We all hear about the big 2020 and what exciting new things are coming up from new game releases, tv shows or exciting events around the world.
But technology is also making big footsteps as we hit this milestone. From more practical uses of blockchain to further developments of automation, it will be an exciting year for technology.
This list gathers updates and developments from the top 5 trending technology areas for 2020.
The Development Of Autonomous Driving
Autonomous driving technology has been in development in recent years with major companies like Tesla making advancements within this space.
While we are still not at the stage of Level 4 or 5 autonomous vehicles, we are close. To explain what each level means, here’s a great diagram below:
Elon has already stated that he aims to provide full self-driving cars by the end of 2020, a bold prediction considering the endless list of ‘promises’ he has made in the past.
“I think we will be ‘feature-complete’ on full self-driving this year, meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up, take you all the way to your destination without an intervention this year,” Musk said during a podcast interview with the money management firm ARK Invest, which is a Tesla investor. “I am certain of that. That is not a question mark.”
Whilst the competition is certainly on to be crowned the first company to reach a fully self-driving car, there are many in this race.
Every company is approaching the situation differently with some companies like Waymo taking a very public approach with many driverless vehicles taking to the roads under specific test conditions (covering almost 10 million miles).
Others like Nuro and Aurora have intentionally kept more secretive, with no real bragging statements or deadlines.
There is however no secret that the company to deliver such a vehicle will have the advantage of being the first mover in this crowded space.
Although it is a race, there will be many regulatory barriers in place taken by agencies and the authorities. There will be most likely changes to laws, existing infrastructure and a need for society to accept autonomous driving before it becomes practical to release into the public.
Additionally, many companies are opting to test in ‘stable’ conditions such as dry and sunny weather.
True autonomous driving won’t be reached however until conditions such as rain and snow can be navigated by the systems.
Currently, the AI can’t handle these weather interruptions and it will definitely be interesting to see how this particular issue gets traversed.
2020 will show steps towards the later levels of autonomous driving but also raises the question if people actually want this on the roads. It will be an interesting society debate as many will start to poke their necks in as the timeframes get closer to launch dates.
The Rise of Computer Vision
Computer Vision is a fascinating subject.
The technology has been around for years but 2020 looks like its year for explosive growth.
To put it simply, it involves the ability to develop techniques to view objects, items, places, or people and interpret that specific visual image digitally. In many cases, it is used to automate human visual tasks through AI.
This then can be manipulated for a variety of use cases, some simply for identification purposes whilst other more complicated uses are found within technologies like self-driving cars and robotics.
A good example of this technology already exists in our smartphones and that would be your Face ID tools that allow you to instantly unlock your smartphones.
As mentioned, the technology has existed for a while but 2020 is an exciting time for Computer Vision. There are two sides of the coin, one providing the data and cleaning and the other, doing the actual technology.
We have already mentioned autonomous vehicles that rely deeply on this technology but with other uses such as self-checkouts and production line facilities, the need for this technology will be growing higher than ever before.
A great example of a startup within this space has been Standard Cognition’s journey to providing businesses the ability to offer self-checkout. Although Amazon Go is also doing this, self-checkout is an early space of how computer vision can become powerful and help automate certain human tasks through visual technologies.
Microsoft, Amazon (AWS) and Google are all big players in this space, contributing endless open source libraries and tools to the public. There are also many startups, as mentioned, appearing in this space, all in a race to provide computer vision tech to the masses.
More Practical Uses Of Bitcoin
Blockchain has been a buzzword term for a while now with coins like Bitcoin rising to fame and then spectacularly crashing in 2018.
If you aren’t sure what it is, here’s a quick definition:
A blockchain is a digital, public ledger that records online transactions. Blockchain is the core technology for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. A blockchain ensures the integrity of a cryptocurrency by encrypting, validating, and permanently recording transactions. A blockchain is similar to a bank’s ledger, but open and accessible to everyone who utilizes the cryptocurrency is supports. — Source: https://www.bankrate.com/glossary/b/blockchain/
The most important part is being about to deliver a peer to peer alternative in the form of a digital currency where through decentralization, can act on its own without the need for financial institutions.
However, with the hype of 2017 and subsequent crash in 2018, most coins were in fact non-practical.
A good example was one of the most famous ‘alt-coins’ called Dogecoin. Made by Jackson Palmer as a joke, it reached a max capitalization of 2 billion at one point. Even he was surprised it took off and he even made it very clear to investors that it was a joke coin.
When I jokingly tweeted about “investing in Dogecoin” in late 2013, I never imagined that the tongue-in-cheek cryptocurrency I had just brought into the world would still be around in the year 2018, let alone hit a $2 billion market cap like it just did over the weekend.
However, 2020 shines a new light on blockchain.
We’ve been talking about it for a few years and although it’s been slow to be commercially deployed, it is happening especially within certain industries like the financial industry.
So what’s an example of a practical use case?
Well, let’s do an example involving an enterprise company.
Everyone (or most people) has heard of Salesforce.
If you didn’t know, Salesforce is one of the world’s leading CRM systems, connecting sales teams across the globe. Salesforce is just one example of an enterprise company moving towards blockchain to help decentralize data.
They understand that there are major concerns about the centralization of data and many companies depend on Salesforce to handle its data.
By partnering with Hyperledger, they now have the ability to “decentralize some of that dependency” so there’s a full copy of data sitting at every note (and these nodes don’t necessarily have to sit with Salesforce).
One of the reasons why HyperLedger has stood out because they aren’t focused on cryptocurrencies and tokens as many have been in the past.
“You’ll never see a Hyperledger coin,” he said, “By not pushing a currency, we avoid so many political challenges of having to maintain a globally consistent currency.”” — By Brian Behlendorf
In short, it’s focusing on the bigger enterprise picture instead of tokens and ‘mining’. By focusing on building industrial applications of blockchain technology and avoiding the ‘get-rich’ schemes, it has allowed the platform to create an enterprise-grade, open-source distributed ledger framework.
Hyperledger, however, isn’t’ the only one that is bringing practicality to blockchain.
Here are some other practical Use Cases
- RiskBlock: Proof of insurance product
- Ujomusic: Application to help artists track royalties
- Helium: Decentralized machine network to simplify connecting to the internet
Future Human Augmentation
Human Augmentation has been more of a topic that is hidden under the ropes compared to some of the other trends listed here.
In short, Human Augmentation is the field of research in which it aims to enhance human abilities through either technology or medicine.
In a way, human augmentation has been around for centuries. Wearable technologies such as glasses have enhanced human vision and have been nonintrusive to the human body.
But what is 2020 bringing to the market?
There have been some dazzling efforts within human augmentation, especially in the medical space. French scientists this year, was able to restore mobility to a quadriplegic man who had spent four years paralyzed after a 50 feet accident. Using an exoskeleton controlled by his mind, the 30-year-old man was able to walk around 10 meters with his mind.
Beyond looking at medical applications, exoskeleton suits may actually be introduced to further enhance our physical abilities, especially ones that require carrying heavyweights. These could include soldiers, firefighters and more.
The biggest area of augmented technology that is predicted to appear in 2020 is AR (Augmented Reality) glasses. Although this has been attempted with Google in the past in 2015, other tech companies (including Google again) will be debuting their products into the market in 2020.
Apple is one of the main headliners, reportedly launching AR Smart Glasses in 2020. Not only will it likely provide a microphone and camera attached to the glasses but also their own voice assistant. Facebook has also been noted to be working on an augmented product on its own as well.
In the world of human augmentation, it will be interesting to see what other products come out in 2020. It’s important to note that many of these developments will be more on the wearable side than physical enhancements.
This, however, does not mean this won’t eventually happen and there might be future ethical debates within this space.
We’ve talked about automation in one sense within self-driving vehicles. Hyperautomation, however, looks at how we can apply advanced technologies like AI to better power humans and help automate processes.
One concept that exists under this branch is called robotic process automation (RPA). Robotics has always been around, especially within manufacturing to automate repeatable tasks. However, it’s become much more which is what hyperautomation is all about.
By incorporating intelligent business management software and AI into automation, we are looking to intelligently automate these processes to the next level.
This means instead of just replacing human involvement within the physical side of the task but also the digital parts which means eventually automating the entirety of the decision making process.
This has already been happening within certain spaces like rental cars. Rental car companies, for example, are exploring how to use automated systems to allow customers to rent a car or get other customer service tasks completed.
Overall, 2020 looks like an exciting technology era from fully self-driving cars to new wearable technologies.
With many predictions, only time will tell what will actually come into the market.