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Accelerate 2020: Our predictions for the tech year

As we close out one decade, forecasting the next 10 years of digital disruption seems as challenging as it did back in January 2010.

Technology has reached such maturity, the pace of innovation is so fast, it has so permeated every business sector, that 12-month cycles alone - nevermind a whole decade - now provide ample opportunity for change.

So, at Clarity, we got together to ponder pathways for the next year in tech. Our conclusion: several tech trends are ready to blossom in to an advanced, science-fiction-style overdrive - whilst certain tech fundamentals are due a period of responsible reflection.



A reboot for tech, from top to bottom

Mark Zuckerberg graffiti

Peter Bowles

Peter Bowles, Chief Creative Officer, Clarity

With so many businesses having set their “2020 vision”, but many having failed to hit the lofty ideals they set years ago, this year will be a chance for the tech industry to reconfigure.

Successful big tech companies are under increasing threat of regulation, with competing policy visions coming to a head during the 2020 US presidential election campaign.

Smaller or less successful, unprofitable businesses based on VC money alone will quickly have to find new ways to generate income.

Tech enters the new decade remaining a huge area of economic growth, but one that needs to reimagine itself for companies and consumers who have become increasingly wary of its reach.



Full speed ahead for engineering

Computer Chip

Jacob Whitish, VP, Global Sales & Marketing, Clarity

It’s not all about software - we are entering a new age of accelerated physics.

True quantum “supremacy” is coming - meaning a quantum computer, whose “qubits” can exist in more than the binary state of zeroes and ones, will be able to perform a calculation that a classical computer cannot. Google claimed that honour in 2019, but the claim was disputed. Given a little more quantum R&D, however, inarguable quantum supremacy is just around the corner.

Engineers’ bleeding edge will be in the air as well as on the ground. Virgin Galactic will conduct its first commercial sub-orbital flight with civilian passengers. Boom Aerospace will conduct a flight of its first supersonic plane. Tokamak Energy will have a nuclear fusion breakthrough. And True 5G spectrum - unlike the mis-labelling used by Verizon and T-Mobile - will go live, enabling the rise of data-heavy connected devices and autonomous commercial fleets.



Emerging markets get an upgrade

Solar panels

Michael Gonzalez

Michael Gonzalez, Client Services Director, Europe, Clarity

We will see a greater push of tech in emerging markets, particularly in areas such as banking for the unbanked, through smart fintech apps.

There will also be greater access to healthcare for people in remote regions through low-cost telemedicine, relieving huge pressure on the private sector to deliver adequate coverage. Watch as China aims to deliver its plans to cover 70% of the nation’s public hospitals under a government-backed telemedicine program by 2022.

Initiatives to displace fossil fuel-powered devices with lithium-ion batteries and to thread networks of off-grid solar generation across Africa will show how creativity can help to inject sustainable growth in to emerging markets.



Smart bots in the driving seat

Robot playing piano

Leigh Martinez, Former Senior Account Executive, San Francisco, Clarity

Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the use of software bots to automate rules-based business tasks, is picking up steam with enterprise and both small and mid-sized businesseses seeking efficiencies.

Next up, RPA will get bolstered with artificial intelligence and physical form. We recently saw a driverless truck claimed to have driven itself from California to Pennsylvania, delivering peanut butter, and I think we’ll be seeing more of this.

But intelligent automation’s controversy will crescendo. By 2020, automation and artificial intelligence will reduce employee requirements in business shared-service centers by 65%, according to Gartner. No wonder Democrat presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has made a $1,000 monthly basic income a cornerstone of his campaign.



No-code will fuel technology’s next ideas

Making Lego

Robert Andrews, Director of Content, Clarity

Five years ago, bloggers were proselytising: “Why you should learn to code.” Today, that mantra has been flipped on its head.

In 2019, a new wave of “no-code” tools - like Bubble, Zapier, Parabola, Glide and Retool - empowered an enthusiastic community of makers to launch new digital products without the historical dependence on programming skills. In 2020, we will start to see the fruits of no-code entrepreneurship - technology businesses that can test out their core business assumptions and fundamental data models quickly, without burying themselves for months in custom development without a hint of validation.

This will lead to a larger volume of MVPs coming to market at reduced cost, with shorter periods in which either traction or failure can be determined.

Whilst many of them will remain small or will resort to code as they grow, we will begin to see more bona fide no-code business successes like Lambda School achieve scale without any infrastructure of their own.



The insect revolution is upon us

Vegan salad bowl

Paul Cockerton, Chief Product Officer, Clarity

Consumer concern will be the source code for the new food supply chain.

In the last decade, we have seen a massive swing - from a carnivorous culture typified by stuffy, stilettoed nose-to-tail restaurants, to one of casual dining, sneakers and veganism. Diners are the drivers, as concerns over the environment and animal welfare change the food business.

With a substantial market now craving sustainability, technology will disrupt and innovate. Through 2020, we’re going to see continuing innovations in agriculture and food technology. We already have synthetic burgers like Beyond’s, and more is on the way.

Futurists’ predictions that insects will soon be as common a fish and chips won’t come true any time soon. But insects may well be on the menu for farm animals. By raising insects on nutrient-rich waste food and, in turn, using them as animal feed, new waves of supplier will aim to reduce the world’s annual 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste whilst delivering healthier and happier livestock.



In streaming wars, the best bundle will win

Watching Netflix

Sherry Smith, VP of Media, Mobile & Marketing, New York, Clarity

With the number of subscription streaming services increasing seemingly daily, consumers will start hitting the limits of how many they are willing to pay for. The ones best positioned to grow market share are those that bring added value. Often, that value will be, well, other streaming services.

In 2020, I expect to see a lot more deals struck between different services. We have already begun to see such deals, like that between Verizon and Disney+ and between Hulu and Spotify.

Next year, thanks to this federation of sorts, I predict we’ll begin to see fewer differences between streaming services and the cable operators of today.


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