6 Tech Trends to Look Out for in 2020
From human augmentation to green tech to 5G, we look at six emerging trends for venture capitalists to look out for in the year ahead.
1. The Internet of Bodies
The Internet of Bodies (IoB) essentially uses the human body as a data platform. The concept may seem a little odd, but it is actually quite exciting, considering how many opportunities it can create.
IoB is essentially an extension of the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled by the proliferation of wearable technologies. Our bodies are essentially connected to the internet via a variety of devices that may be implanted, ingested, or otherwise connected to us. These devices can be controlled remotely; they can produce large streams of real-time data on the individual’s health. Examples include wearable devices like Fitbits or Apple Watches, but also digital pills and pacemakers. The advanced devices can automatically respond to changes in the body: for example, an automated insulin pump that can detect changes in blood sugar levels and release insulin accordingly.
2. Sleep Tech
It is staggering how few of us fail to get a decent night’s sleep. It sounds shocking, but some studies indicate global sleep irregularities could cause more societal issues than terrorism, with scientists identifying the physical impact of sleep deprivation as on par with alcohol intoxication. Lack of sleep costs more than $411 billion each year in the United States alone.
Sleep tech is therefore a market with vast potential. Many gadgets have been developed to aid sleep. From special night lights designed to dim and help the user drift off, to musical pillows, to rings that stop you from storing, analysts predict that sleep tech will continue to be big business in 2020.
3. Green Tech
Green technology is an umbrella term used to describe environmentally friendly technologies. The term green tech is also applied within the energy industry to describe technologies that underpin clean energy production.
Rather than relying on fossil fuels, green tech often utilises solar, wind, and other energy sources that are considered less damaging to the environment. Although the market is relatively young, it’s been around for a while and has attracted a vast amount of interest from forward-thinking venture capitalists in response to climate change and growing scarcity of natural resources.
The overall aim of green tech is to protect and rehabilitate the environment. Examples include waste recycling, marine solar, water purification and reuse, energy storage for solar and wind energy, autonomous greenhouses, and renewable hydrogen as a fuel source.
Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon, estimates that half of all Americans will have access to 5G by the end of 2020. By August 2019, the mobile telecom giant had provided nine US cities with 5G access via its high-frequency millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum.
The benefits of 5G are considerable, from faster data speeds that will facilitate high speed remote work, to higher device capacity and greater adoption of the IoT.
In 2019, T-Mobile and AT&T also unveiled plans to take 5G nationwide throughout 2020. At the moment, there are not many 5G phones available, and those that are do not come cheap. Nevertheless, experts predict that as the new technology is rolled out, we will see massive growth in this area, with manufacturers developing cheaper, more efficient devices.
Many cite hyper-automation as the number-one strategic technology trend for 2020. The concept encompasses several technologies that increase our ability to automate work.
Robot process automation (RPA) lies at the heart of hyper-automation. The term also includes data analytics, process mining, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies that will expand automation further.
From advanced analytics, to AI capabilities like machine learning, to intelligent optical character recognition (OCR), hyper-automation is predicted to have a revolutionary impact across several industries.
6. Human Augmentation
Human augmentation is an area of biomedicine that aims to enhance human physical capabilities through tech and medicine.
Historically, this was achieved by prescribing drugs and chemicals known to improve human performance or by installing implants through surgery. Nevertheless, both forms are invasive. Non-invasive human augmentation is possible via external tools, such as microscopes, eyeglasses, binoculars, or highly sensitive microphones. Scientists have developed ways to use augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and multimodal interaction technologies to expand human capabilities.
Human augmentation could have revolutionary medical potential, particularly in the field of prosthetics. Tests on brain-computer interfaces are currently underway to assess their viability in allowing amputees to organically control prosthetic limbs. Such advancements could have life-altering potential and a variety of applications. The knowledge gained from this research could eventually allow us to reverse paralysis.
In terms of venture capital investment, as we move through 2020, there’s no shortage of promising opportunities. From improving communication, to advancing automation to simply making our lives better, breakthroughs in digital technologies are creating huge market potential.