Article

Tim Frank Andersen

2020: A Year of Digital Hypergrowth

- Looking back at my tech predictions.

When I made my ten tech predictions twelve months ago, none of us imagined what a crazy year we had coming. It has been terrible, both from a health point of view but also for the many businesses and industries that have seen their world turned upside down. But the year has also accelerated a lot of technical and digital areas and paved the way for new innovations. Some of them I spotted pretty well.

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2020 — a year of digital hypergrowth dominated by the Pandemic

So, let’s take a look at how well I did, trying to predict the ten most interesting tech trends for 2020. I have divided them into three groups: home runs: 🎯 Close calls: ⚠️ and Off Base: ⛔️

🎯 Genetics deliver the new mRNA vaccine

When we turn the calendar to 2021 it will be with the hope, that we will all get the chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible. Typically, it takes ten years to develop a new vaccine — The Coronavirus vaccines were developed in less than a year. Pretty amazing! It’s all due to a new methodology never used before: mRNA. Last year I predicted a breakthrough for genetics. I think we can tick this one off.

🎯 Critical spare parts printed on location

Additive manufacturing also showed the commercial potential that I predicted. When supply chains were broken because of lockdowns, spare parts for respirators and different kinds of protective equipment were 3D printed on location around the world, helping to solve critical problems.

🎯 Micro delivery with drones during the Corona crisis

Drone delivery stepped in to help get stuff delivered to isolated or quarantined people and places. In the US, it was done through smaller test cases like when Alphabet-owned drone delivery company, Wing partnered with public school districts to deliver library books to children in lockdown. Authorities in countries like the US, Ireland, and Canada did speed up approvals and classified drone businesses as essential workplaces to help meet the need for faster roll-out and deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE), prescriptions, and food. China leveraged its existing drone infrastructure to roll out solutions on a much broader and commercial scale during the year. So, if you want to follow the development in this area, keep looking to the East.

🎯 Biometrics delivered no-touch solutions

Facial Recognition also showed its potential in a year where we all wanted to avoid touching anything. This is part of a larger trend of no-touch tech that I will cover in more detail in my predictions for 2021.

All of the above areas will continue to prosper and grow in the years to come.

⚠️ Libra to launch in January 2021

When I predicted that Libra would launch in 2020, I knew that it was a risky bet. But now it’s set to launch in January 2021, so still pretty close. On the other hand, existing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum made a big comeback in 2020, reaching the highest price ever, so it is almost a home run. For 2021, you should follow the world’s first National Controlled Digital Currency: DCEP. I will write about it my predictions for next year.

⚠️ China claims quantum Supremacy

I also predicted that we would witness a true quantum supremacy moment in 2020. On December 3, a paper in the journal Science was published, claiming that a team of Chinese researchers had achieved quantum supremacy, building a quantum computer capable of carrying out calculations trillions of times faster than today’s most powerful supercomputers. It hasn’t been verified yet, but if it does, this prediction becomes a reality.

⚠️ Corona tracing apps stirred up an ethical debate

Digital ethics maintained its high relevance during the year, for example in the discussions about Coronavirus contact-tracing apps. It was somewhat overshadowed by the pandemic, however. I do anticipate this topic will hit the top of our tech agenda as we leave the Coronavirus crisis behind us. Here in Denmark, we are working on a digital ethics compass as a tool for companies to facilitate an internal process and steer them in the right direction.

⚠️ We still have banks — for now

The digital transformation of the banking industry continued apace during the year. But the open banking revolution didn’t really happen though and we didn’t witness any major breakthroughs. Banks keep losing bits and pieces of their value chain to fintech start-ups and neobanks like Lunar here in Denmark, keep taking market shares from the incumbents. So close, but no cigar.

⛔️ The potential of generative design yet to be explored

Last year I predicted that we would see many new commercial generative design solutions brought into the market in 2020. That didn’t really happen. This area is still extremely interesting. But over time, it will become an integrated part of the commercial toolbox for additive manufacturing and help drive this area forward.

⛔️ Digital sustainability drowned in the Corona noise

The debate about how to save our climate and reach the 17 sustainability goals clearly lost visibility in a year where all focus suddenly was on the global pandemic and how to solve that crisis. The same unfortunately happened for the talk about digital sustainability. So, even though this topic is still of utmost importance, in 2020 it took a backseat for a while. But be sure that once we are out of the trenches, we are all going to focus on sustainability again.

The Conclusion: A Pretty High Hit Rate

Despite 2020 being a very different year from what we anticipated; I think, it is fair to say that my predictions came in quite strong. I didn’t however predict that e-commerce would experience ten years of growth in just six months and that we all would become experts in online meetings, homeschooling, and binge-watching.

2020 is a year that we all want to forget as soon as possible, but from a digital and technological point of view, it became exactly the digital crossroad I expected because the business landscape fundamentally shifted in so many industries, and changes towards new business models long in the making for some companies were implemented overnight, driven by agility, creativity, and customer obsession.

As we all know, being right one year is no guarantee, that next year’s predictions will come just as close. So, what kind of Covid-19 driven behavioral changes will impact 2021 and what else can we expect on the tech scene in the year to come?

I am almost done compiling my top 10 tech predictions for 2021. So, stay tuned for my next article about the most interesting digital topics for the year to come.

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