At the dawn of 2020, society was in the midst of an ever-quickening digital evolution propelled by our history of innovation. The start of the year was a time glowing with potential, and despite how events have actually played out across the globe, technology has remained at the forefront, with some groundbreaking trends emerging, brought on by cutting-edge upgrades. Perhaps even especially thanks to the pandemic, technology in 2020 has continued to heavily impact how we work, play, strategize, and even sleep. Unstoppable, the next generation of mainstream technologies is here to change the future and no facet of society appears to be going untouched.
Increasingly Flexible Work
As remote work increases, the office grind of 9-to-5 is becoming a time-measuring mechanism of the past. Even before the effects of COVID-19 that forced many to stay mobile, JLL Consulting’s Peter Miscovich predicted that “by 2020, gig workers will comprise half the workforce and as much as 80% by 2030.” To keep up, companies must therefore rethink the workplace, create digital workspaces, and embrace flexible work models. Jason James, CIO of Net Health, predicts that “work will continue to evolve more into a thing, rather than a place. As CIOs manage larger remote teams, they will need to ensure collaboration tools are being utilized effectively to support a decentralized workforce.” Thankfully, the tools to adjust are available and can be harnessed to do just that.
Tech Democratization & the Hybrid Cloud
Though we can’t all be IT savants—especially in a high-tech world where the upgrade or replacement to whatever you’re trying to master is already ready somewhere—experts believe that knowledge will become increasingly easier to access regardless of academic background, thanks to user-friendly tools that let anyone become more tech-savvy and even write code or create complex designs. Plenty of digital solutions, such as Google’s app Grasshopper, allow beginners to learn coding for free, further empowering the new generation of citizen developers.
In the interest of sharing on a grander scale, cloud computing is also evolving. Citrix VP Christian Reilly, 2020 predicted that 2020 is the year that “companies will finally concede that [the] hybrid cloud is the way forward, and they will use the cloud they need when they need to in order to achieve their business goals.” By the end of 2020, it’s predicted that 75% of enterprise-generated data will be processed regardless of a centralized data center, marking a tremendous breakthrough in cloud infrastructure.
Sharing info and instructional digital solutions will be important in the human adjustment, especially since we’ve already outsourced many simple computational tasks and analyses to bots—think self-checkout lanes, Netflix and Amazon recommendations, GPS and voice assistants. Soon, tech will evolve further and we’ll be getting mind-reading wearables, delivery drones, and more citizen robots like Hanson Robotics’ Sophia. Self-driving computer chips will likely enable cars to attain Level 5 (full autonomy), while Tesla chief Elon Musk promised that he would unleash over a million self-driving robo-taxis this year.
See, automation in 2020 really means hyper-automation. By enabling the application of advanced tech like AI and machine learning, a combination of tools will increasingly automate processes and further affect human requirements. Futurists say the first of three predicted waves of automation—algorithmic, augmentation, and autonomy—will displace 3% of jobs in the early 2020s, but that number jumps to 30% by the mid-2030s. According to Gartner, the “algorithm economy” is the next big thing in big data. Dependent on machine learning, algorithms are already everywhere, adding efficacy in big and small ways, and soon they will take on big data in order to provide speed and scale to balance storage demands, compute workloads, and massively accelerate digital business.
Greater Personalization & Human Augmentation
That all makes sense, as this last decade revealed how much businesses prioritize consumer analytics in big data—even at the consumer’s expense. Intensive personal profiling will continue, with only a slightly less blurred line indicating what’s “too much” or socially acceptable. However questionable these practices are, what’s also true is that such personalization and augmentation remain linked. Human augmentation examines how tech can deliver cognitive and physical improvements, such as wearables that improve the safety of miners, factory workers, and soldiers. In the same vein, tech-enabled, value-based care in healthcare allows for more personalized and superior attention and treatment. In 2020, new fitness devices are on the rise to track oxygen levels and brain activity. Furthermore, ABBYY’s Ryan Raiker predicts that retail and travel industries may use wearables to increase human productivity and ability sooner rather than later.
Helping with those consumer analytics and personalization is artificial intelligence (AI), and it is only getting smarter, with experts foreseeing that AI will become increasingly prevalent in our daily lives. Right now, AI works behind the scenes within social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, who all employ deep learning to draw value simultaneously from billions of people while catering to their preferences with targeted ads. Artificial intelligence is what’s measuring your temperature through that wearable in your attempts to prevent contracting COVID-19, but as things return to normal, you’ll also probably use it when you schedule medical or beauty appointments via chatbots, or let your car autonomously find a free spot in a congested parking lot. Maybe you’ll even get flown around by a bot—today, most human pilots spend just a handful of minutes manually flying a plane, and Boeing is currently working on jetliners that will be piloted exclusively by AI.
More Medical Upgrades
When it comes to healthcare though, AI is more than just temperature taking. Using MRI, CT scans, and x-rays taken, AI can diagnose and improve the quality of patient treatment. Genome analysis will enable doctors to assess and prevent diseases just as it already helps track individual ancestry. By fusing AI with democratized tech and human augmentation and personalization, we have the potential to achieve wonders within the healthcare sector. As Vijay Pande of Andreeseen Horowitz points out: “With a natural place in virtually all areas of care, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment, [AI] can lower costs, provide greater access, and give everyone the very best doctor, levelling the playing field on a global scale.” And it’s not just AI that is changing healthcare—the emergence of 3D printing has unveiled a new horizon of advanced prosthetics and medical upgrades as well, including a bionic ear created and 3D printed by scientists at Princeton University that could hear radio frequencies beyond the range of normal human capacity, merging electronics with cartilage.
Another advance that’s trending is multi-modal technologies as society says goodbye to two-dimensional interfaces. “Whether on eyeglasses, window panes, or windshields, look for lots of new announcements about augmented reality devices and apps to come in 2020,” advises PxC’s Dan Hays. Multi-experience provides immersive interactions fusing augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), sensing technologies, and multi-channel human-machine interfaces. Already, we’ve gone from locked-down computers to portable notebooks to swipe-screen smartphones to 24/7 watches and wearables. But now, Microsoft is more than ready to transform the world with holograms, having unveiled its HoloLens for commercial use. Moreover, MR headsets may help businesses visually plan spaces and convey complex ideas, enable contractors to precisely measure the stairwell they’re about to install, and let teachers truly replicate history and science within a classroom.
Aerospace Evolution & the 5G Network
Speaking of the replication of history, we’ve seen some being made recently with several successful tests and missions as the private sector leads the way towards mankind’s return to space. Aerospace companies everywhere are slashing costs by pioneering reusable rockets and vehicle bodies, with the ultimate goal to make life multi-planetary. SpaceX, a prominent trailblazer, has already seen the first manned mission in almost a decade blast off in Crew Dragon—a test flight that saw the astronauts spend a two-month stint aboard the ISS. Thanks to such a successful demo—one that splashed down only days ago—a second manned flight is now planned for September 2020, and this one will be fully operational, signaling a new era of spaceflight. SpaceX has also been working on the rocket Starship, which—once viable—is predicted to shorten intercontinental trips to 20-30 minutes via space. On August 4th, the company successfully “hopped” the Starship, meaning the rocket ignited and lifted approximately 500 feet into the air before landing upright on the ground, and thus marking huge progress for spaceflight. In fact, SpaceX plans to send the company’s first private passenger around the Moon in 2023.
But the effects of modern space activity are not limited to the stars, as SpaceX is also in the midst of launching thousands more satellites to create space-based broadband—Starlink Broadband—which will enable higher-speed Internet here on Earth. Speaking of which, the evolution of 5G has finally happened, with the new network having expanded to everyday mobile users. 5G supports more break-neck speed—i.e. where downloading a 2-hour movie took 8 minutes with 4G, 5G will download it in 3.6 seconds. As 5G continues to spread, CTO of Ensono, Gordon McKenna, predicts more unprecedented breakthroughs, “from the explosion of different form factors of devices to how we view and receive data to the undoubted strides forward in cloud computing in the form of edge computing […] set to deliver the greatest wave of innovation since the advent of the internet.”
As in any sort of evolution, successful change demands adaptation. To harness the opportunities brought by disruptive technologies while remaining employable, human beings must upscale our own digital sophistication. 2020 has already seen such enormous change, both as a result of the natural, fast-paced advancement of tech and the forced changes brought about by COVID-19, and as things keep advancing, the next-gen workforce in particular must invest time learning of augmented and virtual realities, IoT, blockchain, AI, and other future trends.
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