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TWIFT | Digital | Experts’ Take on 2020 Technology Trends

Experts’ Take on 2020 Technology Trends

Experts’ Take on 2020 Technology Trends

What a year we have been through! Major upheavals shook the planet in the fields of politics, economics, and ecology. And the world of technology was no exception. Here, digitalization was proceeding at a tremendous speed, which had both adverse and beneficial influence upon a plethora of spheres and aspects of life. In 2019, we became witnesses to numerous hackers’ attempts to wrack the functioning of top international and business organizations, but at the same time, smart home and internet of things technologies kept bringing more ergonomic comfort into our dwellings. 

Home security isometric flowchart

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Yet, top industry experts are sure that 2020 has more surprises in store for humankind. Let’s hear what they have to say about the digital technology trends that will revolutionize our lives in the year that has just begun.

Voice Interfaces: A Loud Call to Sophistication and Humanization

Ian Moyse, EMEA Director at Natterbox, has spotted a curious tendency: while consumer demands display a steady growth pattern, their loyalty shows all signs of ebbing. He attributes the phenomenon to the advent of Amazon, Uber, and other digitally-oriented brands. They have ushered a whole host of breathtaking innovations, but are dramatically lagging behind with leveraging the phone. They seem to forget that the latter is a pivotal tool that is able to establish personal communication between businesses and individuals. Such lack of attention results in companies’ outdated telephony systems leaving the customers frustrated and likely to abandon the brand in a short while.

Moyse believes that 2020 is likely to change such inefficient practices. Call centers will target individuals leveraging AI tools that will enable personalization in contacts with clients. The introduction of IVR (interactive voice response) and voice translation will allow companies to focus on the customer experience as the key factor of increasing revenue.

People working in call center

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Simon Johnson, General Manager of Freshworks UK, agrees with Moyse. He predicts further sophistication of voice interfaces similar to Siri or Alexa that will be integrated into numerous products and services provided by companies. And as software progresses, such interfaces will learn to do more than just obey commands.

Johnson also senses changes in the attitude of customers, who in 2020 are likely to get engaged with businesses through all possible channels, showing no preference for any of them. All they will care about is having their questions answered and their comments accepted, disregarding the media used for it. But what they will appreciate is the efficiency of communication on the part of a brand. A relevant reactive and proactive interaction leveraging behavioral data is what customers will expect from businesses in 2020, Johnson claims.

Dwindling customer loyalty as the most formidable threat to brands in 2020 is also discerned by Steve Haighway, COO Europe, IPsoft. He agrees that virtual assistants are the best way to combat it, and making them as human-like as possible is a surefire recipe for retaining clients. Why is such a tool likely to succeed? Haighway gives a very simple explanation: humans like to communicate with their own, or at least with avatars who display similar emotions and empathetic reactions. Thus, companies that invest in humanizing virtual assistants will get a significant competitive edge in 2020.

Data: Bigger Than Ever

All this Cambridge Analytica ruckus has underscored the utmost significance of the next big technology trend that will come to the forefront in 2020: intelligent automation. And no sphere will benefit from this tool more than business forecasting and planning. Adam Bimson, Vuealta’s Director and Co-founder, maintains that leveraging machine learning and AI to that end will play a pivotal role in workforce planning – the sphere affected most by Brexit. Bimson believes that the major challenge UK companies will face in 2020 is upholding personnel efficiency by creating a friendly work environment. And the only way to ensure it is having the skillful staff perform the job they are best fitted for. 

Intelligent planning will be the chief instrument for successful workforce deployment, since respective software will provide companies’ HR departments with all kinds of data indispensable both for anticipating demand for employees and locating specialists with the adequate qualifications to do the job in question. 

Illustration of data analysis graph

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The data supplied by intelligent planning tools can be obtained from social media as well as from some inside sources like product launches or marketing plans of a company. Whatever the nature of this information is going to be, intelligent automation technologies will utilize it to the maximum, helping businesses to recruit qualified workforce. 

James Fisher, SVP of data firm Qlik, emphasizes the crucial importance of data analysis in 2020 as well. Previously, data analysis systems were used chiefly for entertainment purposes. For instance, it is fun to be able to learn the name of a song by singing it. Here Shazam came to the rescue, helping ditzy music fans to identify the earworm of a melody that they were humming the whole day. Similar tools were developed to identify plants, animals, and even clothes by analyzing visual images.

In 2020, Fisher predicts the expansion of data analysis systems that will make their way into the business. Companies will be able to get a full record of the data including their origin, quality, users, transformations, etc. Algorithms applied in such systems will help to find irregularities in the information under scrutiny and recommend new data to be analyzed in a similar way.

Adam Kinney, Mixpanel’s Head of Machine Learning and Automated Analysis, foretells even wider application of data set analysis in 2020. He stresses the utmost importance of causal inference, which will allow detecting the likeliest reasons why consumers behave the way they do. With this aim in view, special statistical methods are applied to provide a record of a person’s tastes and habits (as well as activity patterns) influencing their consumer behavior. According to Kinney, a company in possession of such data will find it easier to set priorities and target specific audiences, streamlining the decision-making process within the organization.

Cyber-risks: A Menace to Beware Of

Of course, the havoc cyber terrorists wreaked in Die Hard 4.0 is an exaggeration, but cybersecurity in 2020 will not be a thing to disregard. This conclusion becomes evident if we note the astounding figure of over 50%: the proportion of all companies in the UK who complained of cyberattacks. Chris Hodson knows it too well because he is CISO at Tanium, the company that sounded the gravest concerns British IT decision-makers anticipated in the year that is just a few weeks old. A quarter of them sees the greatest threat in 2020 in low visibility over an ever-multiplying amount of computers, servers, data storage and cloud facilities, which renders them unable to protect all systems. This daunting quantity causes another potential setback 15% of specialists envisage: the difficulty of managing such a ramified infrastructure. However, a more serious threat acknowledged by 23% of IT personnel comes from hackers who are growing ever more skillful in their detrimental practices. So Hodson’s choice is to either succumb or start paying closer attention to cybersecurity issues.

Unfortunately, the US didn’t fare any better in this respect, where over 70 local authorities were subject to ransomware attacks. 

Thieves hold credit cards using a laptop computer for password hacking activities.

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And this latest technology trend shows no signs of abating. On the contrary, 2020 is sure to witness more sophisticated cyber strikes aimed at the critical infrastructure of the country including telecommunications, industrial control systems, and the transportation domain. The hackers’ money-wheedling attempts are likely to bring them strikingly tangible results if they are aimed at energy or water supply networks. With all this, says Marcus Fowler, Director of Strategic Threat at Darktrace, prophesies the appearance of ever-smarter hackers who will go on milking the state.

However serious the security-related perils awaiting IT sphere are, David Higgins, EMEA Technical Director at CyberArk, one of the top security companies, laments complacency with which many users treat this vital problem. They opt for user-friendly and rather cheap authentication involving no passwords but instead relying heavily on biometric and behavioral identification. Higgins believes such authentication algorithms are insecure and in 2020 they will become the chief targets of attackers who thus will seek access to personal data available on banking or governmental portals. 

Workplace of the Future: A Shift to Expect

Robots and automation of the workplace ceased to surprise even the representatives of older generations. 2019 saw all kinds of gadgets pervading various fields of human occupation and numerous workplaces, some of which (such as a modern office) are impossible to imagine without high-tech equipment. This penetration, if not invasion, is sure to continue in 2020, and the year that has just begun will add a couple of new twists to this tendency. 

The Chief Innovation Officer of Celonis Marcell Vollmer believes that we will witness “human-machine convergence” that will manifest itself in numerous examples such as smart glasses or virtual assistants. Moreover, machines will start ousting us where repetitive or boring assignments are to be handled, leaving creative tasks to humans.

Vollmer calls this fusion shift “augmented collaboration”, urging employers to prepare for it. With the advent of Generation Z into the workforce, companies are likely to face a new set of demands forwarded by a new type of employees. They will be prone to factor the job technology the company works with into their choice. Since over 90% of fresh talents prioritize this issue, companies will have to spur their efforts aimed at attracting prodigy with tempting career development incentives and workplace equipment resources.

Techlash and Innovation: A Balance That Matters

Despite all benefits and comforts cutting-edge technologies bring, some people are far from feeling happy when seeing digitalization barge into too many spheres of our life. This resentment towards the growing power of technologies and companies that develop them was termed “techlash”. Being only a nascent phenomenon last year, techlash is likely to intensify in 2020. The explanation was offered by Ben Pring, whose previous experience and current position of a Co-founder and Director of Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work entitles him to offer insights into the trends to appear this year. He calls facial recognition and deep-fake highly controversial technologies which may have a negative implication for people unless society finds legislation mechanisms to protect its citizens. However, such legal regulations should not hinder innovation and technological progress in general. So, Pring expects 2020 to be spent in attempts to find a healthy balance between maintaining democracy and mitigating the lack of tech trust. 

Another side to tightened regulation, which will become evident in 2020, is the transparency of technologies that keep cropping up. Angela Eager, Research Director at TechMarketView, predicts that this push for transparency will affect all artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) software suppliers. Therefore, both startups and established vendors, who will put their minds to this strategy of designing AI/ML and making projects compatible with implementations across numerous industries, will eventually reap their laurels. As Eager believes, such tools will become a part of the General Data Protection Regulation compliance kit and serve as a hallmark of quality and an imperative for prospective customers (and rival suppliers as well). 

Bearing this in mind, technology providers, however, shouldn’t lay excessive stress upon overpowered selling capacities of such tools. Eager cautions that this kind of explainable AI cannot furnish a complete and accurate analysis. It is perfect for linear regression, decision trees, and other simpler models where it can locate aspects instrumental in a decision. Otherwise, deep neural networks will be largely left a black box as long as she can see it.

Conclusion

Generally, the year that has just set in promises to turn out exciting and rife with innovation and technological eye-openers. IT companies are to be ready to step up their digital transformation efforts, addressing security challenges along the way. In this way, they will be able to offset adverse consequences any technological developments might engender.

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