Dawn of a new decade: Looking at 2020 and beyond

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

The end of a decade is upon us. It’s a time of reflection—which means for us at AT&T Business, it’s a chance to consider just how far we’ve evolved the digital landscape over the past 10 years. The technology has changed for sure, but that ‘technology’ doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We live in a fundamentally different world than we did in 2009. New ideas have taken shape that have led to even more significant, more innovative ideas.

The previous decade saw the explosion of cloud computing with emphasis on big data, increasing the capability of our devices ten-fold. “As-a-service” had us reevaluating what it means to provide a product and relishing in the newfound flexibility it could afford. And while 4G put the world in our pocket, 5G (though in its infancy) stands to redefine what that “world” can be. What we can do, and what we can expect to do is so monumentally different.

As a leader in technology, we facilitate some of the best minds in the industry who are passionate about looking ahead to what’s coming and forging the best route to get there. So, what are some of these concepts and new technologies these minds have set their sights on in 2020 and beyond?

1. Smart(er) Cities

“Smart city” is a term that gained popularity in the latter half of the 2010s. It refers to the idea of urban environments using Internet of Things (IoT) devices to manage public services and resources better. The concept of a smart city is sort of ubiquitous; cites have always sought to use technology to enhance their infrastructure. But, with the advancements in AI and the advent of 5G, the idea of a city truly interconnected through a system of disparate, autonomous devices is starting to take form.

Today, we’re seeing the implementation of lampposts with sensors and connectivity that can remotely monitor everything from air quality to public safety. City-wide smart programs are being perfected to suggest optimal routes for emergency service vehicles based on traffic conditions in near real-time. Many cities with aging infrastructure are equipping their utilities, like water pipelines, with smart sensors to identify when and where repairs are needed quickly. It all points to a future where IoT is ingrained within the very fabric of our architecture.


2. Data-driven healthcare

Advancements in data analytics and increased processing power are expected to enable massive breakthroughs in healthcare diagnostics. This is thanks to the granularity with which we can now analyze our DNA. Healthcare professionals can now analyze the data from the more than 20,000 genes in our body, collected across hundreds of patients. Referencing this data while doing blood test sequencing could potentially enable them to spot cancer cells that would possibly be missed by an MRI.

This is one example in which our smart devices are tapping into big data analytics and emerging tech like AI. More efficient remote monitoring devices can provide doctors better insights into their patients’ behaviors. More robust and universally connected healthcare records lead to a deeper and faster diagnosis. As the capability of medical technologies continues to expand, they could unlock new insights and opportunities for healthcare—all based on insights gained from data-driven initiatives.

3. Gamifying technology

The 2010s saw the dominance of the mobile market and the idea that a $.99 or even free app can make millions of dollars. It’s also the most prominent example of entities using our almost primal psychology to sell a product. And although Facebook and Myspace were some of the most prominent players in the digital age to tap into this, no one did it quite so effectively, and so blatantly, as free-to-play mobile app games.

Apps like Angry Birds™ and Candy Crush™ weren’t just games; they were revenue-driving channels built upon piles of research into how their consumers’ minds worked. They attempted to gain a selling advantage by relying on a variety of aspects of the human psyche, such as Ego Depletion, illusory discomfort, instant gratification feedback, and Reciprocity to subtly encourage players to spend money. In the end, it was less about the game than it was gamifying the transaction process.

Now, after witnessing the success of these games, businesses are starting to see opportunities in gamifying their products and services. For a while, we’ve seen small elements of this. Rewards programs are an excellent example of retailers gamifying their business. But as the way consumers interact with businesses evolves, companies will need to consider the value of selling a product for face value versus offering a free product that can drive that same gamified feedback loop.

4. Ambient computing

The phrase, “use the computer,” has almost lost its meaning. “Computers” are all around us. They’re universal, invisible to us. They’re the collection of devices we use at home and at work, all serving as extensions of each other and creating a seamless experience. They learn from us just as much as we learn from them. Our very society is built upon a combination of software, hardware, user experiences, and machines that individuals and businesses use every day, many times without even consciously doing so. That’s ambient computing—and it affords business leaders a wealth of opportunity in how they reach, inform, and impact their customers’ (and employees’) lives.

Amazon Echo is a good example of this concept. And in June 2019, Intel announced its first ambient PC. These devices remain on all the time and are designed to adapt to and serve individual needs. But they’re also providing businesses their #1 commodity: consumer information.

5G and the ever-reaching grasp of IoT technology stand to eventually increase the prevalence and the capability of ambient computing. And although privacy concerns remain a major area of focus, time will tell whether or not convenience will lead to consumers voluntarily relinquishing some aspects of control over their personal data and privacy. But one thing is for certain: the omnipresent computer is set to shape the next decade in one way or another.

These trends and predictions are just a small sample of the kinds of opportunities that could be in store for us. They’re based on the technology and innovation of today and the near future. We can’t wait to see how these ideas evolve and what new paths technology takes us as we move forward into the new decade. And we’re proud to be at the forefront.

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