I’ve read some rather general and limited listicles on how technology will define 2019, and not only do they miss the mark, they often fail to give a sense of the macro trends that we are on the cusp of.
2019 is the year of incredible IPOs, consolidation and the emergence of new accelerating macro trends in technology, business, retail and the global economic and technological balance of power.
1. Smart Speakers Are the Next Interface
Smart speakers and Voice connected devices will become more useful in 2019. Amazon has sold 100 million Alexa enabled devices. Google Home and its mini devices had an incredible year in 2018 and Alibaba showed tremendous growth in the space. This means that Voice-AI and audio become more important in 2019.
According to new data published by Voicebot, the number of Amazon Alexa skills in the U.S. more than doubled over 2018, while the number of skills grew by 233 percent and 152 percent in Alexa’s two other top markets, the U.K. and Germany, respectively.
In 2019, smart speaker penetration in China will catch up to those of the U.S. driven by Alibaba, Xiaomi and a host of other companies. Alibaba themselves in 2018, likely sold over 1 million. Alibaba is unlikely to face competition from Xiaomi or Baidu as much as Amazon has had from Google, therefore Alibaba’s growth in smart speakers makes it a sure-fire first mover in the space in in China.
2. Cybersecurity Woes Escalate
You thought crypto hacks and the Marriott hack were bad, well 25 million passports compromised and a $Billion crypto stolen ain't nothing compared ot what’s coming. Cybersecurity threats are ramping up. 2019 stands to get much worse.
3. Advent of 5G
While Apple is not likely to have a 5G enabled phone in early 2019, and Huawei bans could hurt their bottom lines, 5G is coming and it will change the world. Faster speeds, a greater emphasis on the Internet of Things emergence, and the failure of America to keep up in 5G are all fairly significant. 2019 will show a different world.
4. Tech in Healthcare
From Apple to Amazon, Google to Tencent, it’s clear technology companies are infiltrating healthcare with their AI and with mechanisms to obtain consumer healthcare data. In 2019 expect major surprises on how fast this will occur. The problem here is the ethics and regulation isn’t catching up with the Tech.
5. Retail Automation and the Smart Store Scales
With Alibaba, JD and many others hitting the future store concept in real-time, Amazon will finally push its AmazonGo concept in a major expansion beginning in 2019. These cashier less stores require at least 50% less humans to run them and while they provide more convenience to the shopper, they also mean the gradual decline of many retail jobs including cashiers, sales associates and in the point-of-sale industry as LiDAR and the virtual POS begins to take over.
6. Tech Wars Between America and China Officially Begins in 2019
If you thought America had a monopoly on tech and retail companies that can scale globally, you were wrong. In 2019 many Chinese tech and retail companies will show they can scale globally in a successful way including the likes of ByteDance, Didi, Alibaba, JD.com, Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and hundreds of others. The Trump trade war created a hyper-nationalism in China that I refer to as New China, where AI supremacy is now their goal. With more consumer data there’s no reason to suppose they cannot achieve it by 2025. For innovation, the Chinese internet in 2019 is a superior product with more enthusiastic consumers.
7. Cloud Partnerships Lead to Incredible Collaboration
After a bunch of important mergers in the Cloud industry, 2019 represents a new age of partnerships for the likes of AWS, Azure, Salesforce, IBM, Alibaba, Google and others. This stimulates new companies to be born that are AI and blockchain based but on the Cloud. The cloud is where the real action is taking place in 2019, and where convergence, consolidation, competition and collaboration all culminate into greater enterprise and business adoption of machine learning and newly enabled features. The Cloud in 2019 will enable even deeper features and more business value.
8. Digital Asset Markets Replaces Crypto Hype
With Bakkt raising an additional $182 million it’s clear the move to digital asset trading will steal some thunder from public blockchains that didn’t create scale or mainstream adoption yet like Ethereum, EOS and Tron (among others). Circle, Fidelity Digital Asset Services and others will prove that the Wall Street invasion of crypto is real. Divide, conquer and trade in Ethereum. The death of ICOs was only the beginning.
9. Big Failures in AR
For Magic Leap, AR glasses by Apple and Huawei, and a bunch of AR related stuff by Snapchat and Facebook, the future of augmented reality is not as bright as you might think. In fact Alibaba’s partnership with Starbucks in AR has more consumer relevance that these attempts at creating an OS for AR and more wearables with little realistic change for consumer adoption. Silicon Valley favors AR, but AR’s utility is rather limited for the everyday consumer, not is it like the cash cow gaming is, and video game streaming will be. The Netflix of gaming is coming, and that winner will win big.
10. The Move to Video Traffic
Each year we are spending more time on mobile and more time on video, but with streaming competition to Netflix coming in 2019, we won’t be spending our spare time on things like Facebook Watch, but more on streaming and YouTube. The predicted global mobile web traffic will equal 16 exabyte in 2019. The move to video in a 5G world has vast implications on the future of ad-spend, advertising, marketing and how micro video apps can scale further.
11. Time on Mobile Epidemic for Young Mobile Natives
Even if rate of growth in smartphone minutes are slowing, estimated at 9.3% in 2018 and just 6.5% in 2019; that’s for U.S. adults, not necessarily for younger Millennials and Gen Z who spend considerably more time on their mobile devices globally. This will mean there will be a push-back in 2019 on technological addiction. Apps account for over 90% of internet time.
Apps creating limits to their apps is not the answer, but less exploitative apps and more consumer education to defend against the dopamine-reinforcement loops these things are laced and designed with is badly needed. It’s only been a little over ten years since we’ve had smart phones and consumers are kind of dumb when it comes to time on mobile still (especially in Asia and emerging markets), but that could change in 2019.
12. Stable Coins as Serious Cryptocurrencies
The momentum stablecoins gained in 2018 won’t just stop in 2019. In terms of cryptocurrencies stablecoins and STOs both have significant momentum to find a more mainstream application in the markets and to function as actual currencies that could be useful to a mysterious future “killer app” of crypto. Stablecoins are typically tethered to things like the U.S. dollar and therefore have a more legitimate store of value.
13. China as the Leader in the Convenience Economy
With mobile payments via QR codes, to mini programs in apps to new levels of offline to online convenience for consumers, the Chinese consumer is treated to higher levels of convenience than their western counterparts in the old web. The problem is the old web is governed by companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon who need things to remain more or less status-quo.
Thus China has less bottlenecks to create innovative go-to-consumer strategies whenever a new startup is born and scales. This is also because the likes of Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu invest in startups better than FAANG invests in Western startups. The Chinese iterations of western comapnies therefore will end up being superior such as Didi vs. Uber, ByteDance vs. Facebook, iQiyi vs. Netflix, Tencent Music vs. Spotify, and so forth. Furthermore the Chinese Government directly supports new disruptive companies to help them scale globally at critical periods in their evolution like ByteDance is in for 2019.
14. Smart Phone Sales Reaches Saturation in 2019
Smart phones sales are not a good place to be, amid global saturation and slim margins. However Huawei and Xiaomi are still projected to be strong winners as Apple’s marketshare continues to decrease amid greater economic uncertainty in the bridge to the next global recession in 2019. Folding phones, 5G and other gimmicks are not enough to save it, as replacement cycles escalate and reporting on iPhone sales goes dark. Apple’s failure to pivot and innovate could really hurt it, just as Huawei’s ban by western countries will hurt its bottom lines.
15. Automotive Companies Catch up to Tech in Autonomous Driving
2019 is the year when major automobile companies actually catch up to Waymo, Baidu, Tesla, Uber and others when it comes to self-driving cars. Inspite a decade of R&D and testing, Waymo has been unable to lead this in 2018 where even their CEO insists the cars still require human beings. Mega partnerships in the Automobile industry means the push to electric and autonomous vehicles may be slower and more global than we once thought where it’s looking doubtful America will be a leader.
This list is a work in progress and will grow as we head further into the new year.