends and Predictions 2020: Technology

Stephen DeAngelis

January 09, 2020

The late futurist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, once wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Imagine what pioneers crossing America’s plains on foot, horseback, and/or wagon would think about today’s automobiles and aircraft. Magic. Other “magical” technologies would be mobile phones, satellites, and the Internet. Author Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) adds, “It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.” Technology is a broad topic — too broad for any single article to explore fully. Every field of human endeavor involves some sort of technology. Technology affects our lives in countless ways. Some people fear advances in technology because technology inevitably impacts jobs. However, David Cearley, a Vice President and analyst at Gartner, insists technology trends are “aggregating around people.”[1] This is especially true about information technologies which, according to Cearley, are helping everyone “understand and explore this complex world around us.” In this article, I discuss some of the technology trends currently affecting the business world as well as bold predictions pundits are making about the future of technology.

Technology trends

Hyperautomation of processes. According to Cearley, Luddites are going to be very unhappy because companies are getting serious “about automating everything [they] can automate.” Cearley calls this trend hyperautomation. Naomi Eide (@NaomiEide) explains, “Industry is centered on task automation, which includes rules and robotic process automation. As the technology and its adoption improves, industry will move toward process automation, managing overall workflows and introducing conversational [user experience] to help automate process.”[2]

Democratization of technology. Eide explains, “Democratization movements have made technologies easier to use, lowering the bar to entry for advanced capabilities. Low- or no-code platforms allow almost anyone to build an app (after platform-specific training, of course).”

Human augmentation. Human augmentation is not new. Eyeglasses are perhaps the most widespread form of human augmentation; however, new forms of augmentation are constantly being developed. According to Cearley, this trend is all about “moving from designing for humans to architecting humans themselves.” By that he means designing things like smart prosthetics, smart contact lenses, and RFID implants. Cearley also includes cognitive computing among augmenting technologies. Cognitive computing will be used to augment human decision-making. Eide notes, “Gartner projects by 2025, 40% of enterprises will adopt human augmentation technologies and methodologies.” Mark van Rijmenam (@VanRijmenam), founder of Datafloq, agrees. He insists, “The future of work is automated and augmented. Artificial intelligence will play a significant role in how we work and AI will fundamentally change your workplace.”[3]

Improved transparency and traceability. Consumers are becoming more interested in how the goods they purchase and consume are made, processed, and/or grown. As a result, supply chain transparency and traceability have become increasingly important.

Crisis in trust. Even though transparency and traceability are improving, Eide notes, “With all the advancements in technology, a trust crisis is on the horizon — industry can blame unauditable AI, fake news and unauthorized data harvesting, among other concerns.” According to Eide, Gartner identifies six pillars of trust: integrity, ethics, openness, accountability, competence and consistency. Companies that reinforce these pillars will gain leverage with consumers. Also helping in this area is what Cearley calls practical blockchain.

Move towards edge computing. Everyone is aware oceans of data are being generated every day. Processing all that data centrally has become a challenge. As a result, more efforts are being made to process data where it is being creating (i.e., on the edge). Eide writes, “Advancements in memory and power have pushed computing to the edge, which increases resiliency, responsiveness and reduces costs. … As more computing moves to the edge, data will be processed in place. By 2023, Gartner projects more than half data will be created and processed ‘outside the data center or cloud.’ That’s up from less than 10% this year.”[4] Van Rijmenam adds, “With the number of connected devices growing exponentially, an increasing amount of AI processing will no longer be done in a cloud-based data center. Instead, it will be done on the edge of networks, by specially designed AI chips. These miniature chips and sensors will enable distributed things to perform advanced analytics in real-time.”

Autonomous things. Thanks to the enormous of amounts of data being generated, the pursuit of artificial intelligence (AI) has been reinvigorated. Maturing AI platforms have, in turn , led to the development of autonomous systems. Eide writes, “Modern automation technologies rely on human assistance, but advancements in technology will allow the shift to conditional automation, which is human-directed. Eventually, full automation with no human control.”

5G goes mainstream. Aiding the “autonomous things” trend will be the widespread implementation of fifth generation (5G) telecommunications systems. Van Rijmenam explains, “The potential of 5G for enterprises is huge. … An enterprise 5G network offers a lot of benefits for organizations. Therefore, in 2020, many more organizations will develop their own 5G network to optimize and streamline their business, using connected sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence that can communicate seamlessly with each other using 5G.”

Technology predictions

Edge computing will grow rapidly. As noted above, edge computing is a trend that will continue. Gil Press (@GilPress), Managing Partner at gPress, reports analysts from IDC predict, “By 2023, more than 50% of new enterprise infrastructure deployments will be at the edge rather than corporate data centers, up from less than 10% today. And by 2024, the number of apps at the edge will increase 800%.”[5] Staff members at Equinix, Inc., add, “There is a seismic shift underway across many industries as businesses are embracing edge computing and hybrid multicloud architectures. Increasingly, businesses are moving computing from centralized data centers to a distributed infrastructure and toward the edge, where data exchange and interconnection between businesses and cloud services are growing at an exponential rate. The advent of edge computing has also become a foundational enabler for other emerging technologies such as 5G mobile communications, which will allow internet of things (IoT) and other edge devices to take advantage of faster connectivity to data and compute resources with single-digit-millisecond network latency.”[6]

Growing formations of hybrid clouds. Another IDC prediction is, “By 2022, 70% of enterprises will integrate cloud management — across their public and private clouds — by deploying unified hybrid/multicloud management technologies, tools and processes.”

Rise of digital innovation factories. “By 2025,” the IDC analysts predict, “nearly two-thirds of enterprises will be prolific software producers with code deployed daily, over 90% of new apps cloud native, 80% of code externally sourced and 1.6 times more developers.”

Industry could become APPrehensive: According to IDC, “By 2023, over 500 million digital apps and services will be developed and deployed using cloud-native approaches, most of those targeted at industry specific digital transformation use cases.”

Ubiquitous cognitive technologies: “By 2025,” IDC analysts predict, “at least 90% of new enterprise apps will embed AI; by 2024, over 50% of user interface interactions will use AI-enabled computer vision, speech, natural language processing and AR/VR.” Equinix analysts predict, “Enterprises will accelerate the adoption of AI and machine learning for a broader set of use cases, requiring increasingly complex and more real-time-sensitive processing of large data sets originating from multiple sources (sensors, IoT, wearables, etc.).”

Multi-industry collaboration: IDC analysts predict, “By 2025, 20% of revenue growth will be from ‘white space’ offerings that combine digital services from previously unlinked industries, and one-fifth of partners are from previously unlinked industries.”

Cyber-security threats continue to grow. Equinix analysts note, “The World Economic Forum has ranked breaches in cybersecurity as one of the top risks facing our global community. No company or individual is immune to the cybersecurity challenges we face today or will face in the future. The financial loss attributed to cyberattacks continues to impact economies worldwide and is estimated to cost $6 trillion USD annually by 2021.” They predict, “In 2020, … new data processing capabilities such as multiparty secure computation, fully homomorphic encryption (operating on encrypted data) and secure enclaves (where even cloud operators cannot peer into the code being executed by a cloud consumer) will move toward mainstream and will allow enterprises to run their computation in a secure manner.”

Concluding thoughts

Some of the technology trends mentioned above may no longer seem magical; however, they are paving the way for magical things to come. For example, “Equinix anticipates that with increasing pressures on the world’s resources and the increasing desire by many companies to cut emissions, digital transformation could begin to set the world’s economy on a progressively sustainable footing. In 2020, sustainability will likely be an initiative for world-class organizations as stakeholders increasingly look to digital businesses to lead and innovate in areas of environmental responsibility and sustainability.” That would be magical.

Footnotes
[1] Naomi Eide, “Gartner’s strategic tech trends for 2020: Part 1, augmenting skills,” CIO Dive, 4 November 2019.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Mark van Rijmenam, “The Top Seven Technology Trends for 2020,” Datafloq, 28 November 2019.
[4] Naomi Eide, “Gartner’s strategic tech trends for 2020: Part 2, computing moves to the edge,” CIO Dive, 5 November 2019.
[5] Gil Press, “Top 10 Tech Predictions For 2020 From IDC,” Forbes, 29 October 2019.
[6] Equinix, Inc., “Top 5 Technology Trends to Impact the Digital Infrastructure Landscape in 2020,Cision PR Newswire, 2 December 2019.