This is our annual time capsule of techy predictions for the next few years, as we fast-approach the dawn of 2020.
Yes, it’s the one where we tell you that in 5 years time, we’ll all be on hover-boards, drinking computerized coffee while walking through a virtual jungle . . . Or, just that we’ll have flatter screens and more Internet security — it could go anywhere!
Continuing our tradition of predicting the future of tech, we’ve spoken to some of our very own industry experts from here at Namecheap to see what’s likely to be in store for 2020.
- Hillan Klein — Chief Operating Officer of Namecheap
- Mohammad Zadissa — VPN Product Manager
- Graham Wood — Director of Brand & Product Marketing
Once a novel, or even comical idea, the market of digital personal assistants is thriving. We’re finding those soulless, disembodied voices crop up on our phones, remotes — and no doubt there’s plenty more on the way.
As lovely as it is to set timers, turn on lights, and check the weather using the power of our voices alone, there are worries about the wider implications of an open microphone in your house or place of work. The potential for spying or information falling into the wrong hands from these devices is well documented.
“There’s a need to solve privacy and security issues in this sector,” says Hillan Klein. “Toward the latter part of 2019, we’ve seen reports of how this data is mined, and that some platforms go so far as to have people listening to recordings from within people’s homes, and creating transcripts that can be used to determine the accuracy of how AI interprets sounds. Without consent, this is a significant breach of privacy, and so these platforms will need to find secure, private ways to mine this information to improve the quality of the product they offer.
Klein continues: “It’s likely AI and physical tech will continue to be integrated into more household products, or will be applied in more practical ways. The greatest challenge is integrating new tech into old homes seamlessly, so that people get the same benefit from their smart control system for the HVAC (for example) as a new ‘Smart Home’ where it’s integrated as part of the construction of the property.”
Meanwhile, Mo Zadissa gave some specific examples of possible integrations into our lives. “It could be automatically placing your favorite order at the grocery store,” he suggests, “or even help you to plan next week’s recipes! There are already ways to learn using AI, but this process could become more intuitive and comprehensive, to the point where it can help kids with their homework or practice problem-solving.”
Zadissa expects lots of automation to come our way, but also thinks that “AI will get to our offline lives too — our cars, home heating, fridge — to make everything more integrated and seamless.”
Picking up on how AI could be used to help parents and kids, Graham Wood says: “As a parent, I’d like to see then implementing a virtual babysitter and tutor who could help my son get organized with his homework and his daily schedule!
He expects that “we’ll see things like those two innovations becoming more integrated, and using AI to a greater extent. For example for video surveillance, where AI could be used to automate the detection of threats, and perhaps alert users more proactively if something is not as it should be. This would be a great evolution for video monitoring.”
Security & Payments
We process more and more web payments on smartphones, and other (relatively) new tech devices, so there’s a big fight underway to dominate this ever-changing market. Because of this, we’re up against increasingly sophisticated systems targeting our banks, banking apps, and computers generally.
What will this mean for the security systems we have in place?
Zadissa offers these ideas. “We could see government-level technologies for personal identification becoming available for the mass public,” he says. “Technologies that can validate who you are when making a payment, without relying on external information that can be used by someone else. That’s the flip-side with all these new payment methods cropping up. There is the possibility of increased cybersecurity issues.”
Highlighting one aspect of this technology in particular, Wood adds, “There is likely to be greater adoption of 2-Factor Authentication, utilizing physical keys, given the increasing recognition of how important security is to end consumers. It’s not just for domains, but for your personal identity, banking, and even every-day activities like taking an Uber.”
Klein predicts that security will become increasingly robust. He suggests that “as security becomes more woven into general-use devices, such as Face ID technology, bio scanning, and other tools, consumers will be able to more seamlessly secure their data, activity, whereabouts and personally identifiable information.”
Wood points out a very important point concerning security that brings it home to all of us. As he notes, “according to the data, hackers and fraudsters are moving away from targeting larger businesses to more small businesses and consumers directly.” He goes on to say that these concerns have led to “the widespread adoption among businesses and consumers of Two-factor authentication — and even hardware authentication.”
Connecting AI to security issues, Wood predicts that “AI and machine-learning technologies (involving multiple steps of authentication) will be a key feature to confirm identities in the future. While we live in a pretty much cashless era now, perhaps in 2020 we’ll see the onset of a cardless era too.”
New Tech Devices
Smaller, faster, more powerful and efficient — these are the attributes we associate with technological development. For Klein, however, something else stands out as a possible way to integrate new technology with a more fundamental need: our health.
As he says, he’s hoping we’ll see “innovation in tech that helps to improve posture and comfort when working and encourage better ergonomics in the office. It would be interesting to see how AI could help inform a user of their posture, and how it changes (improves or declines) over time. Also, AI could help us to understand the impact of poor ergonomics on productivity.”
Within the workplace, Wood also sees improved practical applications for office-based AI, but takes it in a different direction. He predicts “voice activation technology will become prominent within office environments.” And he might be on to something. As he points out, researchers expect there to be 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023. He expects, therefore, that “as voice recognition software becomes more accurate (apparently it can now distinguish between individual voices) then we could see it becoming used more and more in offices, for things like meetings (imagine having a ready-made meeting minutes summary as soon as the meeting is over without needing anyone to take any notes).”
Zadissa adds that he expects augmented reality to play a much bigger part not only in gaming and streaming but also in work-place needs such as remote conferencing.
For Zadissa, it’s all about energy and dealing with waste. “Energy-efficient appliances will become more commonplace as solar adoption increases.” He also believes that we will soon see “waste-friendly initiatives such as home auto-composters, reusable containers for food storage, and zero waste initiatives.”
App & Internet Changes
Internet innovations and the development of new apps are a massive part of our lives. They also make up a large proportion of the tech evolution we experience in a year, often without us even realizing it.
In Klein’s mind, “apps will continue to influence the way we interact with companies, with many offering neat new shortcuts to get to the same result, but with little actual innovation. He expects “larger corporations with legacy technology will continue to try to use apps to offer a better experience, but are unlikely to deliver totally new, novel, and innovative solutions for customers.”
Meanwhile, Zadissa focuses on the increasing importance of SEO for competitive advantage. “One of the problems businesses will face with Search Engine Ranking is that ‘position one’ will be the only important result. This is already a huge deal, but will be exacerbated as users increasingly get recommendations from the personal assistants, where the voice will only return the result that is most relevant.”
Zadissa also notes the downside of these changes, for businesses that fail to adapt. As he says, “We shall see technology affect companies that have been behind, such as the insurance and real estate sectors.” His message is loud and clear: adapt or be left behind.
It’s not just our personal tech and specific apps that improve with technology. It’s also about the behind-the-scenes systems that run our tech. Whether it’s infrastructure, organization, or the platforms running our favorite sites, things are always evolving.
Social media systems are a hot topic at the moment with worries of political manipulation and general data breach concerns.
Klein expects consumer and legislative pressure to increase scrutiny on how large platforms such as Facebook and Google protect consumer data and privacy. If they don’t start asking customers to opt-in (rather than opt-out) for use of their data for advertising and other purposes, he suggests that they will face “an uphill battle given the impact this would have on their business model.”
How we staff and run businesses is also a hot topic, with innovative systems rendering certain jobs obsolete feeling like old news. Also, the use of AI in recruitment is a potentially worrying harbinger for things to come. Practices such as these, alongside lean business models, can mean savings for consumers, but this can be at the expense of a workforce, or come under fire for their practices.
Addressing the modern outlook to staffing, Klein says: “We at Namecheap believe that offering a safe work environment is crucial, and providing a culturally rich atmosphere for your people is a key part of what makes a company unique, and enables it to foster innovation, drive change and encourage idea formation.”
But he points out that the term ‘culturally rich’ can mean many things. He encourages other companies like Uber and Deliveroo “to be intentional about their culture and their people, as, after all, it’s our people that enable us as companies to grow, adapt and learn.”
Zadissa adds: “There will be a compromise in order for businesses to be fair for the employees and local states. But Uber will continue to serve and people will continue to use their transport service. They could become the single brand consumers can rely on no matter where they are.”
Similarly, Wood says: “Uber has had more difficulties in markets like the UK and Greece, where taxi unions and regulations are strong. I think they will need to develop their ways of working and make compromises if they want to co-exist peacefully with already established similar services.”
As we’ve seen, there are many areas where tech changes could affect our lives, and we’ve only scratched the surface of it all.
When asked to summarize possible innovations, Klein says: “I believe Home, Transport, and Wearable will continue to be areas of significant innovation, where technology will become more seamlessly integrated and simplify life for people.”
Wood’s hopes for the future of tech center around the advancement of AI, and how that technology might move forward: “I would love to see if any of the tech giants involved in augmented and virtual reality space can really push forward with the idea of creating digital avatars of real consumers for all kinds of purposes. We’ve all seen demonstrations of things like virtual fitting rooms, virtual check-ups (and the like), but the technology does not seem to have moved on.”
Wood goes on to describe one of his past experiences with tech. “I was involved a few years ago with a startup that was trying to push forward with initiating an ecosystem of digital avatars of consumers, whereby you could get a full-body 3D scan, and then upload your avatar to a platform — a bit like a social media platform — and use it to take advantage of virtual services. Things such as shopping, health, fitness, etc. It’s a forward-thinking idea, but ultimately, the company ended up using the devices and technology for events and tech marketing activities (as it was difficult to find collaborators).”
For his part, Zadissa’s final thoughts focus on the process starting with manufacturing through to the consumer purchase. He thinks that the “use of AI will occur to increase efficiency in agriculture and mining of raw materials. It will help maximize machinery output, schedule based on weather forecasts, and control staff hiring for operation management. Alongside this, the shopping process will evolve. It will become much easier to find and try products and styles when shopping online.”
Whether or not things go exactly as Klein, Wood, and Zadissa predict, it sounds like we all still need to get ready for technology to revolutionize everything in the next few years!
We’re going to slowly bury this blogpost now — not in the ground, like so many time capsules before — but under all our future blog posts. And at some future date perhaps we’ll uncover it to see how our leaders did with their crystal balls! Here’s to hoping you’ll find it in a year or two on your cyber-coffee break, and muse over what a pipedream your genetically optimized apple used to be, before sending your body off to the gym while your mind plays video games in virtual reality.