This feature first appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
When it comes to new innovations, 2020 promises to be an exciting year marked by the emergence of some of the most transformative and perhaps even revolutionary technologies of this decade. For the nerds among us who grew up dreaming about Buck Rogers, watching Star Trek, and reading Isaac Asimov novels by flashlight till the wee hours of the morning, 2020 could be Christmas morning — where dreams turn into possibilities, and possibilities into reality.
In researching this article, my choices were literally overwhelming. I felt like a child in a candy shop who wanted one of everything but only had a dollar to spend. It was hard to narrow the choices down to just the six presented here, but time (and word count) simply wouldn't permit me to feature all of the wonderful and emerging tech trends I investigated.
In the end, I compromised. What I've done here is present a taste of several of the awesome emerging IT innovations and trends across a variety of fields, including technology, medicine, and employment. Hopefully, you'll find something that lights the imagination of your inner nerd on fire!
Artificial Intelligence — Hands down, artificial intelligence (AI) has to be one of the most exciting areas of innovation to monitor in 2020. According to author and futurist Bernard Marr, AI is one of the most transformative tech evolutions of our times.
AI is everywhere and its influence can be felt across all industry spectrums. The increasing use of AI is leading changes in business operations, customer service, robotics, and medicine, to name just a few. Thanks to AI, even those pesky robo-callers we all love to hate have become so lifelike and intuitive in their responses that they just may leave you wondering whether that sales or research call was actually handled by a human.
Implementing an in-house AI solution can be costly. Many enterprise-level organizations, such as IBM, Microsoft, and SAS, are investing in their own in-house AI development. The high cost of implementing an AI solution, however, can make AI a cost-prohibitive proposition for smaller companies.
The total price tag includes developing use cases, hiring skilled AI developers, running pilot programs, and incidental related costs (such as project management, training, cybersecurity monitoring, and implementation). As industry demands increase, look for companies that deliver various IT solutions as a service or as a platform to add AI offerings to their portfolios.
Hyperautomation — Hyperautomation is included in this list of trending items to watch because of its potential to impact work. What's at stake here is not just the way we work, but how work gets done and, most importantly, who does it: a human or a machine?
At its essence, hyperautomation is the use of technology to automate jobs performed by humans. Multiple technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation (RPA), and intelligent business management software (IBMS), are leveraged to create tools designed to automate processes and, in some cases, augment humans (which is a topic for another discussions).
Hyperautomation is designed to speed up processes and functions, improve performance, and drive value. In this respect, it delivers. Yet while hyperautomation is a win for business, its success comes at a cost: a human cost. In June last year U.S. News & World Report covered an Oxford Economics prediction that robots will replace more than 20 million jobs globally by 2030, with at least 1.5 million of those jobs lost in the United State.
That equates to 8.5 percent of the global workforce displaced in a mere 10 years. According to the Oxford report, the manufacturing industry will bear the brunt of the job losses, disproportionately impacting lower-income workers. The situation for displaced human workers is not likely to improve. AI expert Kai Fu Lee, recently predicted that, within the next 15 years (2035), we can expect to lose more than 40 percent of all jobs to hyperautomation.
Hyperautomation is likely to be an unprecedented business success, but the potential socioeconomic impact, given the predicted job losses, seems bound to generate unprecedented upheavals.
Blockchain — Another trending technology to watch in 2020 is blockchain. While I've certainly heard lots of buzz about blockchain, I've never directly worked with blockchain and so I had to ask a question that many others have probably repeated: What is blockchain? What I found out certainly explains why blockchain is one of the top trending technologies for 2020.
Understanding blockchain is actually pretty easy. Originally designed for digital currencies such as bitcoin, blockchain might be thought of as a new type of internet. At its foundation, blockchain is focused on distribution of digital data — not on copying data, but on distributing it and (here's the good part) distributing it for free.
To create a blockchain, digital data records are created and time-stamped. Ownership and management of these blocks of data does not rest with a single entity. They are managed, rather, by a group or cluster of computers. Using cryptography, these blocks are secured to each other, bringing the chain imagery into play.
Blockchain is popular for a number of reasons. First, networks are democratized, meaning that they have no central authority. In blockchain networks, data records are open and available to anyone on the network, which brings a high degree of transparency.
Blockchain is also very safe. Once a block is created, it has a unique record and history. To tamper with a record, one would need to falsify the record in the entire chain, which might mean thousands or even millions of computers. Also, since the system is democratized, records are easy to verify and public. Blockchain may be conceptually confusing to many, but it is definitely here to stay.
Cybersecurity — Cybersecurity is a great field enjoying high job growth, low unemployment, and excellent salaries. As the use of artificial intelligence continues to expand and is adopted by other advanced technologies, we're likely to witness a corresponding rise in AI-related cybersecurity issues and vulnerabilities, along with new types of attacks and frequency of attacks.
Unlike a traditional closed system, AI systems are partially open. This allows AI systems real-time access to data and to continuously gather new data. Leaving AI systems partially open, however, also creates opportunities for new types of vulnerabilities and threats. The challenge for cybersecurity professionals is to identify these vulnerabilities and implement solutions before attacks can be made.
Personalized and Predictive Medicine — Evolutions in technology literally touch all aspects of our lives and this is certainly true as it relates to healthcare. Advances in technology can have no greater individual impact than when it comes to improving our overall health and quality of life. Personalized and predictive medicine has the potential to revolutionize patient care.
These functions are part of the P4 Medicine Model of healthcare (with P4 meaning predictive, preventive, personalized, and participative), a healthcare model that promotes patient participation in the decision-making process, along with disease management and prevention.
Instead of making decisions based on statistical averages, predictive medicine uses existing patient biomarkers (including at the molecular level) along with statistical data to predict the likelihood of the patient's developing a condition. This data also helps determine a patient's prognosis and personalize preventative and treatment plans and therapies that promote the best outcome for the patient, and which are designed specifically for the individual patient.
Just imagine! No more one-stop shopping for medical care. As medicine becomes more personalized, patients and physicians will be empowered to make better decisions and patients will receive better care (both preventative and treatment). As medicine becomes more personalized, it will become easier to manage chronic conditions, adverse reactions can be prevented and admissions (or readmissions) avoided, and healthcare costs can be lowered.
Remote Employees — I was first introduced to the concept of remote employees about 20 years ago. At the time, I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread — and I still do! It was great to see so many references to remote workers as an upcoming employment trend for 2020.
Working remotely can take many forms. Some workers live in the same city as their employer and may only work remotely (typically from home) one or two days a week. Other workers may live across the country, or perhaps even in another country, and work remotely full-time. TalentLMS reports that 66 percent of all companies now allow some type of remote work while 16 percent of companies are fully remote.
According to Nicholas Bloom (Stanford Graduate School of Business), Working from home is a future-looking technology. In a two-year study conducted by Stanford, researchers found that the performance of remote workers improved 13 percent (roughly equivalent to one extra work day) over office-based employees.
There are other benefits: the number of sick days decreased, and the number of resignations in remote workers was 50 percent less than among office workers. Employers also netted about $2,000 more profit for each person working remotely.
Remote workers typically report less work stress, better home-life balance, less time commuting, and greater autonomy. According to TECLA (a global IT recruiting firm), remote workers also save an average of $7,000 a year due to items such as decreased commuting costs, business attire, child care, and eating out.
Employers also win big with remote workers, as it enables them to attract (and retain) top talent regardless of where they are located. Employers typically experience an average savings of around $11,000 per employee. While not all industries are conducive to having work done remotely, it's definitely a potential win-win scenario, and a trend we hope to see continue in 2020 and beyond.