- Adrien Book
20 Tech Predictions For 2020
The future of technology is, by its very nature, hard to predict. This, however, shouldn’t stop us from trying because… well, it’s fun! I also seem to be fairly good at it, as my 2018 and 2019 predictions show. Beyond the future of technology, I've previously tackled the future of retail, the store of the future, the future of work... all the futures! So what’s in store for us in 2020? Below are my thoughts on the matter.
1. Streaming profit participation becomes the norm
The larger streaming companies (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon… Disney (?)) will begin sharing parts of their profits with studios instead of purchasing catalogs outright. This will force studios to provide higher-quality content to gain recurring revenues while allowing streaming companies to better balance their books. This also means that companies are likely to become increasingly intertwined and will lead to a slew of vertical integration in the near future (2021/2022).
2. Apple purchases an entertainment company
A lot of people are claiming that Apple will purchase Disney or Netflix in 2020. Those people are wrong, and do not understand A) simple math and B) the importance of culture when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. You know what company would fit Apple perfectly? HBO, with its premium image and content (it is also in dire need of saving from AT&T, which has already begun destroying its inherent value). Purchasing an entertainment company would be smart, as Apple’s earning are currently stagnating. Like most companies, it is also coming to the realisation that entertainment is the next big thing. Panem et circenses.
3. Microsoft makes a record-high acquisition
They’ve had a great 2019, which has set investors’ expectation sky-high. They’re also luckily in a place where they can match these expectations: the company is not taking as much anti-trust heat as some of the other large tech companies, and its diversified businesses means it’s less likely to take a huge hit if the market makes a turn for the worse. In fact, it’s likely Microsoft stock will go up by as much as 20% in 2020.
4. Two IPOs are wildly successful
The benefits from tax cuts and a flourishing eco-system won’t be enough to repeat 2019’s stellar year for well-known tech stocks, and the corresponding investing high/selective blindness. In 2020, investors will begin looking for slightly lesser-known names, with lower multiples, but long-term growth potential. Companies like AirBnB and Didi Chuxing, which are actually profitable will make a killing in the stock market when they choose to go public in 2020.
5. Uber shuts down UberEats
UberEats’ 4th birthday will be its last. This won’t be because the transport company’s branch is particularly unprofitable (it’s actually doing pretty well!), but because Uber is just that : a transport company. As it runs into more and more legal trouble and challenges, and as competition in the food delivery world intensifies, its CEO will announce that it’s time to concentrate on the basics, and will sell UberEat to the highest bidder. This would also ensure a way to pay Uber’s mountain of debt without further relying on external funds.
6. Cyber-crime hits public institutions hard
Cyber-crime is a profit-led industry. As such, we will see a rise in attacks targeting easy marks: municipalities, schools, higher education institutions and research institutes. Here’s why:
These industries have plenty of highly sensitive data
They have multiple entry points for hackers
They have limited resources and are slow to patch
Funding in these industries is usually secured for the next year, meaning tomorrow’s problems are systematically solved with yesterday’s solutions.
Because of this, cyber-insurance will become a must-have in 2020.
7. Tick-Tock is over-discussed
As Facebook slowly becomes a graveyard (both ideologically and digitally), Tick-Tock will become the latest platform to make a lot of old people very confused, and thus very angry. There are 3 reasons why:
It is a Chinese platform
It is being used to both create and enhance pop culture
It’s been used to spread political messages in the past
As such, it is toxic enough to be addressed during the 2020 election campaign (free marketing few companies could dream of). And because Europe is always a year behind (if not more), we will see a couple of “original” “think-pieces” appear in major European newspapers by the END of 2020.
8. Free A.I assistants proliferate on the web
Alexa and Siri are relics from another time (sorry if you just got one for Christmas). As Natural Language Processing algorithms becomes better understood and overly diluted within the market, they are likely to become just another feature to a brand as opposed to an offer in its own right. This will lead to the democratisation of A.I assistants, which will become free to use through the web.
9. Amazon launches an healthcare offer
In 2019, Amazon anounced the launch of Amazon Care, a new pilot healthcare service offering that is initially available to its Seattle employees. But you can be sure that it won’t remain employee-oriented and geographically-restrained very long. There are two reasons for this : Amazon has a lot of computing power and a unique AI expertise, while healthcare generates troves of data, which are currently underused.
No way this ends badly, right ?
10. Deepfakes lead to a dip in a major company’s stock
Deepfakes are becoming really, really easy to make. As such, it’s only a matter of time before a video emerges of a CEO doing something ungodly to a pig. That video will be fake, but it won’t matter as social algorithms are tuned to make controversial content spread faster than truths. The unlucky executives’ stock will tank before the truth comes out.
11. Tech helps the disabled workforce grow
Far from being intrinsically evil, technology can help us in very tangible ways, should we care to think about it. For example, it is very likely that soldiers wearing exo-skeletons is vapid techno-babble (to the US, the life of a high-school dropout is cheaper than one of those suits). But companies using those exact same suits to grow their workforce makes perfect sense : unemployment is low enough to force the entrance of previously locked-out workers, and companies have to accommodate them to enjoy their talents. Look out for talks of robotic suits, AI glasses and enhanced home-office in 2020.
12. Advertising takes over Smart Speakers
Smart Speakers are likely to become a hot commodity in 2020. That’s not news and is not worthy of a prediction in itself. What is however overlooked is the fact that this gives advertisers a brand-new platform to use, just as TV spending hits record lows, and as AdBlockers start to make their weight felt. What matters here is that there are too few regulations worldwide to stop them from using it in the dirtiest way possible. This will begin a fight that will define the 2020s: the war for privacy. It is likely the people will lose that fight, even as they’re winning the battle against facial recognition : facial recognition is too obviously too evil, with too few consumer use cases, while voice activated gadgets benefit nearly everyone.
13. AI oversights discussed at international events
For the best part of 2019, A.I regulation talks were held at technology-oriented forum, rather than in court-rooms and presidential offices. No longer. In 2020, governments all over the world will wake up and realise that letting companies make decisions about and for people at scale is not healthy for a country and its constitution. As previously discussed, facial recognition is likely to be the last straw.
14. FedEx gets purchased
FedEx is part of a dying breed. It is neither integrated, nor does it crowd-source its workforce. The proof came in December 2019, when Amazon announced that its sellers could no longer use it to ship their product. That’s the corporate equivalent of taking a bullet to the knee. As its stock slowly dwindles, it will eventually be purchased by a major US retailer. It would be a good deal, too : FedEx would get more locations to group deliveries and save on last-mile, while the retailer would spend less money on logistics.
15. Amazon reaches financial maturity
What a phrase, ammaright? For many years, Amazon solely concentrated on growth over shareholder returns ($10.07B net income on a $232.89B revenue is simply outrageous). As the company runs out of space to expend and needs strong backing to resist anti-trust movements, it will reward shareholders with the highest dividends they’ve ever paid out.
16. Cryptocurrency makes a come-back
But not the fun, hippie kind. The huge, corporation-issued, privately-controlled kind. The comeback will also be led by China, meaning crypto-currency in 2020 will be pretty much the opposite of what it was in 2017/2018. Congrats, crypto-bros, you broke and unbreakable system.
17. Slack becomes irrelevant
Microsoft killed Slack with Teams, it just doesn’t know it yet. The market however does, as the fancy corporate messaging company is currently trading 46% below IPO price. There is no way Slack comes out of 2020 alive, as most major companies are in the process of integrating Microsoft’s Office 365 suite. Slack will soon be known as the ultimate hipster messaging platform, which all the downtown startups which pay their employees in ping-pong paddles and wheat grains are using.
18. Robotic process innovation becomes big news
We are slowly building better and better robots, and they will soon become the staples of a handful of industry (retail and transport first). As customers are usually unpredictable jerks, robotic will first be used to improve and accelerate various processes such as last-mile delivery or shelves-stacking.
19. The hyperloop has its first success
2020 (and the following years) are likely to go as such for Elon Musk :
The hyperloop opens its first route,
Turns out its too expensive to use/operate,
The company slowly fades from the public view as its founder concentrates on his true passions (Mars and memes),
The hyperloop’s underlying technology is sold, and used all over the world to improve public transport.
20. Interest in “Digital Twins” explodes
In 2018, I categorised digital twins as “Very Obscure Yet Very Exciting”. The latter is relevant today, but the former less so. Digital twins integrates machine learning and software analytics to create a digital replica of connected physical assets that update and change as their physical counterparts change, hence providing a variety of insights throughout an object’s life cycle. With an estimated 21 billion connected sensors and endpoints by 2020, digital twins will exist for billions of things in the near future, if only for the potential billions of dollars of savings in maintenance and repair.
A lot of the above might seem inevitable, and often harmful to society as a whole. It is nevertheless paramount to remember that technology is both created, implemented and shaped by all of us, and that we have a very real say in how it affects us. This may be as small as sending a disapproving message to a corporation on Twitter, or as big as voting a politician out of office when they do not have our best interest at heart. Our actions matter, and it’s up to us to ensure that these predictions either do or don’t become a reality.