Futurists say we're on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a term coined by Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum, in his 2016 book of the same name. It's an era when fast-evolving tech is transforming virtually every aspect of our lives, creating massive disruption as well as opportunity — and businesses are investing heavily to be on the front lines.
Far beyond the Computer Age, this new era is taking digital into an exciting new future of possibilities, from smart robots to autonomous air taxis, personalized medicine and more. Think of how, just 10 years ago, using voice commands to search for a movie to stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime would have seemed positively Jetsons.
Now imagine what might come next. A look at emerging new technologies can give us a preview of things to come, and 2020 looks to be a significant year in the evolution.
“The overall direction is called digital transformation, all of these existing trends coming together and being properly integrated because of cloud technology,” said Hally Gruber, Technology Programs Developer at UCI. “Newer tech trends like 5G networks, blockchain and Internet of Things are becoming more sophisticated, and at the same time becoming more widely integrated in the cloud, working together to do things never before possible.”
Digital transformation has been anticipated for decades, Gruber said. “But now it's all finally happening, and it's super exciting.”
For those who have the right preparation and knowledge, it can be a time of tremendous opportunity. With that in mind, here are seven top tech trends of 2020 and beyond, in no particular order.
Arguably the most anticipated new trend, 5G data networks promise lightning-fast Internet speed and massive bandwidth from cellular networks, which will have far-reaching impact for smart vehicles, delivery drones and much more. Simply put, 5G networks allow exceedingly rapid communication between devices, speeding the evolution of autonomous commerce and travel. But most of us will covet 5G for personal applications like easier streaming, higher quality movies and music, as well as Internet that's faster than home wi-fi. Consumer 5G was rolled out in 2019 but looks to become far more mainstream in 2020.
Most everyone has heard about blockchain, mostly as it relates to Bitcoin cryptocurrency, but what is it really? Think of it as sort of digital, public ledger that maintains a permanent, definitive record of encrypted and validated transactions across multiple computers. Data history is easily verifiable, making it a promising nascent technology for many businesses. Might not sound too exciting, but big players such as IBM, Facebook and Mastercard are betting heavily on it. And if Facebook's proposed Libra cryptocurrency sees light of day, that could give blockchain a huge boost in 2020 and beyond.
Manufacturers have been working to perfect autonomous vehicles for years, and although we can't expect to routinely see self-driving sedans cruising the freeways any time soon, 2020 looks to be a big year for increased use of autonomous trucking and shipping. The trend could extend to delivery drones, air taxis, home appliances and smart robots, as well. Amazon has been perfecting auto-delivery drones for years, Uber is developing its Elevate air-taxi commuter drones, and Tesla chief Elon Musk recently said that his company plans to unveil a completely autonomous Tesla model sometime soon.
Artificial Intelligence services
AI and Machine Learning are among the most impactful and transformative new technologies of the new era, and businesses will increasingly turn to them to improve their own operations, customer experience, and marketing endeavors along the way. But adopting your own AI remains an unwieldy and hugely expensive proposition, leading to the rise of AI service providers. Currently the outsourcing is being taken care of by tech giants such as Google and Amazon, but experts predict exponential growth in smaller AI services that can provide businesses with custom algorithms crafted for each operation.
Rampant advanced in technology, especially in the form of AI and genomics, are transforming how healthcare is being delivered in myriad ways. Wearable devices that can track and capture patient data are providing more precise diagnoses, often leading to effective and targeted treatments before any symptoms are experienced. Medicine will become far more personalized, crafted according to a wealth of new data, provided through genetic analysis and predictive AI algorithms that will streamline healthcare and, ideally, lower the cost. Training in healthcare analytics can be a golden ticket in this field.
Shopping without cards or cash
Someday soon, the humble ATM card might seem a quaint anachronism, and cash a soiled relic of the past. After all, people are accustomed to shopping on their mobile devices, so paying for products in real life with virtual currency is a logical next step. For now, tech trends like QR codes and facial recognition payment are mostly confined to China, but they're slowly migrating west. Look for Google Wallet and Apple Pay to become more widely accepted in 2020 and beyond, providing more convenience for consumers while increasing concerns over identity protection, creating potential opportunities for cybersecurity experts.
Might not be as sexy as, say, 5G or AI, but it can form a solid foundation for a long career as a data analyst. Those armed with a strong background in data science will be well-positioned to capitalize on the rise of prescriptive analytics — the logical extension of descriptive and predictive applications. This tech trend takes all the data in question and delivers solutions of how best to capitalize on the results of the first two applications. Already becoming established in the healthcare industry, many experts believe predictive analytics will begin edging into other fields, as well.
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