ColumnsExpert Opinion

Disruptive Technologies to Go Mainstream in 2020

By Vinay Venkatesan

Twenty-20 marks the year when innovative technologies such as drone deliveries, 5G, disruptive retail solutions and new form factors in digital interfaces will achieve widespread adoption. The constantly evolving digital ecosystem and frantic adoption rates require quick adoption of upcoming trends in 2020. Below are the Top 10 disruptive trends that are likely to become mainstream this year.

  1. Drone Deliveries Take Flight: 2020 will be a promising year for drone deliveries, as several companies move from testing to mainstream adoption. Technologies that can combine different sources of information, such as LiDAR and imagery, will evolve rapidly to meet the demand for drone deliveries. US commercial deliveries will take off primarily in the US; Amazon plans to bring its consumer drone deliveries into effect by 2020. Delivery service giants UPS, FedEx and Alphabet’s Wing will be key companies to watch in this space. The regulatory landscape is also expected to evolve as new drone regulations will come into effect by 2020 across multiple regions.
  2. Intelligent Voice Search: As the market gets flooded with new voice-enabled devices, voice search technology in 2020 will transition toward a path to “Voice Everywhere” as companies increasingly integrate voice into their customer-facing platforms, regardless of the medium. As voice search breaks ground across multiple interfaces, voice search optimization will become fundamental not just for eCommerce but to businesses across all industries. This will also lead to some interesting partnerships; Amazon is partnering with several homebuilders to integrate its voice-activated digital assistants in connected homes.
  3. New-age Retail: A shift in focus toward branding and customer experience will drive the transition in retail in 2020. Retailers will increasingly leverage digital technology solutions to manage their supply chains and improve operational efficiency and overall customer experience. Retail IoT, augmented reality and AI in retail present the most promising growth opportunities in this space.
  4. Social Shopping: With the growing influence of social media, this year will mark a crucial tipping point for social commerce as a prominent channel for online shopping. According to Facebook, 70% of shopping enthusiasts turn to Instagram for product discovery. As more brands increasingly begin to value social media as a sales platform and influencers as brand agents, innovative companies will work toward reducing friction between multiple buying platforms and building a seamless social shopping experience.
  5. New Form Factors for Smartphones:  2020 will see the launch of innovative form factors supporting smart devices, including AR glasses, microLEDs, and stretchable displays, and graphene batteries from global leaders such as Apple, Facebook, Samsung, and Amazon. The smartphone will act as a platform for innovation and experimentation to allow integration of newer technologies for improved performance and utility.
  6. Microjobs on the Rise: Microwork will become an essential income supplement, especially to Millennials and Gen Z. Multitasking will become the norm for online work; Gen Z is expected to have at least three jobs at a time in the coming years. Amazon Mechanical Turk, a microjobs site, has an estimated 7 million individuals globally and is expected to become more organized.
  7. Cross-border E-commerce: Starting in 2020, this decade will see a “perfect storm” of social commerce combined with cross-border payment platforms, driving demand for instant and fast international commerce. This year, in particular, will be an important milestone as businesses launch innovative shipping and delivery options, cloud logistics, and improved cross-border payment mechanisms, combined with technologies such as 5G, advanced computing, blockchain, and big data analytics, to deliver efficient cross-border e-commerce services.
  8. Immersive Gaming Experiences: The lines between reality and virtual will begin to blur as gaming becomes more digitized, automated and unconstrained by time or place.
  9. Convergence of Wi-Fi 6 and 5G: This will be a stellar year for network communications, as both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will simultaneously enter the commercialization phase in 2020. Among others, prominent 5G service providers such as Verizon and AT&T have laid out their strategies to cover over 15 new devices. Technology frontrunner Apple is expected to introduce its first line of 5G flagship iPhones in 2020. Major home network solution providers such as Linksys and Netgear have already announced their new Wi-Fi 6 products. With the number of IoT devices expected to increase rapidly, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will complement each other and fulfill the demand for seamless, ultra-low-latency networks across both stable indoor and mobile outdoor applications.
  10. Rise of Agile Robots: Robots will become more public-facing. CES 2020 was flooded with new companion robots, and the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 will give us a glimpse of co-existence between humans and humanoids. Key innovation areas include agile robots with swift movements and humanoid robots with the ability to mimic and react to human thought processes to learn and adapt on their own to support humans across both work and play.

(The author is Research Consultant, Visionary Innovation Group, Frost & Sullivan and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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