10 Digital Tech Trends to Expect in 2020

The incremental progression of the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced data analytics, and blockchain over the decade has allowed increased tech sustainability, and the ground breaking development of innovative new products and services. These technologies have allowed tech devices and services to become more miniature, connected, seamless and ubiquitous. More than ever, we now have more connected devices throughout offices, gyms, homes, and have seen a rise in ‘everything-as-a-service’ business models and on-demand internet-based services. With more companies adopting different digital transformation initiatives in 2020, the shared end goal is improved customer satisfaction, profitability and a continual evolution. So, which digital trends can we then look forward to in 2020?


  1. Chatbots & conversational assistants

With the exponential advancement in Artificial Intelligence sector, more companies will adopt AI Chatbots and conversational assistants for the tasks which are repetitive and don’t require much creativity. Currently, chatbots provide amazing customer support with instant replies which facilitate shopping and shipment tracking, etc. Unfortunately, most popular chatbots based on NLP (natural language processing) aren’t as skilled as they ought to be, as they sometimes are deficient with unique tasks or get lost in context.

In 2020, we shall see more chatbots replaced by Conversational UI (chat interfaces which use rich-media and other UI elements). China-based WeChat is leading the conversation UI evolution as it enables advanced functionalities such as booking of tables at a restaurant, payments, booking of a cab, etc. So, in 2020, we could see WhatsApp, FB Messenger and iMessage open these capabilities for developers. Conversational UI adoption will further advance conversational assistant capabilities as AI chatbots won’t need to ‘guess’ the user’s intent using NLP. Basically, users will select what they want to do from an embedded form reducing the need for NLP to validate users’ inputs.

So, start-ups looking to build new products will need to create provisions for conversational user interfaces as they might become the standard plateau of productivity in 2020. Essentially, chatbots will continue to get better and will force apps to become better. So poorly executed apps will die out as they are easily replaced by bots. Expect to see more drag and drop chatbot building platforms enter the market which will be similar to Bold360, Rulai, Vergic, which will increase enterprise and small business adoption of conversational interfaces.

  1. Blockchain will continue pushing transformation to new heights

Evidently, blockchain is already fast becoming the standard for collection of distributed ledger products. This is seen with the ever-expanding list of cryptographically signed, irrevocable transactional records shared across the world. Consequently, Blockchain technology could:

  • Enhance transparency in different industries
  • Ensure robust security as Blockchain is more secure than other record-keeping systems. 
  • potentially lower costs in multiple sectors (setting up the blockchain network is quite inexpensive)
  • and improve data availability as data is available 24×7 even if a peer crashes in a network. 

In 2020, one of the areas of advancement in blockchain will be the standardization of interoperability among the different blockchains. While it is inevitable that there will be several blockchains with a specific business purpose, true benefits for the consumer or enterprise will be realized when they are able to “collaborate” in an open standard.Furthermore, we shall see more businesses ask the question of ‘how can we make blockchain uniquely work for us?’ will still get asked in multiple enterprises. We expect financial/Fintech services to continue leading in blockchain development and innovation but there will be an influx in blockchain initiatives by governments, life sciences, health care organizations, media, and telecommunications.

For example, Dubai has intentioned to replace all government systems with blockchain-based digital structures by 2020. Dubai officials believe it will provide the underlying trust, immutability and transparency that they need by reducing and eliminating the bureaucratic red tape and corruption in government agencies. For instance, welfare, disability, veterans and unemployment benefits could be easily verified and distributed, eliminating fraud and waste. Blockchain based systems will possibly supply a single resource of confirmation for individuals’ identities and assets. The types of data that can be stored on a blockchain-based identity platform include (though not limited to):

  • Government records (e.g., date of birth, etc.).
  • Reputation & trust scores (e.g., credit history).
  • Certificates & attestations (e.g., university diploma).
  • Healthcare & medical records.
  • Tax identification records.
  • Employment records.

Other potential blockchain advancements we could see in 2020 include:

  • Blockchain with Embedded IoT sensors could be engineered to automatically transmit data to a blockchain ledger as shipments move from point of supply to point of demand. 
  • Experimentation of blockchain technology in voting systems as they could eliminate rigging and hacking. 
  • For real estate applications, blockchain systems could be used to eliminate escrow altogether with use of smart contracts. 
  • We could see blockchain startups experimenting with legal applications by creating products that could maintain authenticity of legal documents such as wills by enabling secure storage and verification. 

  1. Growth of Deepfake” Technology

Deepfake is essentially a synthetic media form and machine-learning technique that superimposes a form of artificial intelligence technology to people’s images to create highly realistic, but fake videos. For instance, face-swapping apps such as Zao allow users to swap their faces with a celebrity, creating a deepfake video in seconds. Deepfake tech has amazing benefits as it could enable researchers to generate true-to-life data to develop and test new ways of diagnosing or monitoring disease without risking breaches in real patient privacy. Unfortunately, this new tech impressive technology has quite rightly raised concerns about privacy and identity with fears that it could replicate even more details of our personal digital identity or attributes like our voice. Regulators fear deepfake tech’s potential for abuse because of;

This led the state of California to pass laws banning use of political deepfakes  and pornographic deepfakes made without consent. Furthermore, Zao app was previously blocked by China’s WeChat for presenting ‘security’ risks about how users’ facial scans might be abused. While deepfake fears could further heighten scrutiny, with the proper safeguards, this tech could usher in a new trend of user generated and personalized media that could be big in 2020.

In 2020, we will see increased adoption of deepfake technology. A confirmation of deepfake potential can be seen by the acquisition of the AI Factory in 2019 by Snap (owners of Snapchat). AI Factory, had been developing unique deepfake and Snap hopes to leverage its tech in their own Snapchat offering to let its users put their selfies into short videos, similar to a “deepfake” that replaces a person’s face with another one and appears real. In addition, we see ByteDance, the Chinese tech company that created social video app TikTok, developing similar tools to let users add their own faces to other’s videos. 

  1. Robotic assistants

In 2020, the robotic industry will possibly see an increase in the deployment of robotic assistants/humanoid robots. Though the question here is, do these robotic assistants have a realistic future or are they just a high-level trick? Humanoid robots are expected to serve as companions and assistants to humans in their daily lives as the ultimate helpers.  Robotic assistants have potential use as medical assistants and teaching aids with their functional design which facilitates human interaction. The eventual hope is that in the near future about 25% of the human labor work will be performed by robots. In a recent report from Berg Insight, the service robot base is expected to install 264.3 million units in different sectors by 2026, possibly reducing manufacturing costs and improving industrial efficiency. 

While humanoid robots have been a challenging field for scientists, they have also gained significant attention over the years. Successful attempts at producing humanoid robots, such as Sophia, developed by a Hong Kong-based company called the Hanson Robotics, have created a new hope. As the world’s first robot citizen, Sophia can carry out a wide range of human actions and is capable of making up to fifty facial expressions. Other notable robotic products and assistants are; the BigDog, a quadruped robot designed for the U.S. military by Boston Dynamics, the Kodomoroid TV Presenter(a humanoid robot was invented in Japan) and Jia Jia(developed by a team at the University of Science and Technology of China). We expect to see more robotic assistants introduced into the market in 2020 with more advanced capabilities and features.

  1. Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies can be potentially considered as the future of financial institutions due to the following reasons:

  1. Reduction of the Risk of Fraud: Online fraud poses serious threats to businesses. Cryptocurrencies provide the chance to trace the originality of products with the help of blockchain technology.
  2. Crypto does not require exchange fees or cross-country operational charges since it’s a borderless currency.
  3. Alternative Processing Options for Payment: Cryptocurrencies ensure that every rightful payment is made and there are no dues. 
  4. Compatible with Commodity Currencies: cryptocurrencies work faster, better and more efficiently, and thus work really great when backed with commodity currencies.

In 2020, we expect new types of Bitcoin to be released and in use. Possibly, Bitcoin might hit an astounding new height in value. Furthermore, we should see more governments all around the world are adopting Blockchain Technology or some form of digital currency. For instance, countries such as Canada, Sweden and Ecuador have already started to look into the future by exploring the massive opportunities that Bitcoin can present. So, we hope to see more government-based cryptocurrency testing and expeditions. We already saw Venezuela’s newly produced cryptocurrency “petro” elevated to over $5 billion throughout the pre-sale occasion, we expect to see several various other countries follow suit.

The biggest anticipation of 2020 will be how Facebook rolls out their new digital currency called Libra to allow its users to make financial transactions across the globe. While this could rival the likes of Paypal, Facebook may initially choose to roll out, Calibra, a wallet that will kickstart their crypto efforts in 2020.Expect to see more crypto adoption in diverse industries such as online gambling and online shopping at a level never-seen-before. Though Crypto’s biggest weakness will remain its volatility.

  1. Foldable displays

2020 will certainly be the year of foldable displays and smartphones. Expect more foldable phones to be released though foldable iPhones are not likely to be launched in 2020. Although Apple already filed a patent for “Electronic Devices with Flexible Displays”, the patent shows that foldable iPhone could have two different bend “modes”. The first mode would allow users to use the device in an open and close manner like a book and the second mode could open the way a notepad does. We still think Apple will take its time before any foldable releases. Though, as opposed to the all iPhones which feature LCD screens, the foldable iPhones are expected to leverage the OLED screens. 

So which foldable phones have been released and should we expect:

  • Moto Razr – While it has been delayed multiple times, it was finally released in Feb 6 2020. 
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold – it got a lot of scrutiny because of debris getting underneath its display and the display getting damaged despite extreme care. Samsung did fix those and relaunched on September 6th, 2019, but it made a bad first impression. 
  • Samsung Galaxy Flip – was made available on February 14th ,2020 and will be a direct competitor for the Moto Razr. 
  • Huawei Mate X – Had numerous delays and Huawei probably benefited out of Samsung launching the Galaxy Fold first. So, they simply delayed the launch to fix the issues that might have come out of an earlier launch.

Fold displays will be more of a technology of convenience and choice in 2020, though I suspect they could become mainstream enough to eventually replace smartphones and small tablets as separate devices.

  1. Wearable smart devices

Today, checking on your health and cholesterol levels is easy with the wearable tech and wearable smart devices. In 2020, we could see the true potential of the wearable space evolving to incorporate on-person sensors. These new sensors will mean new data; new data will mean new insights; new insights will mean new applicability of those insights across diverse markets. This ability to have on-contact, on-person sensors could ignite new eco-systems the same way that the GPS changed the way we use our phones. This transition could mean that sensors could eventually reside inside us with the next frontier of wearable sensors moving to computational interfaces inside our bodies. The wearable market is already expanding, as the number of connected wearable devices worldwide is expected to reach over 1.1 billion in 2022. This figure indicates that a relative portion of adults who use wearable devices own more than one smart device.

In the United States alone, the wearable devices sold are expected to reach more than 559 million units by 2021, which corresponds to averagely $95.3 billion in revenue. This is expected to correspond to about $95.3 billion in revenue. To prove this growth, Apple Inc, alone shipped 6.8 million smartwatches worldwide in 2019, and in November 2019 Google  announced that it was buying wearable company Fitbit for $2.1 billion. This acquisition made sense as Google had been trying to break into the wearables market with its Wear OS platform, but it’s struggled. The future of smart wearables in 2020 will definitely consist of:

  • Smart tattoos: A company called Dangerous Things is working on an NFC chip that can be embedded in a finger through a tattoo-like process, letting you unlock things simply by pointing at them.
  • Implantable birth control chips: The Gates Foundation is currently supporting an MIT project to create an implantable female compu-contraceptive controlled by external remote control. 
  •  Smart textiles: we could see growth in the smart textile industry with more comfortable and visually appealing ones. They will probably have more advanced biosensors implemented into articles of clothing to monitor performance such as speed, distance traveled, muscle fatigue, muscle symmetry, or acceleration speed. 
  1. Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence

AI & ML integration is going to skyrocket in 2020 for many customer-centric apps that involve text, images, voice and language to make them more interactive. In 2020, we will see more enterprises getting bolder with their AI ambitions and requiring their vendors to support large deployments as they transition into deploying complex AI models in production at scale. This will lead to enhanced customer engagement and customization in some enterprises through experimentation with A.I based holographic tech. AI and ML Use cases will vary from electric cars to home assistant devices, offering an element of unique novelty to most company’s smart tech efforts. Other predictions for 2020 will see:

  • More large companies like AWS and Google launching advanced drag and drop tools to easen creation of ML applications and fasten A.I development time. 
  • Machines getting better at understanding—and generating their own speech and writing
  • More industries using A.I based facial recognition technology
  • More autonomous cars and trucks being tried and tested in several countries
  • More retailers increasingly turning to AI for marketing
  • Cognitive analytics emerging, where machines learn from experience and build associations to develop hypothesis, draw conclusions and codify instincts from experience.
  • Advances in A.I driven transportation and logistics
  • Robotic process automation become more popular
  • The computing power needed to create AI algorithms will exponentially increase.
  1. Satellite Internet

While skeptics argue that satellite internet cannot compete with land-based and terrestrial RF broadband infrastructure as the economics don’t add up, some optimists still believe in it. This doesn’t deter clients such as the minerals industries, agricultural companies, military, and governments who will continue to utilise satellite internet services. More sectors that depend on satellite services include:

  • Large rural areas in developed countries that can be served. 
  • Lower-bandwidth users in less-developed countries that can be served by minisats.
  • Military and certain enterprise customers can be served by visible light communications which allow for higher end-user bandwidth and greater physical security.

In 2020, instead enormous satellites blasting into geostationary orbit, we shall see more companies working on the next generation of Low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. These satellites are much smaller and orbit closer to Earth than traditional satellites, consequently, the lower orbit dramatically reduces the lag that usually comes with satellite internet. 

The prominent companies in this sphere are; Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, which is currently embarking on ambitious rocket building plans and will lay the foundation for its Blue Moon plans (a robotic space cargo carrier and lander); OneWeb which plans to launch a constellation of nearly 650 global broadband satellites by 2021 and is in heated competition in the low-latency satellite broadband market with SpaceX. Currently with 240 Starlink Internet satellites launched, SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, plans to initially launch up to 1,600 LEO satellites by end of 2020, on a series of Falcon 9 rockets to fly in 341-mile-high (550-kilometer) orbits, and hopes to eventually operate up to 4,425 satellites by 2024. 

Unfortunately, a single LEO satellite can’t cover as much area as a geostationary satellite, so companies in 2020 will launch more of them to create clusters, called satellite constellations. SpaceX’s Starlink network and clusters will eventually use laser data links between satellites, enabling the network to route signals around the world without going through ground stations.  As of February 2020, Sixty more satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband were launched bringing the total number of Starlink platforms deployed in orbit to 300. 

  1. Consumer-level cloud computing

In this new decade, CD, DVD, zip drive and external hard-drive use phase out with the increased adoption of unlimited cloud storage tools like Google Drive and Google Photos, etc. ironically, consumers who use any of the Google Suite apps, or tools like Dropbox or Netflix, are already using cloud computing! Furthermore, today’s leading tech disruptors such as; cognitive technologies, and blockchain are arguably the by-products of cloud computing.

Consumer level cloud computing in 2020 will significantly affect the wearables industry with health applications connected to the cloud servers. Expect to see more Hyperscalers (massive cloud services like Google, Facebook, and Amazon) shift investments higher up the stack, and offer more consumer tailored cloud products in 2020. This will also allow lead to more cloud data centers transforming into cloud ecosystems providing a cloud-as-a-service model to consumers.


Honourable Mentions

  1. We could possibly see an end to the famous Moore’s Law and see growth in quantum computing which could see utilised in advanced encryption techniques, solving complex optimization problems, and executing machine-learning algorithms. 
  2.  Digital twins, an exciting variation in the IoT-driven world, will further enable companies to predict problems in 2020 through data analysis and simulations, as companies will be able to create a ‘digital twin’ of each client that’s the sum of all their data parts. 
  3. In 2020 we expect more enterprises to experiment with Immersive experiences (Virtual and Augmented Reality)for consumer and enterprise use, and more unique deployments to production. 
  4. 5G, IoT, and A.I advances will create room for more innovation in driverless cars, drones and even smart cities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, expect customer data to increase and thus further processing and turning into insights for enterprise. The tools to facilitate data mining and extraction will grow in intelligence allowing more companies to remain competitive without needing to have expert data science knowledge. Additionally, computing devices will continue to visibly increase in power and shrink in size. We shall see natural language process further evolving between unnatural (pointing, clicking, and swiping) to natural (speaking, gesturing, and thinking), and from reactive (answering questions) to proactive (making unanticipated suggestions). The future is indeed near!

Dip Dhingani

Dip Dhingani

CEO

CEO at Creole Studios, and a passionate fellow who loves technology, books, movies, and can give endless speeches on a whim.