Srinivasan C.R., Chief Digital Officer, Tata Communications

No matter how much technology evolves, making predictions about the future is always a risky business. But with the continued spread of digital transformation, there are some areas where advances are more likely. Here are five trends I expect to see in the coming 12 months.

5G starts to have an impact

5G networks really began to show up in a handful of countries around the world in 2019, but 2020 is the year when the technology will really start to spread. For most people, it will mean much faster internet speeds, more responsive connection and more reliable connectivity in densely populated areas. But its impact on society will go even further than that.

5G is a tremendous enabler with its low latency, in particular, making the deployment of new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and consumer robotics a realistic proposition. This makes 5G inherently geopolitical. Governments will use the roll-out of 5G to appeal to voters by highlighting the social benefits offered by the aforementioned technologies. Enhanced connectivity offered by 5G will also attract investment from companies across the world.

As the benefits offered by the adoption of 5G become apparent to other countries, it is likely to be rolled out sooner in more parts of the world. Smaller, wealthier countries may even see their global stock rise off the back of a well-managed, all-encompassing 5G strategy.

Advances in connected cars and transport

When people think about connected cars, they usually imagine sitting back and letting  artificial intelligence (AI) take control.

We are, however, still a little way off from a robot-chauffeur becoming an everyday sight on most of the world’s streets.

That hasn’t stopped the entertainment industry from pinpointing passengers as an on-the-go captive audience though. With 5G offering faster, more reliable connectivity for people in transit, this is a perfect commercial opportunity for the media services industry. I predict that the major streaming services have identified cars as the next place for people to consume their content, and  will likely plan to tailor their offerings to appeal to these viewers.

While we will have to wait for fully autonomous vehicles before we can hand over control to a computer, drivers will benefit from a more reliable connection to music streaming services and passengers can catch up on the latest episode of their favourite TV show, whether it is on a 5G-compatible device like a smartphone or a tablet, or on a screen built into the car’s interior.

 AI to enhance human collaboration

While most reports indicate that AI will benefit organisations, there is some fear that the use of the new-age technology at the workplace will lead to a loss of jobs. Setting the record straight, a 2018 study of global business leaders found that the technology was actually expected to diversify human thinking, rather than replace it. AI is expected to enhance cognitive diversity within groups, which can yield better outputs and also help employees become more agile.

AI has the potential to free employees from tedious repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus much more on communication and innovation, thereby altering the structure of work. Work is expected to move from being task based to strategic, enabling workers to think creatively, something that AI is not yet capable of doing.

Increase in app usage

The use of apps has increased multifold. Between 2017 and 2018, downloads increased by a whopping 15 per cent, with over 205 billion apps downloaded worldwide. This is expected to rise by 25 per cent by 2022.

That’s not hugely surprising. Today’s apps perform more functions than ever. In addition, improvements in mobile security and the introduction of protocols such as Apple Pay mean they can now provide better access to products and services that would previously have required a PC or a laptop.

As more businesses undergo digital transformation and migrate their services to the cloud, expect more and more apps to be launched for both personal and professional use – just don’t forget your charger.

Focus on privacy and anonymity

With more data being generated and stored than ever before, security and privacy have never been so important. Making people aware that their data is being treated with the care it deserves will be hugely valuable for companies, while “anonymising” it will be crucial to getting the most out of it without risking its integrity.

Fines for breaching GDPR regulations are serious business. As more companies switch to the use of biometrics for security, the storage of that data is just as important. After all, passwords can be changed but fingerprints and facial recognition data can’t.

Biometrics, undoubtedly, makes life both easier and safer, but the security of its related data cannot be guaranteed completely. That means we will see stricter laws and punishments to deter such data theft.

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot to look forward to in 2020, with secure, reliable connectivity at the heart of it.