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Top technology trends that shaped 2019

Technology took a giant leap in 2019, dramatically changing the way the world functions. We take a look at some of the tech trends that shaped the world last year

Sectors such as telecom, retail, lifestyle and luxury and oil and gas benefited the most from AI technologies in 2019 5G is expected to ease our lives considerably and offer download speeds up to 100 or even 1000 times faster than 4G The key global industries that benefited from blockchain in 2019 include banking and investment services, gaming and retail

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Nothing has, perhaps, revolutionized technology as Artificial Intelligence (AI) which made its entry into every aspect of life in 2019, redefining the way we live, think and work. Equipped with machine learning, deep learning, artificial neural networks and Natural Language Processing (NLP) features, it was unstoppable in 2019-even going to the extent of altering our thinking patterns and predicting diseases that we’re likely to contract in the future. Sectors such as telecom, health, retail, lifestyle and oil and gas benefited the most from AI technologies in 2019, introducing products and services that enhanced quality of life, improved communication and made it easier to reach out to each other. The Middle East region, particularly the UAE, made significantly deeper inroads in its digital transformation journey by incorporating AI across a broad spectrum of industries and services, particularly healthcare, education, public services and real estate. 

Read: ‘AI’ Will Accelerate Breakthroughs Across Energy, Water, Waste and Smart Cities

According to Gartner, AI will stimulate 2.3 million new jobs by 2020, while HSBC Bank has identified a number of new job titles – including algorithm mechanic, conversational interface designer and digital process engineer – that could become commonplace in the future. 

Internet of Things 

Internet of Things (IoT) consists of interrelated computers and computing devices that have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. For instance, in the consumer electronics space, IoT is associated with ‘smart’ home products such as lighting fixtures, home security systems, cameras and the like that can be controlled via remote devices such as smartphones or smart speakers. In 2019, IoT posed significant challenges to cybersecurity as the various protocols that IoT devices leveraged, spanning a broad range of vertical industries from healthcare to retail, made it hard for traditional security platforms to detect breaches.

Read: How the Travel Industry Is Affected by the Internet of Things (IoT)

That apart, IoT grew unabated in 2019 and governments continued to invest substantially in IoT and according to Gartner, outdoor surveillance cameras will be the largest market for 5G Internet of Things (IoT) solutions worldwide over the next three years. A research commissioned by Palo Alto Networks showed that the UAE has far higher levels of trust in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, such as smart home devices and wearables, compared to Europe. In fact, in the UAE government strengthened its $35 billion Internet of Things (IoT) market by digitizing four key sectors: transportation, energy, healthcare, and safety.

5G

Hailed as the biggest revolution in recent times, 5G is expected to ease our lives considerably. The next generation of mobile networks offers download speeds up to 100 or even 1000 times faster than 4G.  Latency – the time delay between sending and receiving a signal – will be cut to 1 millisecond from over 50 milliseconds. That’s faster than the human brain. 5G will be able to support an incredible one million devices per square mile. These advances will allow widespread use of autonomous cars, while the reduced latency will enable surgeons to remotely carry out operations using robots on the other side of the world. 2019 spurred the progress of 5G the world over and in the MENA region, 5G has assumed monumental proportions, with governments expanding their infrastructure to welcome this huge wave. 

Ericsson expects the global number of 5G subscriptions to top 2.6 billion within the next six years, driven by sustained momentum and a rapidly developing 5G ecosystem. The forecast is included in the November 2019 edition of the Ericson Mobility Report, alongside a range of other forecasts with an end-of-2025 timeline and communications service provider insights.

Blockchain

Undoubtedly one of the greatest innovations of technology, blockchain comprises blocks of digital information stored in a public database (the chain).  These blocks are made up of three parts: Information about transactions, details about who is participating in these transactions and information that distinguishes one block from another. Blockchain is finding its way into all sorts of widespread applications. From real estate, to travel, to luxury and even healthcare, the sky is the limit.  The 2019 Gartner, Inc. Hype Cycle for Blockchain Business shows that the business impact of blockchain will be transformational across most industries within five to 10 years. The key global industries that benefited from blockchain in 2019 include banking and investment services, gaming and retail.

In the UAE, Du, in partnership with Avanza Innovations, built the country’s first document exchange platform on its Blockchain Platform as a Service (BPaaS), named the ‘Bank Trust Network’. This will enable paperless exchange of information between banking institutions and their beneficiaries, increasing banks’ efficiency, reducing fraud risks, making customer experience digital, and reducing damage to the environment by excessive use of paper.

Read: Blockchain’s potential future (unless it fails)

Robots and other automated things

Robots, Drones and Autonomous vehicles came to the limelight in 2019 for their ability to automate activities previously performed by humans. Make no mistake, the tasks that they perform are not automatic or mechanical in any way. AI has integrated technology so seamlessly that these automated things are able to interact smoothly with their surroundings and even with people. While robotics revolutionized the healthcare and communication sectors in a big way, drones altered the landscape of the logistics, construction and food delivery sectors, reducing time, effort and margin of error. 

Market research firm Euromonitor International released a white paper discussing the MENA region’s efforts in applied technology and the approach to “Smart” cities, highlighting the different efforts applied by countries of the region.

The paper highlighted the United Arab Emirates as one that “outpaces other MENA countries in terms of “Smart”.  Euromonitor’s analysts, through the paper, aimed to show how capitalising on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) domain can add “trillions” to the GDPs of the region’s economies and, consequently, add to the revenue of companies operating in it.

Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are no longer stuff of science fiction, they’re real and they captured 2019 like never before! Tech giants like Google, Samsung and HTC, among others invested heavily into AR this year, developing games, movies and programs to resonate better with customers. Video games, in particular, have been growing in popularity, with Microsoft and Nintendo focusing much of their attention on gaming technology and developing gaming consoles, surround systems and VR headsets. In fact, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that combined AR and VR shipments are expected to reach over 110 million units by 2020.

Read: Virtual and augmented reality: Four industries leading technology adoption

 Anything as a Service (XaaS) 

In 2019, Xaas gained considerable traction as the go-to option for IT service delivery. Xaas is a cloud computing term that refers to the full range of IT services and applications delivered to users of the cloud on a subscription basis. Xaas offers a viable alternative to legacy infrastructure modernization, provides scalability and reduces time on digital government service delivery. In fact, the 2019 Gartner CIO survey found that 39% of government services plan to allocate considerable amounts of funds to cloud services. Everything-as-a-Service originated as software-as-a-service  and has since expanded to include other services such as Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS), Backend as a Service (BaaS), Banking as a Service (BaaS), Business process as a service (BPaaS) and Content as a Service (CaaS), among others.