Technology Trends for the New Year That Are NOT About Security

As we inch closer to 2020, inquiring minds want to know … what’s next?

What new tech devices and features can we expect to cause “disruption” as we move into 2019? 

Do you remember that positive feeling when you powered up your first smartphone? Or how about the excitement felt when you started using a virtual home assistant, like Alexa, that controlled things with voice commands?

Perhaps you felt those same positive emotions this holiday season, with cool new tech toys under your Christmas tree. Or, maybe you have been disappointed with tech advances in 2018 and are waiting for something different to surface.  

For this look ahead at tech in 2019 and beyond, I am putting aside all the security threats, cyberforecasts and threat predictions of hackers stealing your precious data. (Side note: For those who want to dive into security predictions for the coming year, there are plenty of detailed cyber-reports, scary hacking trends and cybersecurity forecasts in my annual piece titled: The Top 19 Security Predictions for 2019.)

To begin any New Year tech discovery search, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is always a great place to start. And 2019 is no exception, with another amazing lineup planned for early January. Here are three article examples to consider for product details:

What Does Inc. Magazine Highlight?

Inc. magazine recently polled numerous CEOs, CFOs and other business leaders to compile an impressive list of thought-provoking, innovative predictions to watch in 2019.    

Here are five that caught my eye from Christina DesMarais:

  • 2019 will be the year that commercial drone integration really takes flight: “We’ll see particular growth in public safety, where drones are already helping to improve response times and reduce crime rates around the globe.”
  • Brands that stand for nothing will be left behind: “(Consumers) will support with their wallets companies that are authentic and accountable, and punish those that aren’t. …”
  • Virtual assistants will be common in both B2C and B2B environments: “As they are becoming exponentially smarter, virtual assistants and speech-enabled systems such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google Home have been increasingly adopted by consumers. We will see this wave spill over into business applications in 2019. …”
  • AI-powered robots will enable better communication in health care: “Patients will feel understood by AI-powered robots in 2019 and doctors will depend on them to communicate medical information. …”
  • Virtual reality applications will grow: “We’re at the beginning in terms of what’s possible in VR storytelling, games and applications. Next year and beyond, you’ll see an explosion in industrial, medical and educational VR applications. …”

Note: In the last case, I’ve been saying that VR and AR will take off for several years, but it hasn’t happened yet. Will 2019 be the year? Time will tell. There is no doubt in my mind that the 2020s will be the decade for VR and virtual worlds.

My 7 Noteworthy Tech Trends for 2019

So what are the technology advancement areas that I am most excited about as we head into 2019?

1) 5G Finally Starts Buzzing — We’ve been talking about 5G for several years, but in 2019, it will start showing up in more places. Just as important, compelling case studies will be built and more people will start asking: “When is it coming to my city?” This article from Kim Komando at USA Today explains more. (Note: Full deployment will take the ’20s decade, but 5G gets hot in 2019.)

2) Tipping Point Reached for Enterprises Moving Sensitive (and Much More) Data to the Cloud — More data has been moving to the cloud each year for a decade, so why is 2019 any different? We are seeing an explosion in more data that has traditionally stayed on premise finally being moved out of data centers. In government, between FedRAMP improvements and growing cloud adoption at the state level, a noticeable shift is accelerating and we turn the corner in 2019. Want proof? Note this National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) CIO Survey which now puts adopting cloud services as the No. 2 priority behind only security and risk management. This is a big jump from previous years. 

3) Smarter Homes, Cities and Airports Going Mainstream — The Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing more and more ‘smart’ devices to real-life situations. We will start to see more meaningful examples of this in our homes, government buildings, even smart bathrooms — such as this example at Atlanta’s airport.

4) More Health-Care Technology Changes, Advances and Even Cures Announced So much is changing in global health care right now. I really like these 10 health-care predictions from Fortune. Specifically, better cancer detection, more answers on more diseases and impressive research progress in areas ranging from DNA sequencing to telemedicine growth

For example, this article describes how scientists cut main heart disease risk locus out of DNA by genome editing. “Scientists have made a major breakthrough in unveiling the major genetic risk factor for heart disease by precisely cutting the DNA culprit from the genome, which prevents blood vessel cell abnormalities related to these devastating diseases.”

5) More Cryptocurrencies, Virtually Everywhere, by Replacing Loyalty Programs No doubt, 2018 was a bad year for bitcoin and a basket of other cryptocurrencies. Some say bitcoin fortunes will change in 2019, others say not so fast. I’m staying out of that debate.

Meanwhile, the IMF is saying that even governments could set up their own cryptocurrencies in order to prevent the systems from becoming havens for fraudsters. “A system regulated by central banks could become the basis for a rapid expansion of financial services to developing world countries and the poorest people in western societies without the risks associated with privately managed digital currencies.

The IMF’s proposal is likely to be greeted warily by many digital currency operators who believe one of the main attractions of their technology is that it lies outside the mainstream banking system. The involvement of a central bank could also be seen as imposing heavy-handed regulation that would slow down transactions and raise costs. …”

So what’s next with this trend? Airlines, such as AirAsia’s BigCoin, are getting set to roll out their own cryptocurrencies. “’The airline will turn its frequent flyer points into BigCoin,’ [AirAsia founder and chief executive Tony] Fernandes said, ‘before revealing that ticket prices on the airline’s website will be revealed in BigCoin alongside prices in fiat currencies from this month onwards.’”

To understand where this is heading, think broader about your loyalty program points, such as your miles with airlines, restaurants, gas stations, hotels, or other businesses. Most of these can be converted into new cryptocurrencies — and the trend will take off in 2019 and beyond. How about university cash programs and even cities issuing bonds in their own cryptocurrencies?

There are many benefits to following AirAsia’s model of building a blockchain loyalty program, and the winners will be both consumers and the organizations trying to build loyalty. “Instead of trying to convert everyday customers to become involved in cryptocurrency and its many newcomer pitfalls, an app-based loyalty system can get people using cryptocurrency without even realizing it:

  1. Allow the loyalty app to function as a multi-feature crypto wallet.
  2. Incentivize the initial accumulation by rewarding loyalty points for everyday actions to introduce newcomers to the system.
  3. Give people abundant options to accrue and spend these loyalty points.”

Consider this quote: “When a city launches its own cryptocurrency, however, the digital tokens are likely backed by some sort of city asset. Most local cryptocurrencies aren’t trying to disrupt money. They’re just opening up more (and more efficient) avenues for citizens to invest in their cities and buy goods. In turn, they aim to create more ways for cities to fund projects they previously couldn’t afford.

“By switching to a tokenized system, a college student who cares about poverty in the city can buy $20 worth, knowing his contribution is going toward, say, an affordable housing project. He can then use his tokens on other city goods, like transit rides or groceries, or he can hold on to them as an investment. …” 

UTRUST Global Partnerships Vice President Sanja Kon predicts an increase in cryptocurrency transactions in 2019: “Crypto payments until now have mostly been a niche phenomenon, with Bitcoin being the primarily used cryptocurrency. In 2019, we will witness a rise in multiple cryptocurrency payments, as more and more customers are getting interested in the advantages crypto payments bring, among which the lower transaction cost and decentralization.”

6) The “Final Frontier” Gets a Little Closer — NASA has announced another planned set of moon missions — with finalists announced for putting a small lander on the moon.

China has joined the space exploration journey in a big way, with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) saying that China is pushing for primacy in space, as they launch their moon mission this upcoming week. “In a first for any country, the Chang’e-4 probe is set to touch down on the ‘dark side’ of the Moon on or around Jan. 3, according to state media, and dispatch a rover in a vast crater to explore the Moon’s interior. While impressive in itself, the mission is a step toward bolder objectives: China plans to operate a manned lunar base by 2030 and lead the world into a new age of space exploration. …”

Also, scientists are crunching data from the Event Horizon Telescope to give us the first direct image of a black hole’s event horizon in 2019.

Meanwhile, another mission to Mars from NASA means space is getting a little closer.

And, space exploration is no longer just for governments. These five space companies are zeroing-in on the first launch of tourists into orbit and beyond.

Here is a list of space predictions for 2019. My favorite on this list brings “Global Internet for Everyone.”

“The SpaceX Starlink project is by far the most ambitious to date to bring low-cost global internet to the masses, from the darkest spots of Africa to the cargo cults in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the U.S. military, which just gave SpaceX a $28.7 million contract to think about some ways it could use the Starlink constellation. …”

7) Privacy Wars — Will We See a New Federal Privacy Law in 2019?

What will happen with privacy laws after 2018 brought privacy to the center of the world stage?

Wired magazine predicts a big privacy showdown in Congress. “Washington spent the better part of the year talking tough to tech companies and threatening a crackdown on the wanton collection, dissemination, and monetization of personal data. But all of that was just prelude. The real privacy showdown is slated for the year ahead.

“Companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are pushing hard for federal digital privacy legislation in 2019, and not quite out of the goodness of their hearts. This summer, California’s state legislature passed a groundbreaking bill that would give residents unprecedented control over their data. The law, which has been widely criticized by pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Internet Association, is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020. …”

Closing Prediction from Sports World

Here’s one more (fun, but bold) prediction from outside the technology world.

Tim Tebow plays a regular season game in Major League Baseball in 2019. For the non-sports fan, this may seem inconsequential. Nevertheless, the vast majority of “experts” in sports said (and still say) this would never happen. An injury last summer curtailed his baseball progress, but I still think Tim Tebow can become a hot topic in professional sports in 2019 — and not just for his SEC College football coverage.

Last, I want to thank you, my readers, for a great 2018. Whatever happens in the year ahead, I am honored to have you following this blog as we head toward 2020.