If you want to know the hot technology trends for 2020, it makes sense to start by asking the investment community.
Robert Higginson, partner at Par Equity LLP, suggests tech investments will take place against a backdrop of wider societal concerns around issues such as climate change and waste; fake news and the democratic process; social media and privacy; and ageing populations.
In this environment, tech companies will increasingly be scrutinised by customers and publicly held to account where their actions fall short of acceptable behaviour.
Higginson says: “Our ageing demographic means that health tech solutions will remain on the radar of most investors in 2020. We now have the ability to monitor and coach patients, such as those suffering from long-term chronic diseases, using a combination of clinical grade wearable devices, integrated records management and machine learning, while maintaining patient privacy. We’ll see a move to machines taking a role as guardians and companions and, also, helping with diagnoses and the monitoring of therapies.
“Increasing consumer interest in food origin and sustainability, livestock welfare and the use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals means that food and agriculture tech will also be of interest this year. For example, we’ll see more use of robotics to more effectively harvest and deliver food in the right qualities with reduced carbon footprint.”
Higginson adds: “We’ll keep an eye on emerging transport tech, particularly the growth of drones for delivery and logistics and we’ll monitor developments in relation to media and entertainment platforms.
“The roll-out of 5G will also open-up some second and third order investment opportunities. Media players with extensive back catalogues, such as Disney and the BBC, will also be looking for new ways, in conjunction with tech brands, to monetise and protect their assets, so I think there will be some opportunities in that space.”
Embracing the cloud
As the CEO and co-founder of 4icg, Patrick Byrne is in a fairly unique position to accurately predict technology trends. His company, which employs more than 100 people at its Glasgow headquarters and 50 more in Malaga, matches the needs of business IT buyers to vendors.
“We work with over 1000 IT vendors globally, including four of the five largest technology companies in the world,” says Byrne. “We help technology companies to grow by enhancing their sales pipelines. To give a sense of scale, in the last year alone we added £1.6bn of opportunities to our clients’ sales funnels and we’re on course for £2.4bn in our current financial year.
“We help IT buyers to make better procurement decisions by engaging them with technology vendors who best meet their project needs. It is this prospect-centric approach which means IT buyers increasingly use our advisory services on a recurring basis.”
Turning to trends from 2019 that will continue this year, Byrne says: “Last year, the most common type of project identified – over 30 per cent – was the transition to cloud. It’s not simply data that’s moving to the cloud any more – the trend towards hyperconvergence means that infrastructure and comms systems are often now cloud-based too.
“Trust is something that’s earned and it’s taken time for businesses to feel comfortable with cloud adoption. Recent increases in data speed and decreases in cost have made it more attractive than ever.
“This provides a level of resilience and back-up that previously wasn’t possible for small and medium-sized business. Additionally, 20 per cent of the opportunities we handled last year focused on ERP systems. In many cases, those also involved transitioning to
Byrne also points to Edge computing as a trend to watch (although he thinks it may be more of a trend for 2021), as is the widening use of AI. He says: “Many businesses don’t know where to start with AI. More and more companies are offering AI as a service, which I expect to become more popular in 2020.”
Jane Morrison-Ross, the new chief executive of ScotlandIS, agrees that AI will become more prevalent this year.
She says: “AI and robotics will be areas that people are concentrating on and still trying to fully understand. Likewise, quantum computing is still coming and the case for development around quantum is picking up, both in financial services and the public sector.
“For me, though, the big thing to look out for this year is the cross-sector, cross-industry collaborations that are starting to happen in the marketplace. Links and bridges between the digital tech sector, the sensor sector, and the geospatial space are all beginning to come together in a much more tangible and exciting way.
“We’ll see very interesting projects across the tech industry supply chain this year focusing on things like the climate challenge and inclusion for all.”
Morrison-Ross points to how the digital industries now underpin practically everything else, from healthcare and social care, to tourism, travel and education.
She says: “We’ve just launched our economic development clusters for the Scottish cyber and data industries – some of the med tech companies we’ve introduced can combine with solutions that are innovative on the world stage and potentially transformational for the individuals using them.
“However, given that digital now underpins everything, we need more digital skills than ever and that is something we’ll need to work hard to address as a nation.”
ScotlandIS’s chair, Frances Sneddon, as CTO of Simul8 Corporation, points to a growing role for ‘digital twins’ in the strategic planning of large organisations in 2020.
She says: “All organisations are now data-rich with lots of data processes at their heart. That data can now be leveraged through simulation to monitor business performance, identify problems in advance and effectively create a ‘digital twin’ of organisation, hooked into their real-time data.
“This ‘digital twin’ becomes a key player in the decision-making of that organisation as it allows you to accurately model and predict the outcome of various strategies. Think of how this could be used to improve bed management at a hospital, for example.”
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