4 Interconnected Digital Trends That Will Shape 2019

OPINION / 3rd January 2019

2019 will be the year we see rapid advancement in technology that fuels four interdependent digital trends, which will transform the world within which we work.

Here, we take a look at the four digital trends that will dominate in 2019:

5G

The telecoms provider EE announced that it will roll out 5G services in 16 cities across the UK in 2019. The first six cities to benefit will be London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.

The coverage won't be total, but be offered in the busiest parts including Hyde Park in London, Manchester Arena, Belfast City Airport, the Welsh Assembly, Edinburgh Waverley train station and Birmingham's Bullring.

5G will vastly improve mobile internet access speeds for users – up to 1Gbps versus current real-world speeds of 1-200Mbps. To put that into context, users will be able to download (not just stream) a full HD movie in less than 10 seconds on a 5G network. The same task would take closer to 10 minutes on 4G.

A report by Ericsson, released in partnership with consulting firm Arthur D. Little, said that 5G is “going to change the way we work, play, and interact”.

5G will be one of the major technologies facilitating the growth in industrial digitalisation. It will enhance public transport by connecting buses and trains, enabling travel operators to release real-time route information for passengers, as well as, for example, say which trains have seats still available whilst they are in the station.

5G will power networks at speeds far greater than the current 4G. This means it will be able to process the increase in volume of data being generated by the 34 billion devices currently connected to the network. This will pave the way for connected smart cities, autonomous driving and will unleash the power of the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT

IoT will begin to flourish as the 5G network expands across the UK. It is predicted that by 2020, 50 to 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet.

This will revolutionise several industries, specifically manufacturing. Use of sensors, RFID tags and smart beacons will become the norm. These devices will be a total game changer for this industry, disrupting every part of the production process from development to supply chain management. Manufacturers will be able to prevent delays, improve production performance, reduce equipment downtime, as well as manage inventory effectively.

Moreover, 2019 will see the emergence of ‘smart neighbourhoods’ within cities. Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet Inc.’s (Google’s parent company) project, is currently constructing a smart neighbourhood in Toronto from the ground up using IoT.

Smart sensors in this area will record everything from walking routes, shared car use, building occupancy, sewage flow and temperature choice 24/7 with the goal of creating a convenient, safe and clean place to live. Once perfected, the model can be replicated in other neighbourhoods and cities.

And 2019 will be the year that anything that can become “smart”, will do. The ubiquitous use of the smartphone, coupled with falling costs for mobile connectivity, camera sensors and navigation chips, combined with the rapid push toward shrinking components, has made IoT devices more affordable than ever before. See the rise of smart desks and smart walls within your business.

Edge Computing

Edge computing, combined with cloud computing will become increasingly necessary to power the surge in IoT devices and interconnectivity in 2019 and beyond.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella announced last year that its focus going forward is about "intelligent cloud and intelligent edge". The other big tech players are following suit; Amazon already offers several services for integrating devices with AWS, as does Google with its cloud service.

The term “edge computing” refers to the concept of an “edge device”, such as PCs, smartphones and tablets, which are all at the network's edge. Smartphones are attached to the edge of the carrier's network; and devices such as a Nest smart thermostat or a Sony PlayStation 4, are at the edge of a person’s home Wi-Fi network.

While a lot of work will still be done in cloud data centres, the edge trend will shift much of the critical processing and decision making to devices and gadgets that are connected to them, but at the far reaches of the network.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the biggest driver for edge computing, because it requires processing powers to be available immediately. Devices that already rely on AI such as manufacturing robots, security cameras and augmented-reality headsets, smartphones and web cameras that have built-in facial-recognition systems, will do much of the initial or immediate processing, but will use cloud intelligence to improve how they function.

But, 2019 will see more advanced uses of edge computing, such as fuelling the development of autonomous vehicles.

AI and Big Data

It has been said that 90% of the world’s data has appeared in the last two years, transforming everything from retail to medicine. The explosion of data, combined with faster latency speeds, has been responsible for the ensuing acceleration of AI.

We are already using multiple forms of AI in our daily lives – everything from predictive text to tagging on social media is underpinned by this technology; and increasingly AI is being used in business too.

In the last year, chatbots became mainstream, as they embedded themselves as part of the customer experience. The AI-powered tool answered visitors' questions, qualified sales leads and helped customers with their transactions.

Yet, in 2019, as AI advances and combines with the above digital trends, we will see the emergence of virtual agents, that come with a face and personality, who will handle more complex customer service tasks for organisations.

Speech recognition was widely used 2018, as it has been built into smartphones, games consoles and smart watches. But its wide spread penetration is largely due to sales in Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home devices.

AI speech recognition is now 99% accurate, which is why many institutions are now using it; banks, for example, have adopted it as part of their telephone banking security checks.

But the next groundbreaking use of data driven technology will be facial recognition. Already in China, passengers are able to use their face to check in at the airport and they can even withdraw cash and pay for goods this way.

Many Chinese start-ups are pioneering the use of facial recognition; one company, Yitu, is using it to underpin the new wave of “smart” banks, manufacturers, healthcare providers and cities.

Facial recognition is also being used in other parts of the globe too. In the US, Taylor Swift’s security team reportedly used facial recognition technology to detect stalkers ahead of her performance at California’s Rose Bowl in May 2018.

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As ever, there’s nothing new under the sun here. Some of the trends we’ve included in our forecast for 2019 have been talked about, in some cases, for more than 50 years.

However, we are now at a point in time where developments in cloud computing, connected devices and machine learning are coming together to enable them to take off rapidly. Access to these technologies is also becoming increasingly democratised through providers like Amazon Web Services, putting more power into the hands of developers than ever before. This in turn fuels the rate of innovation and digital change even further.

2019 is shaping up to be another revolutionary year in digital!

 

Keith Nation Keith Nation Managing Director & CTO Keith Nation