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3 New Technologies That Will Make IT's Life Easier in 2020

Michael O'Dwyer| January 03 2020

| IT insights, Sysadmin

The future is here and now! These are the top 3 new technologies that will make IT's life that much easier in 2020.

IT staff, the tech-savvy or geeks as we are known, differ a little from the general consumer and rarely offer blind allegiance to a company, product or technology unless there are tangible benefits involved. We can get excited about a new first-person-shooter game, new piece of software, hardware or consumer device. Similarly, we can dismiss a new ‘innovation’ out of hand, being oh so knowledgeable about the technical, privacy or security failings involved. And we discuss all of these opinions online, on the Dark Web and in coffee shops. So, what are we excited about for 2020?

Well, it’s a long list so some cutting is necessary. Let’s start with the big one… 5G.

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1. Telecoms, Broadcasting, and 5G

I currently own a 4G phone (an Oppo R9+, if you’re curious) and have no plans to upgrade to a 5G smartphone. In theory, the rollout of 5G has many benefits, and ignoring possible health implications,  who doesn’t want more speed? The business benefits are obvious but theoretical speeds in the lab aside, how fast will it really be? How about coverage, and most importantly, cost?

Given the speed involved, will data plans increase exponentially along with the pricing? Until reliability and costs are known, then I believe 5G is firmly in the hands of early adopters. We wish you luck as, the same as 4G and 3G before that, your network access and speed will depend on your carrier, the subscriber numbers, and your location, given that 5G is generally operating from the same infrastructure as before. Of course, mass adoption will cause issues for data centers. How much storage is required (temporary or fixed) to stream 4K broadcasts to a few million users?

Forecasts that 5G will be a disruptive technology are quite true but disruptive in the traditional sense (i.e. cause problems)…unless carriers are prepared to offer cost-effective data plans without data caps under a fair usage policy that could be used in hours or even minutes. For example, AT&T offer a few ‘unlimited’ data plans, with the highest cap being 100Gb – after that, speed will be reduced if the network is busy.

One hundred Gbs might seem like a lot but not if you’re an avid streamer in HD or 4K. According to Android Central, streaming a 4K/UHD movie uses 7.2Gb per hour. You do the math. That said, most of us connect smartphones to Wi-Fi when possible so 5G could be useful for essential or sporadic use, perhaps during short commutes.

For business users, it will indeed be disruptive, in the modern sense, and could aid productivity, with users gaining precious microseconds when sending emails or using cloud services. In addition, 5G, once fully rolled out, will allow progression of autonomous vehicles and expand the IoT even further, which in itself could make our lives easier.

2. Who Needs Reality? The Case for VR, AR, and MR

When the daily drudge of working life creates the urge to go ballistic, escaping from reality is certainly an option in 2020. Cue fanfare… XR (extended reality) will be a thing in 2020 and I can certainly see the appeal, driven in no small part by Valve’s planned March 2020 release of Half Life Alyx, exclusive for VR (virtual reality).  

XR includes VR, AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality). If reality bites, then an alternative is worth considering and will certainly reduce workplace hostilities… much better than a power nap, in my opinion.

While up to now, XR has been limited to user entertainment, perhaps, in 2020, it could make our lives easier. Security awareness training is one area that could make it very useful. VR could make it a fully submersive experience or with MR, users could interact with digital objects in the real world i.e. opening emails with clicking links to malware. The technology could also be used to test candidate skills for IT roles or as a part of additional training in new skills. Given the cybersecurity skill shortage, inhouse training in this manner could certainly make life easier.

Here are just a few ways examples of how these technologies could be mainstream in the near future. 

The Dronebrella

Your Own AR Animals and Pets

Shopping in Augmented Reality

3. Artificial Intelligence

Will human intelligence take a back seat in 2020? Perhaps not, but whether we like it or not, AI already has an impact in our personal and working lives. Most innovations to date have been in speech and image recognition (with the resulting data sets sometimes invading user privacy) and many of us habitually speak to our smartphone, vehicle and other devices without being on prescription drugs. Is this the new normal, where we can talk to inanimate objects without being labelled ‘a bit odd’ by onlookers?

The problem with AI is that custom AI programs are expensive, preventing wide adoption. This may well change in 2020, with the addition of new service providers to offer tailored solutions to companies.

Innovations in predictive typing also involve AI. In fact, I’m using LightKey, a non-intrusive and privacy-focused solution that learns as I type. For dictation, Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking also uses AI/deep learning. I regard both of these programs as timesavers, leaving more time for diagnostic tasks.

In a support role, obvious application that could help are in virtual agents, chatbots etc. Many companies use these to frustrate users but it does improve operational efficiency, with difficult queries resulting in actual human interaction. Integrating ticketing systems with virtual agents would certainly lessen the user support workload.

In 2020, we can expect a lot of ‘personalized’ or ‘predictive’ solutions and many are beneficial, apart from marketing, of course. That almost goes without saying. An AI-based threat intelligence solution is especially worth considering and adoption on the rise, with the list of players growing all the time.

Of course, you can’t mention AI without including Big Data and predictive analytics. For climate change data (it doesn’t exist according to one high-profile simian) or crop yield data, it’s a valid and positive use of the technology. For personal data (anonymized or not), not so much. We, the customers, find personalized ads annoying…

Finally, if AI is so damn smart, why is geolocation still used as a security measure when so many of us use VPNs or travel? The first thing hackers do is hide their location so why use it as a security check? Why bother with usernames, complex passwords and 2FA then? I had hope for Microsoft but now they’re doing the same thing. Before, it was “if this was you, do nothing” but now account access is blocked until a painfully slow verification process is completed.

The IT Perspective for New Tech Adoption

Solely from an IT perspective, technologies that could impact the role in 2020 are 5G, AI and possibly VR (if your company values the potential). Operational considerations must dominate. If too much time is spent on a given task, a task that does not aid revenue growth, it’s likely that automation is possible to speed up the process. The time saved is available for operational goals and process optimization. Given that much of IT’s role involves solving problems, they are more than capable of researching and finding a technical solution, but only if they have the budget to implement that fix.

Taking the MacGyver approach to IT is asking for trouble. Bear in mind that IT is no longer just a support role (to keep the computers on) but is tightly integrated with all departments and processes. In 2020, give them the tools they need to optimize your company’s operation and throw in a few tech toys to raise their morale. I suggest something with Alienware on it and not a t-shirt or keyring.

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Topics: IT insights, Sysadmin

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY Michael O'Dwyer

An Irishman based in Hong Kong, Michael O’Dwyer is a business & technology journalist, independent consultant and writer who specializes in writing for enterprise, small business and IT audiences. With 20+ years of experience in everything from IT and electronic component-level failure analysis to process improvement and supply chains (and an in-depth knowledge of Klingon,) Michael is a sought-after writer whose quality sources, deep research and quirky sense of humor ensures he’s welcome in high-profile publications such as The Street and Fortune 100 IT portals.

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