In 2020, technologies will move toward the mainstream and begin impacting daily life. The next generation of wireless network, 5G, will begin to take hold, for example, and may work as a catalyst for other things like smart cities and smarter mobile and wearable devices.
Augmented reality eyewear, which places digital content in the context of the real world, will begin to appear, and may use fast 5G connections to the cloud to identify people and things for us. The role of AI will increase in business, and the public will become more aware of it.
Next year’s tech will appear in the context of a turbulent political scene and perhaps the biggest election in U.S. history, a warming planet, an inefficient healthcare system, and a growing skepticism that tech companies will do no evil. Tech companies (and their investors) will be more aware of the public’s expectation that new products solve real, non-trivial, problems.
We talked to venture capital pros and other in-the-know sources to get an idea of the technology that we’ll be talking in 2020 and beyond. Their statements have been lightly edited for clarity.
HEALTHCARE AND SCIENCE
Vijay Pande, general partner, Andreessen Horowitz:
AI has the potential to democratize healthcare. With a natural place in virtually all areas of care, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment, it can lower costs, provide greater access, and give everyone the very best doctor, leveling the playing field on a global scale.
Beth Seidenberg and Sean Harper, founding managing partners, Westlake Village Biopartners:
We believe gene therapy will continue to take shape as one of the most promising and exciting technologies to emerge in the treatment of cancer. The field has been validated with approved therapies for B cell malignancies and the goal is to apply the technology and therapy to the treatment of solid tumors such as prostate, pancreatic, ovarian, and other cancers that remain some of the toughest to cure.
Bryan Roberts, partner, Venrock:
Inscripta’s automated desktop gene editor, Onyx takes a single/low multiplex, laborious manual process of CRISPR gene editing to a highly multiplexed, automated, industrially robust workflow.
Bob Kocher, partner, Venrock:
Suki has created the most advanced, easy to use, and intuitive enterprise oriented voice application. Their product is a digital assistant for doctors that allows doctors to no longer type as they see patients and dramatically reduces the time it takes them to write notes and orders.
Joseph Huang, CEO, StartX:
We’re expecting medical device and biotech innovation to see increased attention, together with sustained interest in machine learning and AI in the coming year. My dark horse candidate for 2020? Biosensing. Imagine wearables measuring your temperature to predict that you’re catching a cold before you have one and then matching you with a distributed online pharmacy that delivers medicine straight to your door. Many exciting things coming in this sector.
Shez Partovi, MD, director of global business development for healthcare, life sciences, and genomics, Amazon Web Services:
As the country moves toward value-based care, artificial intelligence and machine learning, paired with data interoperability, will improve patient outcomes while driving operational efficiency to lower the overall cost of care. By supporting healthcare providers with predictive machine learning models, clinicians will be able to seamlessly forecast clinical events, like strokes, cancer, or heart attacks, and intervene early with personalized care and a superior patient experience.
Andrei Iancu, founder & CEO, Halo Industries:
In the coming year, we’ll see the beginning of a large-scale shift in focus from software to science-based innovations. Despite the additional technology risks involved in science-oriented endeavors, the upsides of market creation and defensibility will begin to outweigh them and significantly more capital will flow to the associated enterprises. This will lead to meaningful advances in the functionality and form factor for varied products such as next-generation consumer electronics, industrial hardware, vehicles and infrastructure.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Shomik Dutta, cofounder and partner, Higher Ground Labs:
We used to reach voters by calling them on their cellphones, [but] calling people is actually falling off a cliff. And I predict that texting will soon face a similar challenge. We’re starting to see diminishing returns there, in part because the electorate is going to start developing antibodies to texting. And so what we have to do is lean into a place where trust is still very high, which is amongst friends. The ability to use your phone and find your friends online and talk to them about a Democrat is a very influential channel that we’ve invested heavily behind, and we expect to see it scale the rest of the way in 2020.
Peter Rojas, partner, Betaworks Ventures:
As many have feared, in 2020 we’ll see the first malicious use of deepfakes and other forms of synthetic media with the aim of influencing the Presidential election. Though there will be at least one attempt that does initially cause a good deal of outrage, these efforts will largely fall flat. This will be due to a combination of greater awareness by the general public of the need to be more skeptical of video evidence circulating online, combined with publishers and social platforms employing detection tools to help them identify deepfakes and blunt their impact.
Chip Meakem, cofounder and managing partner, Tribeca Venture Partners:
An unnamed large search engine will face formal antitrust action claiming systematically using search data to build out content to retain a greater share of internet traffic is anticompetitive. Also, the incredibly resilient third-party cookie will finally die.
Dan Hays, U.S. technology, media, and telecommunications corporate strategy leader, PwC U.S.:
Undoubtedly the headlines in 2020 will be dominated by announcements of new 5G networks, expanded coverage, and new mobile devices which incorporate 5G connectivity. While we expect coverage at the start of 2020 to still hover in the single digits across the United States, this should rise rapidly in 2020 as new devices become available and demand increases. Look for more announcements at the global MWC Barcelona 2020 event in late February.
AI AND VOICE TECHNOLOGY
Omoju Miller, senior machine learning engineer, GitHub:
The public needs an introductory understanding of how AI works. They need a general sense of how data meets algorithm and turns into a decision. For example, facial recognition is being readily used in our smart home security systems, and for that reason we need to understand the abilities and limits of the technology to protect our loved ones.
Kuldip Pabla, senior VP of engineering, K4Connect:
As predicted, voice has had huge success in adoption by older adults. They like the ease of use and how they’re able to use the technology in a natural way. In 2020, voice technology will become an integral part of older adults’ lives with proactive voice. Current voice solutions require conversation to be initiated by an older adult. With the advancement in voice technologies and with the maturity of chatbots and custom digital assistants coming into the market, voice will bring a two way conversation in 2020.
[K4Connect creates tech solutions for older adults and those living with disabilities.]
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