Digital devices are staring you in the face when you sleep, signal spectrums surround you and yours like Stephen King’s Mist, and phone apps have seeped into every crevice of the fabric of society, slowly and intermittently. It’s unmistakably the age of artificial intelligence, except our overlords are not scary or evil and have no agenda for creating a dystopia for their subjects (at least yet). On the contrary, technology is only meant to create ideal worlds when embraced intelligently and mindfully.
To say the least, digital transformation has never been a ‘to do or not to do’ option for businesses and 2020 has proven to be a landmark year for digital adoption so far. Let’s dive into some ongoing trends.
More Cobots + Humans join hands
Robotic Process Automation was the fastest-growing enterprise software development category in 2019. Collaborative robots are a subset of RPA and are gaining traction as a complementary arm to robotics, working in shared spaces with humans. From lab automation, surgery assistance to therapy massages, cobots are set to transform the healthcare industry. Cobots are now expected to solve the labor crisis in agriculture, help in assembly, inspection, and dispensing in the electronics industry, and even assist retail staff in reducing their workload. Smart autonomous robots are designed to help the auto components industry as well. Cobots are cutting down production costs and helping to utilize human employees better, especially when paired with AGVs and AMRs. Cobots are also making their way into restaurants through flipping burgers and bartending.
Human Augmentation marches forward
This is a highly specialized field that uses technology to enhance human cognitive and physical experience. Lately, it has seen emerging tech like advanced bionic limbs, Google Glass, Elon Musk’s brain-computer-interface (Neuralink), and Microsoft HoloLens headset. The focus continues on exoskeletons (physical augmentation cobots for enhanced strength e.g. wearables for workers in the automotive industry), sensory augmentation to aid hearing, vision (for enriching experience through Augmented Reality in travel apps and gaming apps), and brain enhancement (to treat Parkinson’s, epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases).
Conversational AI takes another leap
Already having established itself last year with widespread acceptance, conversational AI is set to thrive this year with more applications. Enterprise-grade AI platforms have created chatbots, plug and play solution bots, voice+text assistants at maturity level 5 (NLP + context self-learning) to assist all operational areas, be it HR, Sales, or Customer Support. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 70% of white-collar workers will interact with conversational AI platforms. Chatbots are forecast to save 826 million hours for fintech (banks) by 2023. Highly advanced AI also integrates human emotions to provide companionship, e.g. Mitsuku, AI that alleviates loneliness among seniors or Replika, AI for emotional health.
IoT creates healthier and smarter cities
Experts have predicted that by the end of 2020, more than 50 billion devices will be connected. The Healthcare industry will continue to be a pioneer in adopting IoMT (remote monitors, point of care devices, fitness wearables, digital stethoscope, etc) with a compound annual growth rate of around 20% by 2025. The education sector will benefit from interactive touchscreen whiteboards, online classroom management systems, lecture capture solutions, AV assisted self-pacing, smart lesson plans, student analytics tools, and immersive, virtual, simulated learning through AR. The Global IoT education market is set to grow by a CAGR of 18.8% by 2023.
Edge Computing gains ground
Edge computing devices will process data at nearby edge centers without the need for the data to be sent to a distant server, reducing latency and bandwidth usage, resulting in distributed workload at city or neighborhood level, enhancing user experience to optimum. Distributed edge data centers are likely to have scope for growth in smart city applications, cloud gaming, streaming services, and AR/VR markets.
5G rolls out
Aside from the obvious benefits of faster data speeds, enterprises will start to reap the rewards of lower latency, IoT connectivity of up to 1 million devices per square kilometer, and higher spectrum band for increased data transmission. Enterprise adoption will also be characterized by the motivation for agile, secure, and service-specific network slicing instead of bandwidth capacity based slicing, apart from the fact that richer data will provide innovative business models and opportunities. For the evolution and effective deployment of autonomous car technology (self-driving cars) on the roads, there will be a massive push for 5G adoption worldwide.
Data Science is fortified
With massive strides in cloud adoption, big data, and rising IoT, data security/cybersecurity investment will increase, including advanced threat protection and security software, especially in the fintech industry. At the same time, augmented analytics will boost the democratization of data (for internal and external stakeholders) through direct and automated insight generation for all business roles, leaving data scientists free for high-value tasks. 40% of data science tasks are expected to be automated this year. Graphic processing and analytics is slated to grow 100%, aiding faster business decisions, as per Gartner.
DARQ gets DARQ-er
Four technologies (abbreviated as DARQ) will collectively rule the roost in 2020, taking us into a post-digital era. Distributed Ledger Technology (data control by recording transaction of assets – or blockchain), Artificial Intelligence (widely used by companies in form of robotics, ML, Remote Inspection, chatbots, algorithms), Extended Reality or XR (AR/VR for enhanced user experience and learning) and Quantum Computing (used for complex modeling in aviation, cryptography, complex pattern matching, automated cars, etc). Led by AI, the collective growth of DARQ is predicted to be at a CAGR of 16.5% from 2020 to 2025.
Any business segment that exists today has adopted some or the other form of digital technology, be it a mom and pop store with smart security devices or a mobile app development company in San Francisco. It’s the smarter businesses that have capitalized on the future trends to keep themselves ahead of the curve. Could one of these hot trends be your go-to strategy in a post COVID era? What digital oomph could your business have more of? Pick and combine; the opportunities are endlessly exciting.
Sameer Mehta is a blogger and entrepreneur and writes on technology and lifestyle related topics. He has more than 15 years of experience across technology, consulting, and marketing. He has written for Entrepreneur, Exegy Consulting, Jewellerista, etc.