Predicting tech trends is not as difficult as it might seem.
One of the easiest predictions to make? That Apple will release a new iPhone or that a new streaming media service will pop up to challenge Netflix.
It's also inevitable that we'll still be glued to our screens and that bots like Alexa will keep telling us the weather. One of the interesting things about technology is that, like listening to the train tracks for a coming train, you can hear the rumblings. Apple iPhone sales are not as incredible as they once were, so maybe another player will emerge. Bots like Alexa are hot, so it makes sense they'll do something brand new.
I took a break from predictions last year, but these are the innovations I'm expecting next year. If you have other predictions, drop them into my Twitter feed and let's discuss them.
1. You'll drive a fully functional autonomous car.
It's been quite a few years since I wrote a feature for Inc. Magazine about the autonomous car. (I still remember letting the car drive on a highway in San Francisco, though.) In 2020, I predict someone--maybe Tesla, maybe Google, maybe Cruise, which is now owned by GM--will release a fully autonomous car that drives on its own and is for meant for public roads. Tesla is already close, having automated steering and highway speed. In 2020, I'm also predicting a major automaker like Ford or Chrysler will release a robotic "city car" that drives itself at much lower speeds around town. More important, you will get a chance to test-drive one (most likely in a place like Las Vegas, which allows them).
2. Glasses will replace your phone, for real.
Reports about Apple developing glasses that might replace your phone got me thinking: Someone will jump on this. I'm not talking about Snapchat Spectacles or the Amazon Echo eyeglasses that augment what you can do with a phone (like record video or talk to a bot). I'm predicting a startup will make glasses that work as a phone, meaning a small display that actually works like a smartphone and offers a voice bot, video recording, calls, and everything else a phone can do. This is not the same as Google Glass, by the way. I mean a fully functional phone you wear like glasses.
3. Bots will predict your behavior.
One of the most interesting advances with voice bots recently has to do with the Google Assistant running on the Nest Hub. It can sense when you are nearby and show you the weather. You don't even need to talk. In 2020, bots will go several steps beyond this. I'm predicting they will know what we want. I normally ask about the weather around the same time every morning. That's easy. Next year, I won't have to ask. Bots will learn what we do and when, and offer to solve problems, share new information, or even schedule a meeting after reading your email. They might even predict when we're getting sick (we've seen hints of this with the Apple Watch), where we need to drive, and suggest birthday gifts.
4. Amazon will release a phone, again.
I predicted once that Amazon would release a phone, and the Amazon Fire phone debuted not long after. Fast forward five years, and I'm predicting the biggest company in tech will try again. I doubt they will use the name Fire, but it is one category that is fresh for the picking. With a phone, Amazon can attract more Prime Video customers, and if it doubles as an e-book reader, they can sell more books. Timing is everything. Maybe the Fire just didn't catch on with iPhone users at the time, but I'm predicting that in 2020, even the Apple faithful might be ready to jump ship. My idea for the name? The Kindle phone.
5. Social media will implode.
I usually make predictions about technology that will improve our lives. In the case of social media, I'm predicting it will implode. This is based on a few factors. A few new apps have popped up recently, like Friendly (which is meant as a safe place for sharing), and I've heard of one that is still under wraps that's for women only. A few years ago, competitors to Facebook and Instagram basically gave up. Yet, there's a new trend: Facebook has come under fire, mostly related to fake news and privacy concerns. In 2020, I'm predicting a freefall for the established social-media platforms as new, emerging platforms provide an alternative that is more secure and private.