The world according to Alibaba, Gartner, Accenture et al

Published on the 22/01/2020 | Written by Heather Wright

Tech Trends 2020

From data intelligence to hyper-connected manufacturing to the next generation of computation…

What would the start of a new year – and a new decade to boot – be without a trends report? There are plenty to choose from, with everyone from Gartner and Accenture to Alibaba, SAP Concur and Juniper weighing in on the year ahead.

But while 2020 sounds as if it should be a time of flying cars, a la The Jetsons, (or at least flying taxis courtesy of Uber), drone deliveries, cryptocurrency dominance, quantum computing and robot workforces, reality may be a little more down to earth as businesses continue to grapple with integrating the ‘hot’ technologies into business in a meaningful way.

“Enterprises are wishing to innovate, and in doing so, need their networks to be secure, reliable and resilient.”

We cast an eye over the multitude of ‘2020 hot technology’ lists for some of the key offerings predicted to be coming down the line this year.

AI gets more human
Alibaba’s research arm, the Alibaba DAMO (Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook) Academy, says 2020 is the year we’ll see AI evolve from perceptual intelligence to cognitive intelligence.

Cognitive intelligence – which requires logical reasoning, external knowledge or domain migration – remains in its infancy.

Drawing inspiration from cognitive psychology, brain science and human social history, combined with techniques like cross domain knowledge graph, causality inference and continuous learning, cognitive intelligence will enable machines to better understand and utilise knowledge, rather than simply perceive and express information.

While humans get augmented
On the flip side, Gartner is forecasting increasing focus on the often-controversial trend of human augmentation, which focuses on the use of technology to enhance an individual’s cognitive and physical experiences.

While using CRISPR technologies to augment genes might have significant ethical consequences – and be beyond 2020 – the use of wearables to improve safety in the mining industry or to increase worker productivity in other sectors including retail, might just be on the cards.

Says Gartner: “Over the next 10 years increasing levels of physical and cognitive human augmentation will become prevalent as individuals seek personal enhancements. This will create a new ‘consumerisation’ effect where employees seek to exploit their personal enhancements – and even extend them – to improve their office environment.”

Self-driving networks
Another variation of the AI theme, self-driving networks have been on Juniper Network’s hit list for many years and Bruce Bennie, Juniper Networks A/NZ regional vice president, says as the explosion of data enabled by 5G increases in 2020 the necessity for autonomous networks – which can self-configure, monitor, manage, correct, defend and analyse with little human intervention – will become even more prominent.

“Coming into 2020, enterprises are wishing to innovate, and in doing so, need their networks to be secure, reliable and resilient,” Bennie says. “Advances in AI-technology and the self-driving network will allow this innovation to occur.”

Computation goes next-gen
Today’s architecture, with memory and processor separate, means computation requires data to move back and forth between the memory and processor. But with the rapid development of data-driven AI algorithms in recent years, the hardware is causing a bottleneck for more advanced algorithms, says DAMO. The solution? Processing-in-Memory architecture, which fuses memory and processor together and allows computations to be performed where data is stored.

“We believe the innovations on PIM architecture are the tickets to next generation AI,” DAMO says.

Machine learning goes routine for SMBs
Speaking of machine learning, SAP Concur says 2020 will see machine learning moving from being a novelty to a routine function for SMBs across New Zealand and Australia.

“Using ML, automated systems will increasingly anticipate business needs, whether they be related to expense reports, scheduling, or other processes.

“It will do all or a portion of certain tasks, with more accuracy and speed than a human being.”

SAP Concur says it is working on areas pre-filling travel itineraries and predicting the location of expenses based on previous trips.

“ML therefore eliminates mundane operational duties, allowing employees to put more energy towards creative and productive work.”

Hyperconnected manufacturing
The rapid development of IoT devices, 5G, cloud computing and edge computing will drive hyperconnected manufacturing, with information systems, communications systems and industrial control systems ‘fusing’.

“Through advanced Industrial IoT, manufacturing companies can achieve automation of machines, in-factory logistics and production scheduling, as a way to realise C2B smart manufacturing,” DAMO says.

“In addition, interconnected industrial systems can adjust and coordinate the production capability of both upstream and downstream vendors. Ultimately it will significantly increase the manufacturers’ productivity and profitability.”

Digital doubles
Digital twins are going personal in 2020 according to Accenture’s Fjord Trends 2020 report, and it’s a trend the professional services company says will be important for New Zealand and Australia.

“In the beginning, digital doubles will open up a whole new world of personalised entertainment opportunities,” Accenture says. “Eventually, it is probable that they will become a virtual home for all of our data, a single digital gatekeeper to our personal lives, over which we’ll have control (in theory, at least). People will likely soon use digital doubles to serve their own interests over those of third parties who gather and use their personal data.”

While they might be personal, digital doubles will have big ramifications for businesses too, with Accenture saying brands and public services must learn how to design for digital twins.

“Organisations in financial services, healthcare and the workplace will increasingly recognise digital doubles as essential tools to predict, optimise and personalise customer solutions. And that has the power to change everything.

“Businesses that want to succeed must ask themselves two critical questions: How can we show people that they can trust us with their personal digital twins? How can we design digital double customer experiences that are safe, secure and engaging?

On the cybersecurity side, there’s no real surprises. Nick FitzGerald, ESET senior research fellow says the risks posed by emerging technology remain as pervasive and serious as ever.

Ransomware attacks remain a key area of concern for businesses, particularly as companies – and cities – integrate IoT devices into their operations. Deepfakes and other machine learning driven technologies have the potential to increasingly impact, while fake news continues to be an issue.

Updates to the Privacy Act in Australia, meanwhile, will make it more expensive for organisations which fail to protect sensitive data, prompting organisations to proactively improve their data security, FitzGerald says.

The purpose driven workplace
It’s not all just about tech though. SAP Concur says 2020 will also be the year of the purpose driven workplace, as millennials take over – they’re projected to make up half of all workers this year.

“Organisations will adjust their missions to more clearly demonstrate the business’s societal, environmental, and nonprofit impact as they look to connect to a purpose beyond profit. Purpose-driven workplaces tend to deliver better financial performance through attracting and retaining top talent and increasing engagement and productivity among current employees.”

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