The top 20 tech trends of the 2020s

You’ve probably noticed by now that we’re a little obsessed with technology trends. We follow them the way sports fanatics follow their favourite game, paying close attention to every rumour, leak and beta we can get our hands on. It’s more of a lifestyle than a pastime. We have to know everything about established and emerging technologies otherwise we wouldn’t be the tech experts that you know and trust.

Because of this passion for tech, you might catch us casually throwing terms around that we take for granted as widely understood. That’s why we’ve taken the time to come up with a list of all the technology trends that we think will keep us talking for the next 10 years.

Let’s define each of them and how we expect them to evolve over the next decade. Now, you’ll always know exactly what we’re talking about every time we talk tech. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Edge computing

Edge computing is an emerging computing paradigm in which data is processed closer to where it is needed – for example, on a smartphone instead of a server. The widespread use of the cloud and the increasing processing power of smart devices will advance this even further over the coming years.

2. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) – the field of programming concerned with making machines think like humans – is something we’re all familiar with. However, as time goes on it will begin to govern everything in our lives. No technology produced by 2030 will be completely free of some AI.

3. Digital twins

Digital twins are digital representations of physical objects and processes. They make prototyping, modelling and testing more cost-effective and low-risk. By the close of the decade, we expect that every technological or industrial entity will have a digital counterpart as a matter of best practice.

4. Big data

The concept of big data is nothing new, but the ways in which we can collect and analyse it grows every day. In no time at all, we’ll be able to harness powerful analytics that help us contextualise and act on data insights in a fraction of the time it takes now.

5. Extended reality

We’ve already had our first taste of augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies, but their true potential will only become clear in the next 10 years. Imaging technology will become more advanced and hardware will get cheaper, which will illuminate the practical uses of extended reality in industries such as healthcare, education and the experience economy.

6. Blockchain

Blockchain hasn’t quite shaken off its reputation as a fringe technology even though it has been around for years. Security and privacy are significant consumer concerns and blockchain technology has the potential to lend a helping hand. Imagine unriggable elections and unhackable systems powered by blockchain technology – this could be our reality soon.

7. The Internet of Things

There are more than 100 billion sensors currently live on the Internet of Things (IoT). The growth of IoT will not slow down in the new decade as more smart things that can “talk” to each other are added. With each new year, previously “dumb” objects like car keys, thermometers, taps and items of clothing will gain intelligence and join the IoT ecosystem.

8. Voice user interfaces

If you have a smartphone, you’re probably familiar with voice assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa. But can you imagine a world where the graphical user interface is completely replaced by voice? That means no buttons and clicks – just your voice controlling everything within a system. The rapid progression of natural language processing makes this likely sooner rather than later.

9. Autonomous things

The growth of IoT combined with the speed of 5G will make self-piloting bots and drones a permanent feature in our daily lives. Forget self-driving passenger cars, the real future will be autonomous robotic caregivers for the elderly and infirm, aircrafts and seagoing vessels, and armoured military vehicles.

10. Augmented creativity

AI has had limited success with being creative all on its own, but that doesn’t mean it can’t assist. Augmented creativity refers to humans and AI working together to design and create better. While humans are attuned to the emotive aspect of creativity, AI can identify patterns in seconds which adds to the tools for creativity that humans have.

11. Quantum computing

The simplest definition of quantum computing is computation that happens exponentially faster thanks to quantum mechanics. Without delving into the dense subject matter of quantum mechanics, all you need to understand is that quantum computers are vastly superior to normal computers and are getting cheaper to produce.

12. 4D printing

3D printing has successfully broken into the mainstream, which can only mean that something cooler is on the way – and that’s 4D printing. 4D-printed objects are essentially 3D-printed ones that can change through some external stimulus such as temperature, moisture or force. The tech is still young but so much can change in the next few years.

13. Gene editing

Advancements in gene editing methods such as CRISPR are bringing us closer to a world in which we can edit diseases out of the human genome. Family ailments such as mental illness, addiction, hypertension and heart disease can be accurately pinpointed to fixed gene loci and with enough time, we’ll be able to select embryos that don’t have these illnesses.

14. 5G

5G is no longer on the way – it’s here. And in much the same way that 4G transformed connectivity in the last decade, 5G is expected to make everything much, much faster. (About 100Gbps, if you’re wondering). We’ll stream ultra-HD movies without buffering, run seamless VR programs and find fewer uses for mass storage devices once the cloud is 5G-fast.

15. Data commodification

As it stands, we’re all giving away our data to tech companies in exchange for the use of their services and platforms. But as we begin to understand just how valuable our user data is, we might see a change in power in this relationship. It’s possible that tech companies could start compensating and incentivising users for their data. How much do you think your data is worth?

16. Smart spaces

We’ve already discussed 5G, IoT and autonomous things. You can easily create a smart space if you combine all three. The most common example of smart spaces are smart houses that can be centrally controlled or left to self-manage themselves. In future, we can expect smart spaces to grow into smart neighbourhoods and smart cities – all populated with smart denizens that buzz and interact with one other in the background of society like digital wildlife.

17. Augmented humans

Imagine if wearables went a little deeper into the human-machine interface and became part of us. This is exactly what the hi-tech implants of the future promise. From contact lenses to hearing aids and cognitive prostheses, the dawn of the cyborgs (or more politically correctly, augmented humans) might be upon us.

18. Anything-as-a-service

The third-party provision of services over the internet has been proved to have cost-cutting and efficiency-boosting benefits, but there’s still a limited number of solutions that are available as a service. As the maturity of cloud computing and edge computing continues to develop, it won’t be uncommon to see solutions such as CRM-as-a-service, Proof-of-concept-as-a-service and even Workforce-as-a-service enter the game.

19. Affordable renewable energy

Leading minds continue to work tirelessly towards widely accessible and affordable solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and nuclear energy. As the price per kilowatt declines and pressure from the public and policymakers mounts, we can reasonably expect this goal to be reached within the next decade. At the very least, we can hope.

20. Biometric keys

Biometric authorisation is a standard security feature in smart devices. With the expansion of IoT, soon almost everything we need to be secured will have the capacity for voice-, fingerprint- and facial-recognition activation. Imagine door handles that unlock at the touch of your hand or safes that respond only to your voice.

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