Monday 6 January 2020 4:29 am

The top tech predictions for 2020

Welcome to 2020. After a week or more of festive cheer and turkey-induced fatigue, it’s time to get back to work. But don’t despair. The year — and decade — ahead is set to be an exciting one, especially in the world of technology. 

To find out what changes may lie ahead, City A.M. asked several experts for their 2020 tech predictions.

Streaming wars to heat up

Netflix’s crown as the champion of digital streaming was challenged last year as several rival platforms were launched. This battle for customers is set to ratchet up in the year ahead, according to Charlie Johnson, vice president of Digital Element.

“Christmas is the perfect time to get cosy on the sofa with a Netflix box set or an Amazon Prime movie. Video streaming has become synonymous with the festive season, but by next December the streaming market could look very different, with a host of new services competing for subscriptions and various content creators taking the decision to stream directly via their own platforms,” she says. 

“From the recent launches of Apple TV+ and BritBox, to the imminent arrival of Disney+ in the UK, competition in the video streaming market is heating up. The race is on for the streaming providers to stay ahead of their rivals and offer the best value for money and the most exciting content, as viewers decide which service they put at the top of their Christmas lists.”

Digital trust on the agenda

The final years of the 2010s saw a seismic change in consumers’ relationship with the internet. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the fake news epidemic and the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), people began to take their privacy more seriously and question what the tech giants were doing with their personal data. 

As a result, public trust in brands and internet providers is at a low. Rebuilding that trust, as well as gaining consumers’ consent and being more transparent, will be priorities in the year ahead for many companies.

“Most people are still unclear on how internet browsers collect, store, share, and use their information,” says Chris Hogg, managing director at data management company Lotame.

“In 2020, consent will be a priority for brands, businesses, and major browsers. A catalyst for this is the ever-increasing control that consumers have over their personal data, which I believe will soon include the choice to decide what information you wish to share, as well as what you want to delete.

“In the year ahead, brands and browsers that operate in an open and transparent manner, giving consumers full control over the use of their data, will prosper, while companies with poor data ethics will be left out in the cold.”

An advent for adverts

Did you know that 2019 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first online ad? In spite of this notable landmark, last year was a bad one for advertising, with many adverts proving divisive (see Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be”) or downright offensive (Philadelphia and Volkswagen had their ads banned for depicting harmful gender stereotypes, while Peloton’s Christmas ad was accused of sexism). 

Will 2020 see an improvement? Lucy Hahn, head of client operations at Flashtalking, argues that ads need better creativity.

“While the technology has developed to enable brands to make ads more personal and relevant, the creative aspect has been left behind,” she says. 

“The success of Christmas ads, from John Lewis and Aldi, serve as a recent reminder of the power of a great creative to drive consumer engagement. 

“We predict that in the year ahead, as brands seek to cut through the ever-growing digital noise, there will be a creative renaissance with a return to the art of storytelling and the end of consumers being bombarded with dull, intrusive ads.”

Blockchain’s time to shine

While blockchain is mostly associated with bitcoin, the last decade saw a lot of excitement about the commercial opportunities of other digital ledger technology. However, much of this simply turned out to be noise. Will blockchain finally realise its potential in the year ahead?

“The drop in enthusiasm for blockchain in 2019 was not surprising: the technologies were never going to live up to the media hype,” says Jonathan Emmanuel, partner at international law firm Bird & Bird.  

“However, as we look towards 2020, it is not all doom and gloom. Following the completion of R&D programmes and pilots (some unsuccessful), organisations have begun to understand the specific benefits of particular blockchain platforms and the use cases that they can be appropriately deployed towards.”

Emmanuel thinks that blockchain networks will focus on practical uses based on data transparency, information exchange, and identity management. And he’s not alone. 

“Over the next decade, I expect to see a number of innovations take centre stage in the retail industry, but top of the list would have to be blockchain enabling full transparency and visibility on products’ provenance, enabling consumers to track goods ‘from farm to fork’,” predicts Markus Stripf, chief executive and co-founder of Spoon Guru.

More viruses detected

A less positive prediction for the year ahead is that cyber security problems are likely to only get worse, as hackers and criminals get smarter and gain access to better technology.

“Looking into the crystal ball, it seems entirely predictable that 2020 will see further significant cyber security breaches occurring globally, and no let-up in the rate of lesser breaches,” warns Simon Shooter, partner at Bird & Bird.

“We’ll also see the continued blurring of state actor and guns-for-hire activities, and a further greying of the border between war, terrorism, crime, and hacktivism. There will be more — and more granular — regulation and regulatory guidance, as well as the imposition of regulatory fines. There will be a significant rise in cost of cyber insurance, and lastly, the escalation of the cyber war — with artificial intelligence being used on both sides of the divide.”

So perhaps a mixed outlook for the year ahead, but what may be more exciting are the technological changes that no one even knows about yet. 

A new tech trend or innovation could take us all by surprise and transform markets, the economy, and our daily lives. The roaring twenties are set to be an exciting time.

Main image credit: Getty