Four Technology Predictions for 2020

As a driver of technical innovation for a software company, a huge part of my job depends on forecasting how current tech trends will play out, merge, dissipate, or expand. Here are some of my predictions what the world will look like in 2020.

Revised Notions of Ownership

Startups like Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit are the first wave of the sharing economy. Currently, we own most of the things we use, from our cell phones and computers to our appliances and tools.

In the future, everything will be shared — yet also personalized. Imagine waking up and ordering a car in the make and model of your choice. The car drops you off at the office you’ve rented for the day, then zooms off to the next commuter. Oh, and that office? Not only has it been chosen to be optimally located for you and the coworkers you need to meet with, but it’s pre-loaded with your information and work preferences.

The sharing system is far more efficient, as it enables resources to be active 24/7 rather than just when we’re personally using them. And because everything will be tailored to our needs and desires, we’ll still feel like what we’re using is “ours.”

“Mind Power”

In the past, we relied solely on keyboards to control our devices. Then, speech recognition technology came along, and now has improved to the point where we don’t have to touch our gadgets if we don’t want to.

The next logical progression is mind-controlled technology. Scientists have already developed prosthetics that amputees can operate with their brains. A new wireless transmitter allows paralyzed patients to control their TVs, computers, and wheelchairs with their thoughts.

In the future, I believe these brain-computer interfaces will be universal. Rather than say, “Hey, Siri,” you’ll think, “Hey, Siri.”

Connected, but Simple

Right now, there’s a lot of excitement about the Internet of Things. We’re connecting everything: your thermostat, your refrigerator, your car, your garage, your garden… That means lots of sensors and meters. We’ll be measuring, tracking, and analyzing even more than we already do.

But in 10 years, as it matures, we’ll see this connected ecosystem simplify.

Rather than gauging if the toilet has enough water, the soap bottle is full enough, and the lights are the perfect level, your smart bathroom can ask, “How was your visit?” You can say “Good,” or perhaps, “Bad — there wasn’t enough soap.” This eliminates the need for so much tracking and makes the experience feel more human. Ultimately, our devices will rely on our feedback just as much as data.

Glocal

Thanks to the relative ease of travel and the ubiquity of social and communication apps, we already live in a globalized world. The challenge is taking a global presence and adapting it to each region.

In the future, everything will be “glocal”: a localized version of a global trend. A current example of this is playing out with Uber in India. Since Indian consumers tend to care more about getting to their destination for a good price, rather than “in style,” Uber launched a rickshaw-on-demand service in Delhi. And to get around government regulations, Delhi users can also pay for their rides in cash.

10 years from now, companies will have to go glocal if they want to survive.

Between new definitions of “yours” and “mine,” new ways to control our devices, new mechanisms for streamlining IoT, and new requirements for being local and global, we’ve got lots of change coming. There’s no doubt about it — 2020 will be an exciting time.