Top tech trends for 2020

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From computer vision to containers, these are a few of the technology trends set to shape the year ahead.

1) AI becomes all pervasive

Gartner says that artificial intelligence (AI) will expand its use cases in 2020, from helping triple the number of people with disabilities into employment to AI identification of emotions shaping online advertisements and influencing buying decisions. Twenty-eight percent of marketers ranked AI and machine learning (ML) in the top three technologies that will drive future marketing impact, for example. Computer vision, where AI identifies and interprets physical environments, is central to emotion recognition. Gartner ranks that as one of the most important emerging technologies for the next three to five years. 2020 will also be a pivotal year for AI-related employment dynamics, as AI will become a positive job motivator. It will “enrich people’s jobs, re-imagine old tasks and create new industries,” according to Gartner.

2) Lights, cameras, action

IoT is proving itself to be one of the truly great technological disruptors of all time. We will see IoT connect everything from smart homes and connected wearables to smart cities and connected healthcare. Gartner forecasts that there will be 5.8 billion enterprise and automotive IoT endpoints in 2020, a 21% increase on 2019. The largest applications will be smart metering (1.17 billion devices), building security and surveillance (1.09 billion devices). Building automation, driven by connected lighting devices, will be the fastest growing segment (up 42% to 440 million devices), followed by automotive and healthcare, which are forecast to grow 31% and 29% in 2020, respectively.

Top tech trends for 2020

3) Multicloud is the new normal

In 2020, infrastructures, data and applications will be everywhere, according to Gartner, with 90% of companies adopting a hybrid and multicloud approach. Multicloud enables organizations to assess the strengths and weaknesses of cloud vendors in a safe environment, pick what suits their business model best, optimize costs and avoid vendor lock-in. “Multicloud is no longer a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when,’” says Santhosh Rao, Research Director at Gartner.

4) Kubernetes key to moving workloads across clouds

The open source world of Kubernetes (K8s) is dominating container deployment by enabling OS-level virtualization over hardware virtualization. Container technology is set to become one of the key development frameworks, supporting the general move to multicloud. In a recent study, Forrester estimates that a third of enterprises are already using container technology in software development. Containerization will become a priority for developers of modern, digital cloud-native applications in 2020. IDC forecasts that by 2021, a staggering 95% of new microservices will be deployed in containers.

5) Customer experience takes center stage

2020 will see customer experience (CX) continue its rise as a strategic imperative for business. Forrester predicts that 2020 will see CEOs demand that CX initiatives shift from experimentation and ideas into practices that deliver true top- and/or bottom-line growth. As such, measurement, metrics and analytics will become critical to the success of CX, and there will be a 25% growth in number of CX executives, says Forrester.

6) RPA hits the mainstream

The fastest growing enterprise software technology in 2019 is breaking into the mainstream. Enterprises are adopting robotic process automation (RPA) for all manner of tasks, such as supporting contact center agents, credit card applications, onboarding new staff, price comparison and expense management. There are over 70 RPA vendors, with many adopting AI to make their systems more flexible and less liable to break – so called “cognitive automation.” Forrester forecasts that the RPA software market will grow to $2.9 billion in 2021.

7) Networks transform

SD-WAN is fast becoming integral to IT infrastructure, enabling distributed organizations to address WAN bandwidth limitations. SD-WAN provides reliability and resiliency in the network and enhances the user experience for cloud-based applications. According to IDC's SD-WAN Infrastructure Forecast, the SD-WAN market will grow at a 30.8% CAGR to 2023 to reach a value of $5.25 billion. However, the skills gap remains a top area of concern: IDG says 46% of enterprises cite the skills drought at the top of their adoption worries. Cisco says that globally, SD-WAN traffic was 9% of business IP WAN traffic in 2017 and will be 29% of business IP WAN traffic by 2022. Read more about the current state of network transformation here.

8) 5G goes global

2020 will be the year 5G really begins to take off. We will see more affordable data plans on offer and expanded coverage. IDC estimates that of the 1.4 billion smartphones to ship this year, 190 million will be 5G enabled. By 2025, Ericsson believes 5G will cover two-thirds of the world’s population and handle 45% of global mobile data traffic. Average monthly data-traffic-per-smartphone is forecast to increase from the current figure of 7.2 GB to 24 GB by the end of 2025, in part driven by new consumer behavior, such as virtual reality (VR) streaming.

9) Wi-Fi 6 brings speed, capacity and security

The latest upgrade to Wi-Fi, 802.11ax, gives users multi-gigabit speeds of up to four times as fast as its previous versions. It is particularly suited to dense environments like homes, stadiums, concert halls, office buildings and other public venues. Other Wi-Fi 6 benefits include greater range, 60% lower latency than Wi-Fi 5, enhanced data transmission, as access points will be able to handle more devices simultaneously, and improved battery life. IDC believes that 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will become complimentary rather than competitive technologies.

10) Edge computing breaks out

2020 looks like a breakout year for edge computing. Forrester believes that 2020 will see edge begin addressing the need for on-demand computing and real-time app engagements. According to Forrester, 57% of mobility decision makers say they have edge computing on their roadmap for 2020, with 54% saying the biggest benefit of edge is that it will give them the flexibility to handle present and future AI demands. Forrester also forecasts that the edge cloud service market will grow by at least 50% in 2020, while IDC predicts that by 2022, 45% of IoT-generated data will be stored, processed, analyzed and acted upon close to or at the network edge.

11) Race against deepfakes

The race against deepfakes will continue in 2020, especially with the U.S. elections under way. Deepfakes, basically a combination of “deep learning” and “fake” video, use relatively easily-accessible AI to mislead their audiences by showing individuals doing or saying things they haven’t. These hoaxes are increasingly being used for fraud. Read more about deepfakes and cybercrime here.

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