Fri | Feb 28, 2020

Technology trends for 2020

Published:Wednesday | January 8, 2020 | 12:09 AM

Local information and communications technology (ICT) experts state that 2020 is poised to become a breakthrough year, as several leading or new technology trends will impact the lives of Jamaicans and citizens around the world. At the same time, there are numerous policy and regulatory initiatives that will also impact the tech sector, its service providers, and consumers.

Citing some of the trends, director of the Mona ICT Policy Centre at The University of the West Indies, Professor Hopeton Dunn, noted that broad-based adoption of 5G; expanded uses of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning; and robotics are trends to watch in 2020.

Expounding on broad-based adoption of 5G, Dunn said that wide-scale adoption of the fifth generation in wireless technology (5G) is expected to be deployed on a more global scale in 2020. He noted that last year, there was limited deployment in selected markets such as South Korea and among some providers in the United States of America and China.

“This superior wireless technology will supplement, or even supplant, its 4G LTE and 3G predecessors in a larger number of countries and technology markets this year,” said Dunn.

He noted that key qualifiers, which will likely slow the spread of 5G at the user level in developing markets such as Jamaica, include the high cost of handsets and transmission infrastructure. Poor quality roll-out and support services by providers could also impede implementation. These, he maintains, could diminish the spread of 5G in the local market, where both major service providers are already struggling to deliver decent telephone and data services on the existing 4G, or lower level technologies.

Expanded uses for artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics

On the wider technology front, Dunn indicated that robotics will continue to expand in industrial, manufacturing, marketing enterprises, domestic and business support sectors globally. This, he maintains, include all aspects of citizen interaction with big tech, banking, consumer data analytics, social-media management, and public-service provisions.

“These applications will be even better able to interact with each other to differentiate individual customer needs and furnish seamless solutions, using updated algorithms in 2020,” said Dunn.

Dunn, who is also professor of media and communication at the University of Botswana, and senior research associate, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, said that there will be new applications of AI in medical science, for example, including far more accurate disease diagnoses and better reading of scans and test results.

“According to a recent report in Time Magazine Online, Google’s AI technology was able to detect breast cancer more accurately than doctors and other trained human experts. The report said that computer-based machine learning delivered more precise analyses of mammograms, with fewer false positives and fewer false negatives detected, than by their human counterparts,” he noted.

New ultra-thin, high-def TV screens with VR effects

Dunn said that 2020 will see increasing competition in high-definition television sets, featuring extraordinary sharpness and visual quality to match the continued rise of high-quality streaming video.

“This year, more than ever, it will become clear that not all HD flat-screen TVs are created equal. The competition, at the cutting edge, will be between products from TV manufacturers, LG, with their new so-called wallpaper OLED ultra-thin screen, and Samsung’s competitive QLED screen, with its ‘one-connect’ box for enhanced use as both a TV and game console,” he informed.

Both types of screens are assisted by artificial intelligence (AI) and are far more interactive than the older LED television technology.

Robotic process automation

Assistant general manager, innovation and research, MC Systems, Colin McGann, indicated that robotic process automation (RPA) will be high on the agenda for 2020. RPA is the use of software to automate business processes, such as interpreting applications, processing transactions, dealing with data, and even replying to emails.

McGann reported that researchers estimate that this year, RPA will continue to erode the jobs of millions of workers globally, leading to a future in which up to nine per cent of repetitive jobs could be lost. RPA is also creating new jobs while altering existing ones. He said that the technology trends are showing that RPA offers plenty of career opportunities, including jobs as developers, project managers, business analysts, and solution architects, among others.

He added that advances in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will enhance the tech environment. Both VR and AR have enormous potential in training, entertainment, education, marketing, and even rehabilitation after an injury. Either could be used to train doctors to do surgery, offer museum goers a deeper viewing experience, enhance theme parks, or even enhance marketing.

McGann said that there are major players in the VR market, such as Google, Samsung and Oculus. However, many start-ups are forming and they will be hiring more professionals with VR and AR skills.

Technology to grow crops efficiently

Technical services manager at Contax 360 BPO Solution, Henry Osborne, projected that in agriculture, companies that offer products using computer vision, AI, and big data stand out.

“In 2020, it will become common to monitor crop growth by computer vision. This service is currently offered by companies such as Ceres Imaging (US), Taranis (Israel), and Farmwise (US).

“Robots such as those by Abundant Robotics, which harvest plants and fruits, will become more common,” he added. “The technology for improving crop growth efficiency will also be enhanced by indoor farming companies such as Bowery Farming (US).”


“According to Gartner, Blockchain has the potential to reshape industries by enabling trust, providing transparency, and enabling value exchange across business ecosystems, potentially lowering costs, reducing transaction settlement times, and improving cash flow,” Osborne said.

He also stated that CIOs will see that assets can be traced to their origin, significantly reducing the opportunities for substitutions with counterfeit goods. This will contribute to a more transparent supply chain. Asset tracking also has value in other areas, such as tracing food across a supply chain to more easily identify the origin of contamination, or track individual parts to assist in product recalls.

Osborne pointed out that research notes that another area in which blockchain has potential is in identity management. Smart contracts can be programmed into the blockchain where events can trigger actions, for example, payment is released when goods are received. However, Gartner’s Brian Burke says that blockchain remains immature for enterprise deployments because of a range of technical issues, including poor scalability and interoperability.

However, Osborne indicated that “despite these challenges, the significant potential for disruption and revenue generation means that organisations should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don’t anticipate aggressive adoption of the technologies in the near term”.

He warned that at the speed at which machines are learning and upscaling, the human worker’s digital sophistication will be a ‘must-have’ in the latest technology trends in 2020.

“For instance, the next-gen workforce needs to be trained in augmented reality, virtual reality, Internet of things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence, among other future trends in technology that are bound to make an appearance in 2020,” he advised.

Dunn noted that one of the unmistakably adverse trends for the new year will be an increased incidence of capture and control of citizen’s access to the Internet.

“This was done by some governments, including India, China and Russia, over the past year, and will continue with regimes keen to control hostile public responses to unpopular policies,”he observed.

Internet intervention will also come from governments and regulatory authorities concerned about cyber-bullying, hate speech, subversion of electoral processes, and child pornography, he added. He also stated that government intervention in the Internet may also arise, where large tech firms such as Amazon and Facebook are deemed to be too large and influential to be left unregulated.

“The call for break-up of some of these big tech firms, as well as for greater oversight of social media, will be more pronounced in the new year. At the same time, state and regulatory actors will likely be matched by cyber threats and takedowns by hackers and cybercriminals,” he said.

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