Blockchain could be propelled from the margins of cryptocurrency to mainstream applications

Iphone charging wirelessly with Aircharge

Wireless charging applications are becoming more popular

If the 2010s brought about new buzzwords like artificial intelligence, internet of things and blockchain, then 2020 could usher in a new decade of technology trends that cement their applications in our everyday lives.

While banking apps and virtual assistants are already active ingredients of digital lifestyles today, industry leaders believe they will soon become more ingrained and intelligent.

Meanwhile, we could also witness concepts still in their relative infancy becoming ubiquitous – think wireless charging, smart ambulances and voice search.

To mark the dawning of a new decade, NS Business speaks to tech experts about what to expect this year and beyond.


Technology trends in 2020

Smart wireless charging technology on the way

Dan Bladen, CEO and co-founder of Chargifi

Never more than now has convenient access to power been in greater demand as a result of our “always on” lifestyles, and consumer demands are shifting to prioritise power over anything else. In fact, according to the latest survey by the Wireless Power Consortium, “battery anxiety” remains high and has increased year-on-year – as 73% of consumers experience battery anxiety.

Chargifi, wireless charging, technology trends 2020, Dan Bladen
Chargifi founder Dan Bladen testing out a wireless charging pod

With Apple announcing earlier this year all devices from the iPhone 8 upwards are shipped with wireless charging, this puts the number of wireless charging devices at around one billion. As we enter a new decade, all the signs are that this is set to increase – with the number expected to rise even higher to around 1.7 billion at the beginning of 2020. Apple’s intention to switch its users to a 100% wireless experience speaks volumes.

In the 2020s, wireless charging will be faster, we’ll see rumours about laptop wireless charging and more and more consumers will be carrying wireless charging-enabled devices with the expectation of being able to power up seamlessly. In fact, research has revealed that 50% of employees expect wireless charging in their office space.

The demand gives businesses an opportunity to monetise on power – the critical foundation to the consumer experience. The deployment of a cloud-managed, smart wireless charging service can increase engagement, satisfaction and loyalty, enhancing service and driving revenue. Mass deployment of smart wireless charging can access and act on insight that Wi-Fi alone, can’t.


More financial services apps

James Harvey, EMEA CTO of Cisco AppDynamics

The financial services sector – from retail banks to insurance providers – has been undergoing disruption for over a decade. And as we enter a new decade, this trend will only increase.

Driving this forward is the need to provide seamless digital experiences to customers. We are entering the “era of the digital reflex”, where our use of digital services has evolved to become an unconscious extension of human behaviour. The success of financial services providers now relies heavily on how their apps perform and, more importantly, how they blend in with the daily habits of consumers.

what is bunq bank
Banking apps became a major part of finance in the 2010s (Credit: bunq)

Customers demand quick and easy digital interactions, and this will continue in 2020 with mobile being the primary channel for day-to-day transactions. The recent App Attention Index Report highlights that financial apps are among the top three most critical digital services to consumers’ everyday lives, and unsurprisingly, the ones that cause the most frustration in UK consumers (39%) when performing poorly. Most importantly, more than half (61%) of Brits now pick their bank based on its ability to perform transactions digitally and 57% say they would change their bank if its mobile app isn’t up to scratch.

What consumers really want are apps that make the banking process effortless, regardless of device and during peak transaction times. In such a critical industry with such huge implications for even small errors, there’s no room for failure.


Small online retailers adopting AI capabilities of tech giants

James Dye, UK business director at commercetools

As smaller e-commerce businesses move to modern systems that were born in the cloud, they are also beginning to take full advantage by becoming multitenant (which means each customer shares the same underlying engine).

This will open up AI opportunities that have once been reserved for big tech and only the largest retailers in the past. AI is a hungry beast that needs a huge amount of data to learn. Now, smaller companies can pool their e-commerce data in an aggregated, unidentifiable way through third-party AI partners to make accurate predictions.

This can be a way to reduce costs while embracing AI as a powerful revenue driver which helps retailers connect with customers in terms of product suggestions for an entirely personalised experience. Let’s take pricing as an example — with enough training data, an AI could suggest when to discount, by how much, or what that discount might cannibalise elsewhere on their site.


Blockchain to go mainstream

Atish Gude, chief strategy officer at NetApp

The impact of blockchain will be undeniable as indelible ledgers rapidly enable game-changing use cases outside of cryptocurrency.

The world is quickly moving beyond Bitcoin to adopt enterprise-distributed indelible ledgers, setting the stage for a transformation exponentially bigger than the impact cryptocurrency has had on blockchain in finance.

understanding blockchain
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that permanently records transactions

While the crypto frenzy continues to steal the limelight when it comes to blockchain, most in the industry understand the bigger picture of the technology and its potential. Going into 2020, we’ll see a tipping point for larger implementations as the enterprise goes a step further to adopt indelible ledgers or “hyperledgers,” which represent the maturation of blockchain for wider use cases.

Indeed, we’ll start to see blockchain go “mainstream” as it enables industries such as healthcare to create universal patient records, improve chain-of-custody pharmaceutical processes and more.

With use cases such as the above validating blockchain and hyperledgers, additional widespread adoption of the technology will drive transformation across society on a larger scale, building on the disruption cryptocurrency has brought to finance to touch nearly every industry.

As a result, new data management and compute capabilities will encourage companies to invest in indelible ledgers to build differentiated applications and collaborate on critical, sensitive data sets.


Death of the ‘bot count’

Danny Major, CTO at Thoughtonomy

As an industry, we have become accustomed to measuring scale and success of automation programmes against the number of “bots” deployed. However, a bot is not a consistent unit of measure, and many organisations are failing to track or report on bot utilisation.

This means that as an industry, we haven’t defined a consistent or meaningful way to represent impact. In 2020, I expect to see a shift in language to focus on time savings (hours back to the business), customer experience improvement and, overall, a more consistent, useful means to measure value.


More dynamic voice search

Claudine Bianchi, CMO at  Zoovu

Voice search will become increasingly prevalent – especially in manufacturing, retail and electronics, where people will buy more through voice over time. As this happens, we will also see more dynamic conversations.

These will be increasingly unstructured, where technical language will begin to resemble more human language. This is especially important in the case of very technical product information where those conversations will lead to higher levels of engagement. AI and machine learning will play a big part in this across the board.


Steve Haighway, COO for Europe at IPsoft

Humanising virtual assistants

In 2020, businesses will recognise that looks do count. While consumers are used to the disembodied voices of Siri, Alexa and Cortana, next year we’re going to see a big shift towards using human-like avatars for virtual assistants.

Many companies will be driven by the need to develop even stronger bonds with their customers as traditional brand loyalty wains. Ultimately, this plays into our natural desire to care about those we interact with daily – person or machine. And companies want us to enjoy the experience of and form an attachment with their virtual assistants and return.

IPsoft Amelia
Amelia is a ‘digital colleague’ created by IPsoft that can be hired by businesses as a virtual worker

Humanising virtual assistants not only works because we, as humans, like to connect with other human beings, but because it is also able to easier divorce our emotion with things that differ greatly from us or are unseen. That’s why we’re more likely to want to engage fully with an avatar that feels familiar to us and displays similar emotional and empathetic reactions that are a key to human conversation.

Of course, it’s not a silver bullet – slapping an impressive avatar on an RPA solution won’t solve the limited user experience that ultimately frustrates consumers. However, those early adopters will find that a sophisticated avatar as the front of leading-edge AI assistants equipped with emotional intelligence will boost customer satisfaction, improve brand loyalty and help the re-establish personable customer services in a digital era.


5G to revolutionise healthcare

Alan Lowe, CEO at Visionable

2019 has been focused upon the emergence and introduction of 5G technology and indeed there has been an abundance of discussions around how we prepare for this 5G world. 5G will certainly accelerate future change and digitalisation within the healthcare sector in 2020 and in subsequent years.

5G healthcare, 5g ambulance
Connected ambulance services could reduce A&E waiting times (Credit: John Rumsey/Wikimedia Commons)

As 5G is in its infancy, the immediate impact of 5G will drive the move to virtual consultations as the technology will be able to better support video streaming between a patient and doctor in higher definition.

Therefore in 2020, we can expect reduced waiting times and quicker diagnosis. An exciting development to watch this year will be the introduction of the smart ambulance with the real-time streaming of patient data and information from sensors and high-definition cameras that communicate information back to the destination hospital – will also be made possible with 5G technology.


Internet of medical things and nanotechnology on the rise

Mike Tendick, VP for healthcare and life sciences at Plexus

Major advances in wireless technology, miniaturisation and computing power are driving innovation in medtech, leading to the development of an increasing number of connected medical devices that can generate, collect, analyse and transmit data.

The internet of medical things (IoMT) – a connected infrastructure of medical devices, software applications, health systems and services – is rapidly transforming medtech companies’ business and operating models.

The medical sector in particular will witness a rapid march of innovation and technology. One of the key trends has been a drift towards miniaturisation, with advances in nanotechnology and the emerging field of nanopiezotronics, where implantable devices are powered by a patient’s biomechanical and biochemical energy – such as heartbeat and blood flow.

There is a boom of robot-assisted surgery resulting in more complex, multi-component systems, including computer consoles for a high-definition, magnified, 3D view of the surgical site.