Technology in the year 2020

Five predictions for advances in technology over the next four years

2020 is set to be a pivotal year for innovative technology, with various projects due to reach completion at the end of the decade. It represents a rough 10-year timespan, offering a convenient target date for researchers and developers. There can be no doubt that the world will look very different in four years – in fast-moving tech circles, that’s an incredibly long time. Whilst it’s true that we can’t always predict what the future will hold, developers are confident that 2020 will host long-awaited, innovative products across the board.

1. Fully autonomous vehicles

There are so many different companies getting on board with autonomous drive technology that next year alone will be interesting enough. Uber has already revealed an autonomous fleet of taxis in Pittsburgh, and Delphi Automotive has plans to do exactly the same in Singapore. The problem though, is that the Uber cars – and other so-called driverless vehicles in use today – aren’t actually autonomous. They still need human operators. 2020 has been marked as the year when various different automakers will have created fully autonomous vehicles. Google X, for example, revealed that they were developing complete autonomy in 2014. Testing began last year, but consumers will have to wait until the end of the decade to get hold of one of the cars. Google aren’t the only ones offering up fully self-driving cars to the public either – Nissan and Mercedes Benz have also planned to release similar products in 2020.

2. Quantum Computers. . . Almost

Although the impressive Canadian startup D-Wave has taken promising steps in quantum computing, the machines they’ve sold to companies like Google, NASA and Lockheed Martin don’t have the full capabilities of a quantum computer. It’s smaller quantum processors which will come next, acting as a stepping stone to the super-fast quantum computers that will cause so much disruption in the future. A government-funded research project led by Oxford University has revealed plans to link 20 small processors to create a machine that can go well beyond the capabilities of a conventional computer. The project is called the 2020 Processor, which could suggest it’s preferred completion date. On the other hand, the name might refer to the 20 smaller quantum processors, each containing 20 quantum bits (basic units of information). Either way, the research project is due to end in 2019, so any successful developments will be announced at the end of the decade.

3. Mass adoption of renewable energy

Disrupted Energy - worlds largest solar farm2020 will be a key year for renewables. A number of governments have planned to use a certain percentage of clean energy by the end of the decade. The U.S., for example, has announced that it will cut use of fossil fuels by 50%, which is massively ambitious but will prove to be incredibly beneficial. The EU has also chosen 2020 as the year for European countries to hit mandatory energy targets. The governing body has stated that all EU members should aim to receive 20% of their energy from renewable sources. The U.K., if no longer bound by European law, has set its own targets for 2020. The aim was to receive 15% of the country’s energy from renewable sources, but commentators have suggested that this won’t happen. Regardless of this, renewable energy sources will enjoy far greater adoption by 2020, and at the moment it looks like solar power will continue to dominate the market.

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4. Even more wearables
HIS Technology has predicted that by 2020 there will be 101 million smartwatch shipments, as opposed to just 3.6 million in 2014. Smartwatches are no longer a novel device, but the wearable market is about to get much weirder. . . For example, Motorola have recently developed a signal-emitting pill that can be used to unlock connected items. If you thought taking a password pill was strange, Intel have taken it a step further by creating a chip that can be inserted into the brain to control devices like smartphones and computers. This slightly terrifying implant will be made available to the consumer market in (you guessed it) 2020. So, by 2020, consumers may be accustomed enough to wearables that a smart contact lens from Google won’t be too much of a leap – but are they really going to take a pill or undergo surgery to make it easier to unlock their phones? Maybe – a lot can change in four years, even fundamental societal mentalities.

5. Widespread connectivity via IoT

In 2015, there were 13.4 billion connected things. By 2020, however, this number is predicted to rise to over 38 billion. This will have a drastic effect on both the home and the workplace, and will change the way that businesses operate from retailers to manufacturers. Of course, there will be a price to pay for increased connectivity. Privacy and cybersecurity concerns are already a problem for organisations and individuals alike, and when the amount of connected devices almost triples, security threats will be a very important issue.

This list includes companies and projects which have publicly announced their aims to hit the 2020 benchmark, and these advancements will be massively important for all aspects of society. However, they’re certainly not going to be the only developments revealed in 2020. Advances in technology are happening every day, and some firms like Apple prefer not to reveal anything about their business plans. This means that consumers and competitors alike won’t know what these companies are doing until it’s done. 2020 represents a chronological end point for projects that have gained momentum in the last ten years. By 2020, the technology that currently awes society will either see mass adoption, or be swept aside by the constant surge of new tech. Innovation is happening daily, and so whilst 2020 looks incredibly exciting, so does 2017, 2018 and 2019.