“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”
So said Thomas Watson in 1943, the then-president of modern day computing giant IBM.
To be fair to IBM’s chief, computers were a very different product in the 1940s. That has not, however, prevented this quote from ageing poorly and cementing itself as perhaps one of the worst tech predictions of all time.
Moving into 2020, we’re overwhelmed with innovation in the world of technology and computing. Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, the Internet of Everything, 5G mobile networks, blockchain… the list goes on. It’s an exciting period for both businesses and the consumer.
But before we look at these, let’s take a leisurely trip to 2009. A more simple year. A time when Twitter was in its (relative) infancy, and even video streaming was only just the cusp of a breakthrough…
The ‘Tablet Computer’
Or simply, tablets, as we now know them.
Tablets did exist prior to 2009, but not as a mainstream product or with any meaningful productivity tools such as the offerings available today.
However, rumours were circulating that Apple was working on a ‘tablet-like device’, later to be unveiled as the iPad which launched in 2010.
The Birth of Modern Giants
WhatsApp, Uber, FitBit. Services that many people not only make use of in 2019 but actively rely on.
All three were founded as recently as 2009.
In less than 10 years, Uber altered the way that people get around cities large and small, FitBit digitised and gamified exercise, and WhatsApp killed the text message!
With all of this in mind, what are the biggest tech trends in 2020 that you should look out for?
Mainstream 5G and the (Industrial) Internet of Things
5G launched in the UK earlier in 2019 but it is currently being rolled out gradually. For example, 5G launched in six additional cities in December 2019, bringing the total coverage up to 50 UK towns and cities.
It’s a steady process, but 2020 will be an important year for 5G in both the consumer and enterprise markets, as the demand for a more connected workforce increases.
The benefits offered by 5G include lower latency, meaning there is less lag in your connection. Chinese surgeons have been using 5G to perform operations from almost 1,900 miles away from the patient. This might sound alarming, but it is quite safe. Whereas current network speeds can mean up to a 2 second delay in communications, 5G brings that latency down to a tiny 2 milliseconds!
On a practical level, this not only makes remote surgery viable, but it eliminates those awkward conference calls exchanges where someone on the other line suffers a delay!
How Fast is 5G?
Lifewire produced an excellent article on the true speed of 5G. Using an average download speed, they calculated that a 3GB film could be downloaded in as little as 35 seconds!
Compare that with the 1hr and 8 minutes from 10 years ago – or even 4G’s average of over 30 minutes – and you begin to see the difference 5G brings!
It is this dynamic combination of sheer speed and near-zero latency that will fuel the future of the Internet of Things!
Automation Powered by AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Artificial intelligence is probably already a big part of your daily life, whether you’re aware of it or not. Microsoft’s Outlook, for example, has a productivity function called Insights.
It’s a great tool that analyses your activities and makes suggestions on how you can improve your productivity, but in a healthy manner. This is the sort of artificial intelligence, or AI, you should expect to see in 2020 – what some choose to instead call ‘augmented intelligence’.
Thanks to sci-fi popular culture, AI has generated a considerable amount of anxiety – at best, people fear losing their jobs; at worst, being eliminated by machines.
However, IBM predicts that AI will change how jobs are performed in 2020, rather than eliminating people from the process. Essentially, AI can be configured to assist people in their roles, helping us work more smartly and more efficiently.
And how will it do this? Through automation, primarily.
The principle behind this is to reduce tasks that have a detrimental effect on human productivity, removing the duplication of tasks and other unnecessary busywork. In the same way that word processing accelerated productivity without impacting jobs, AI can do precisely the same.
Data Analytics Driving Growth
In 2020, data is everywhere.
In fact, many companies have the means to harvest large amounts of data concerning their day-to-day operations, customer habits, and productivity.
What is less apparent to businesses is how they can properly process this data, analyse it forensically, and therefore generate actionable intelligence. Raw data is expensive to store on a large scale and if there are no means to gain insights, then this data offers nothing.
This is where data analytics come in. Businesses that can visualise data in dashboards, and then interpret actionable insights from this data, will prime them for growth.
As a successful managed service provider, and a business that seeks to use technology as a means to solving business challenges, Neuways sought to analyse how insights could improve the service we offer to customers.
This led us to developing neuvue360 – a customer service software suite that allows us to dissect helpdesk performance, anticipate customer needs ahead of time, and intervene at any step of the customer journey.
In 2020 (and beyond), AI will help drive these insights to decision-makers. In fact, it’s approximated that 40% of data-based tasks will be automated over the course of this year. The rest will be driven by data scientists and dedicated analytics software like neuvue360.
Automation, AI, and Analytics with Microsoft Power Apps
Microsoft Office 365 is a staple in businesses of all sizes, and more than ever are using Office 365’s dedicated Power Apps function.
Power Apps is software, licensed by Microsoft, that allows for the creation of ‘Apps’ that can centralise data, deliver business intelligence, and automate manual processes. And, as of late 2019, you can even build AI tools using Power Apps’ latest ‘AI Builder’ tool.
Fortunately, these tools are designed to fit the needs of staff without software development skills. With ‘drag and drop’ functionality and little to no code, Power Apps enables your team to create technological solutions to business process bottlenecks – without having to pay for expensive custom-made software.
These Apps are intuitive and based on the familiar Office 365 interface that you’re already used to, and can be used across PC, Mac, and mobile devices.
And with full integration with your existing data, AI Builder, Microsoft Flow, Power Apps, and Power BI can help you fully visualise the data within your business. But it isn’t just about visualising data – through Power BI, your business can use this data to generate genuine intelligence, allowing your business to make better-informed decisions.
The new AI Builder functions as the pivot between your Apps and your data. Using machine learning, it can predict business outcomes, identify key value data, manage your inventory and stock control, and much more.
86% of Fortune 500 companies are now using Power Apps, and uptake is projected to further increase during 2020. With the drive towards automation, reliance on insights and business intelligence, and the increased use of AI – it’s worth seeing if PowerApps can increase your productivity.
Cloud computing has seen a significant uptake in recent years for a range of reasons, and we fully expect this trend to continue in 2020.
One of these reasons is that businesses of all sizes are beginning to embrace remote working. It’s a great way to bridge the distance between employees if you’re working in a large business. And if you’re a start-up business, it saves on high rent costs!
We’re also seeing subscription-based models, such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), increase in popularity. IaaS is the instant provision of computing infrastructure (such as a server) via the internet.
There are some significant benefits to running your server in the cloud, rather than purchasing and installing a physical server on-site, which is why the cloud is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition.
Firstly, it’s far less complex. The installation, management, and upkeep associated with server maintenance is removed entirely. These responsibilities lie entirely with the server provider, whether it’s Microsoft, Amazon, or your other chosen IaaS provider.
Secondly, cloud computing is highly scalable – you only pay for what you use.
With a traditional on-site server, you typically budget for your projected business needs over the next 5 years. This means that you’re often paying for server capacity you don’t need now but might need in the future. If you need extra server capacity, this involves an expensive installation and configuration of extra hardware.
Cloud servers can essentially ‘expand’ and ‘contact’ in accordance to your immediate requirements. If you have less people in the office (perhaps it’s Christmas), your server capacity will shrink in accordance with demand.
Finally, cloud computing and IaaS is far less expensive than traditional on-site offerings. With zero maintenance and upkeep costs, plus you’re only paying for your usage, cloud servers offer the flexibility of cost that on-site offerings can’t compete with.
Many are also turning to the cloud because it’s a great way to improve their business’s carbon footprint.
For example, Microsoft Office 365 has a range of fantastic collaborative tools available (including Microsoft Teams), allowing staff to communicate, collaborate, and share documents from the other side of the world in an instant.
This enables people to travel less often, and send post less frequently reducing their carbon footprint whilst conveniently increasing the speed at which work can be done!
Commercial Space Travel and Elon Musk’s Satellite Internet Service
In 2015, SpaceX, a private US-based aerospace manufacturer, announced plans to launch thousands of satellites into the outer atmosphere around Earth with the aim of providing universal internet access.
As of the end of 2019, 122 satellites were in orbit with SpaceX frontman Elon Musk famously sending a tweet ‘from space’. A further 720 are expected to launch over the course of 2020.
The point of this global satellite broadband service is to provide internet connectivity to locations with poor coverage, and a commercial service to well-populated urban areas. It’s also viewed as a launch pad for coordinating deeper space travel, such as a manned mission to Mars.
In other developments, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is expected to send its first commercial customers into space in 2020. The project, announced in 2004, has suffered numerous delays, including 2014’s fatal accident, but if successful, it will be the first time that the paying public will have set foot on a commercial flight.
For a mere $250,000, you can secure your place on the waiting list…
The Next Decade
In 2009, the concept of a touchscreen tablet was a novel concept, social media was fairly basic, and the Internet of Everything was science fiction. Since then, the rate of technological acceleration has only increased – like it or not, all these things are here to stay as we enter the new decade.
And with commercial space travel and self-driving vehicles on the cusp of a major breakthrough, it’s fair to say that in 9 years’ time the world of 2029 will be a very, very different place! In fact, 2019 might just look a little quaint!