It’s that time of the year: My 2020 tech predictions

Image of time travel vortex
Image of time travel vortex
Image by Genty from Pixabay

As 2019 is winding down, here are some of my predictions for the upcoming year. 3, 2, 1… let’s go.

Facial recognition will receive more scrutiny

Facial recognition has faced scrutiny this year, and it is likely that global observers will continue to have privacy concerns over such frameworks.

Earlier this month, it was reported that all mobile phone users in China registering new SIM cards must submit to facial recognition scans. The new law requires telecom companies to deploy “artificial intelligence and other technical methods” to check the identities of people registering SIM cards. All retail stores in the country had until December 1st to start implementing the new regulation. This initiative, described by the ministry of industry and information as a method to “protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace”, makes mobile phone and internet users easier to track… and that could potentially compromise their freedom.

But China is not the only nation that has been criticized for utilizing facial recognition technologies. In Canada, the Toronto police has been using facial recognition tech since at least 2018. The force stated such ups the speed and efficiency of criminal investigations and has led to arrests in major crimes. More specifically, it is being used to compare images of potential suspects captured on public or private cameras to its internal database of roughly 1.5 million mugshots. In a random sampling of public opinion taken by The Forum Poll this year among 1157 Toronto voters, 4 in 10 (41%) stated the oppose the use of facial recognition tech by police services, while a quarter (24%) say they are not sure.

“Why Cities Are Banning Facial Recognition Technology” by WIRED, YouTube.

Back in May, legislators in San Francisco voted to ban the use of facial recognition, the first U.S. city to implement such law. Facial recognition tech will not be allowed to be used by local agencies (e.g.: the city’s transport authority, or law enforcement).

I anticipate other cities and government bodies will follow suit.

Smartphones shipments will increase due to 5G and new designs

It’s no secret smartphone shipments have not kept up with their meteoric rise that started in the late 2000s. We even witnessed a sizable decrease in 2018 according to market research firm IDC.

Chart illustrating global smartphone shipments
Chart illustrating global smartphone shipments
This chart shows global smartphone shipments since 2008. Credit Statistica.

We’re still waiting for Q4 2019 stats, but essentially this year has been flat (+0.8% year-over-year increase at the end of Q3).

But 2020 could fuel healthier sales numbers for phone makers, and this might be caused by two factors.

The emergence of 5G devices could entice consumers to renew their phone plans. The potential increase in data speed could well convince buyers to shell out a few hundreds of dollars; of course that will depend of the availability of phone models and how quickly 5G networks can be implemented in various regional and national markets.

“Testing the Insane Galaxy S10 5G speeds on AT&T 5G network” by CNET, YouTube.

At the time of writing, Verizon had reached its 5G cities goal of 30 U.S. cities (plus one) this year; while EE launched 5G service in 50 U.K. cities and towns.

There is another factor to consider: the apparition of new, futuristic phone designs that could also entice consumers to acquire a new device.

One upcoming model that has generated a lot noise is the Motorola Razr 2019. Inspired by the iconic “flip phone” Razr series in the 2000s, this device is a so-called folding phone “switching from a compact, portable device into a full-sized 6.2-inch phone”.

“2020 Moto RAZR Impressions! The Return of a Folding Icon!” by Marques Brownlee, YouTube.

Will those developments lead to a huge sales “Big Bang” or simply moderate gains? Given that purchasing power is stagnating for many socio-economic groups around the world, I’m inclined to say shipments will increase but not as much as some would think.

Quantum computing records will be shattered again… and again

For the uninitiated, quantum computing can be a concept that’s hard to grasp. The University of Waterloo (in Canada that is) offers the following definition:

Quantum computing is essentially harnessing and exploiting the amazing laws of quantum mechanics to process information. A traditional computer uses long strings of “bits,” which encode either a zero or a one. A quantum computer, on the other hand, uses quantum bits, or qubits. What’s the difference? Well a qubit is a quantum system that encodes the zero and the one into two distinguishable quantum states. But, because qubits behave quantumly, we can capitalize on the phenomena of “superposition” and “entanglement.” … Thanks to superposition and entanglement, a quantum computer can process a vast number of calculations simultaneously.

Some believe quantum computers will redefine computing; and Big Tech is willing to invest in that burgeoning field… notably Google and IBM.

In October, Google announced that its quantum computer named “Sycamore” had reached a milestone known as “quantum supremacy”: a “watershed moment in which a quantum computer executes a calculation that no ordinary computer can match”. IBM, apparently wasn’t very pleased and stated the claim should be received “with a large dose of skepticism”. Sounds a bit salty, doesn’t it?

“Demonstrating Quantum Supremacy” by Google, YouTube.

As implied earlier, IBM is another big proponent of quantum computing as a discipline. And surely, the tech giant also wants to beat records (who doesn’t?). Earlier this month, it was reported that a quantum computing startup called Zapata has worked with IBM to “develop a new way to factor large numbers, using it on the largest number that has been factored with a quantum computer so far”. The team concluded that 1,099,551,473,989 is equal to 1,048,589 multiplied by 1,048,601.

Such “battles” will likely produce new records in 2020.

Micro-mobility will continue to grow but also face major regulatory obstacles

Micro-mobility comes in several flavors: e-scooters, e-skateboards, e-bicycles and other forms of light vehicles which can used “on-demand” via mobile apps. You may already know that such offerings have seduced many city dwellers in several parts of the world.

Uber is confident that the segment will continue to experience significant growth in 2020. The American company claims that adoption of its Jump’s bikes and scooters in Europe has surpassed that of the U.S. in the last eight months; with more than 500,000 Europeans riding the vehicles in the last eight months alone, totaling 5 million trips.

The Jump brand is not alone in this… universe. Competitors include Bird, Lime, Tier and Voi just to name a few. All have racked up millions of dollars in VC money.

But there’s a big obstacle: some cities are fed up by the behavior of micro-mobility riders.

“Paris Scooter: Paris mayor vows to restrict electric scooters” by TRT World, YouTube.

Think accidents and the disorderly “discarding” of e-scooters and other micro-mobility vehicles.

Paris, France (one of the epicenters of the “revolution”) has further restricted the use of e-scooters in October. Riders now need to be at least 12 and won’t be able to operate their scooter on the pavement.

Other rules include:

+ Riding on the pavement will be prohibited unless in designated areas, and then at walking speed only

+ Only one rider will be allowed per device, and no mobile phone use will be allowed

+ Users cannot go against the traffic flow and must use cycle paths where available

+ Riders will not be allowed to wear headphones while on their scooter

+ By next July, the scooters’ top speed will be capped at 25km/h

+ Users riding on permitted faster roads must wear a helmet and high-visibility clothing

+ E-scooters will be banned completely on country roads

Singapore has also banned e-scooters on sidewalks; while the U.K. has banned such on “public roads, pavements and cycle lanes”.

It’s not crazy to anticipate other nations and cities around the world will continue to either restrict or outright ban the use of micro-mobility vehicles.

I hope you have enjoyed my last article of 2019 on Medium. Wishing you all a fantastic 2020. 🙏🎇

Image of clock stating “2020”
Image of clock stating “2020”
Image by Susan Cipriano from Pixabay

Founder of Nuadox | Tech & Innovation Commentator | Digital Strategist | MTL | More about me>

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