Savvy entrepreneurs and executives pride themselves on their vision. Great leaders are always looking ahead, looking to see how markets, technology and consumer behavior will shift over time. A great leader also embraces the reality that things are always changing. They use it to their advantage and don't resist the change.
The first quarter of a new year is a great time to imagine how markets and innovations will change over the year ahead. What technologies will be invented, and which ones will hit mass adoption? How are consumers' needs and desires changing?
These questions will help you isolate the core trends for a new year, and anticipate how they can enhance or disrupt your industry, or create new opportunities that most people don't see yet.
Here's a list of a few technology segments that will likely dominate 2020 from an innovation, adoption or infrastructure standpoint.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This is the most obvious inclusion for a reason: AI is everywhere. The reason AI is exploding is because its applications are virtually limitless. It has the power to impact every digital market: from cybersecurity to healthcare.
Expect to see AI-driven solutions continue to receive massive focus in fundraising, acquisitions and competition over talent. LinkedIn stated that AI specialist positions were among the fastest-growing job titles heading into 2020.
Some of the more visible applications of AI includle smart assistants, chatbots and self-driving cars. Yet savvy entrepreneurs and executives should be thinking about the ways that AI will change their industry, or create new ones. You should also be thinking about how AI can disrupt you if you already have a business.
2. Edge-computing for video
Demand on server infrastructure continues to increase as more and more devices are connected to the internet and each other. This is especially true for video camera-based solutions that require constant video streaming.
By moving the computation to the edge, video providers can significantly reduce server costs and add core functionalities that were not previously possible. Investors see this, and are flocking to startups that provide platforms for artificial intelligence, computer vision and machine learning.
Many of those are on the cloud, so look for a shift to edge computing. That's where the trend will likely go for cost mitigation purposes and to add new capabilities.
3. Autonomous Vehicles
This new category of the automotive industry dominated CES 2020. The sheer industry size and growth potential is drawing the focus on car companies and technology providers. There are plenty of opportunities in B2B and consumer markets.
While it's likely you won't be driven by a computer in the next year or two, this industry continues to attract massive investment and top talent. It's also likely that the industry will experience consolidation. One thing is certain: this industry will be an annual top technology trend for the foreseeable future.
The obvious place to focus is on the driving technology, yet don't lose sight on the new opportunities created by passengers no longer needing to focus on driving. Watch for new services and features that will cater to health, focus, entertainment, comfort and productivity while someone is driven in the car.
5G is the perpetual buzzword in the technology community. It's being hailed as the latest industrial revolution (although it's more of an evolution of technology versus a revolutionary new technology), and proponents are around every corner to advocate for the speed and new capabilities it will provide.
The trend to watch within 5G is how the carriers and phone manufacturers continue to invest in, and successfully roll out, 5G infrastructure into their networks and phones, respectively. Also, consider how a cellular signal that can be as fast as Wi-Fi can empower your products and solutions.
Lastly, anticipate what new solutions will be possible and determine how to build now for that future.
5. Finance will continue to decentralize
At first, you may hear "finance" and "decentralize" and immediately think cryptocurrencies. That certainly applies to trends for 2020, yet there's also another trend to watch in the areas of finance and investments.
In traditional finance, we're seeing a shift in power toward individual investor empowerment. Startups like Robinhood are attracting waves of new amateur investors (especially millennials) and most of the major traditional brokerages (Schwab, TD Ameritrade, etc) have dropped, or will drop, commissions and fees for trading stocks.
When you also consider new robo-trading solutions can outperform stock brokers and hedge funds, it's easy to see that we're entering a new wave of finance that is more decentralized than ever. The power is shifting to the retail investor.
6. Retail technology
There's no question that traditional retail has been significantly impacted by Amazon's dominance in e-commerce. It seems like an almost foregone conclusion that retail is dead. But is it?
New technologies can help save retail. Computer vision, machine learning and artificial intelligence can now analyze data from cameras and sensors to re-invent the shopping experience and drive new efficiencies.
San Francisco based startup, B8ta, has proven that technology can create a new shopping experience. Their retail locations use an array of technologies to not only improve the offline retail experience, but also to learn more about customer engagement and product sales. Amazon has also shown what a store of the future can look like with its Amazon Go stores - which allow customers to grab and go through an automated checkout process.
7. Smart Home: Software is the new hardware
Major acquisitions, and the fact that hardware is now ubiquitous, has led to a slow-down in innovation in the Smart Home industry. Sure, everyone's talking about 5G, and big companies are still involved in Smart Home, yet there are few exciting storylines to watch this year.
In terms of growth, the key areas to watch are in software, services and international growth. It's clear that hardware is now ubiquitous and now the value is in what you can do with the hardware. Expect companies to explore computer vision, machine learning and other routes to services in the home.
In terms of international expansion, markets in Asia stand to be the best areas of subscriber growth. Smart companies are looking at Japan, China and Korea for expansion.
What should you do with this information? It depends on your circumstances. If you have a business, then consider how these trends will help or hurt you. If you're looking to start a business, consider how these trends will create new consumer needs and desires. Keep an eye on the future and you'll have a better chance for success.