Where is the Digital Future Heading?
Discussions about digitization and digital transformation are so omnipresent these days, that we run the risk of overlooking their real effects on our business and personal lives. In this article, we will highlight recent developments and the biggest trends shaping digitization in 2020. But first, let’s discuss…
How We Got Here – A Decade of Digitization
The last decade has seen rapid technological advancement and innovation. In merely 10 years we have gone from 3G to 5G, entered the mobile-first era and are already in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. Human beings now spend an average of 3 hours per day online compared to 75 minutes back in 2011.
Bitcoin introduced the idea of digital cash (already in late 2008), while its groundbreaking blockchain technology is beginning to cause massive disruption in the financial industry and beyond. Artificial intelligence is booming as more and more manual tasks are supported by or automated through algorithms and bots.
Electromobility and smart cars have changed the automobile industry, autonomous drones are reigning the skies above us. In September 2019, Google declared quantum supremacy, proving that the age of quantum-computing is upon us. Data storage prices have fallen sharply, cloud computing and virtualization allow anyone access to massive computing power.
1. Artificial Intelligence becomes human-centric, reliable and regulated.
This year alone, businesses are investing 40.74$bn into AI development and applications. Common examples are voice assistants taking over first level helpdesk and customer service requests and powerful AI analytics capabilities delivering businesses real-time insights and action recommendations from big data streams.
Meanwhile, innovative jurisdictions like Malta are developing ethical and legal frameworks to ensure trustworthy, human-centric AI. The EU, OECD and other industrial nations have joined forces in the newly-formed Global Partnership on AI.
2. IoT devices move from industrial applications into smart homes.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing at a rapid pace and increasingly extends beyond industrial applications into smart homes. More than 31 billion connected devices exchange data and allow automation of simple and complex tasks.
3. 5G adoption brings 200-1000% increases in bandwidth.
An important enabler of all digital advances is the increasing worldwide adoption of 5G, allowing for bandwidth increases of 200-1000 % over the current LTE standard. While businesses are already starting to reap its benefits, other analysts argue that real broad 5G adoption will only take off in 2021.
4. Blockchain technology approaches mass adoption through BaaS-models.
Blockchain is much more than just Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. In 2020, applications of blockchain technology reach beyond the financial industry to cover such topics as digital rights management/IP, providing food safety, supply chain management and many more. Amazon, Microsoft and IBM are offering subscription-based blockchain-as-a-service plans for corporate usage.
COVID-19 accelerates the digitization agenda
All of these items were on the digitization agenda, then came COVID-19. As governments declared lockdowns to fight the spread of the virus, millions of companies around the world were forced to switch to remote work – virtually overnight. Overburdened VPNs and clueless co-workers on Zoom-meetings aside, COVID-19 gave digitization another boost. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put it “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”.
This crisis demonstrates both how dependent we have become on digital technologies and what positive potential they hold for the future of work. Most experts agree that remote working will become more common and established even post-COVID.
The biggest technologies shaping digitization in 2020 are smart devices and the IoT, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, blockchain technology and 5G networks. Adding to this are the Covid-19-enforced adoption of team meeting software solutions like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
The coming months will bring bigger investment in and an approaching mass adoption of these technologies. We are also likely to witness companies seeking to explore potential synergies and a combined usage of all these drivers of digital transformation.
As individuals, we are faced with evaluating the challenges and opportunities these shifts entail for our personal and business lives. An open, curious mind is probably the biggest asset in this process of discovery.