1. 5G Will Not Change Your Life in 2019
5G announcements by major wireless carriers and other tech organizations are reaching a fevered pitch. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, China Mobile, Huawei, Bharti Airtel, Ericsson, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung and many others are throwing their hat into the 5G ring. With the first round of 3GPP Release 15 standards approved, the technological foundation is laid. However there is much more to be done. The 3GPP “functional freeze” has been delayed until March 2019 and subsequent Release 16 has been moved out to March of 2020. There is still much negotiation to be dealt with by vendors requesting standard changes that favor one architecture or another. Therefore, the carrier announcements about 5G deployment in 2019, are mostly limited market trials and positioning for the future. While the potential is enormous, so is the cost and complexity of a broad market roll out.
The prime benefits of 5G are faster speeds, lower delay and wireless connectivity for a panoply of connected devices ranging from smart phones, to home security to wearable medical devices. However, it is important to remember that all these carriers have billions of dollars invested in legacy 3G and 4G base, switching and outside plant equipment. The 5G network will not be a greenfield build, but rather an add-on to existing 3G and 4G services for the foreseeable future. This backward compatibility will likely cause some service limitations as the roll-out phases in. Further, because 5G cells are smaller range radios, many more cell sites will need to be built. That means real estate deals must be made, government regulations and permits must be negotiated and neighbors must be placated in proposed cell locations.
Initial service limitations, backward compatibility, construction cost, government regulations, international politics and continued negotiation of global standards will all conspire to slow down the 5G roll-out. There is tremendous promise in 5G technology and we will get there. But right now, marketing is leading the parade.
2. The Year of the Cyborg
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “cybernetics” is the science of communication and control theory that is concerned especially with the comparative study of automatic control systems. Mash that with “organism”, briefly defined as a living being and you have a “cyborg.”
Cyborg development, particularly in the biomedical field is a fast growing field. According to an article in September 2018 “Discover Magazine” by Eric Smally, researchers have endowed cells with rudimentary computing capabilities. These cells can be programmed to create therapies for genetic disorders to selectively kill cancer cells. While recent proof of concepts have shown promising results in this this field, broad application of cellular cyborgs is still a few years away.
However, implantable devices that are web-connected is a fast growing trend that we will see and hear more about in 2019 and beyond. A few examples of such medical devices include implanted glucose monitoring for diabetics, implantable insulin pumps, web-connected heart monitors, and smart joint implants that can detect and report infections around the joint before they they spread. How about an implanted key fob for your car? You will never lose your keys again. For music fans, implantable ear buds are not commercially available but have been created by bio-hacker Rich Lee for his personal use. Intel claims to have a brain implanted chip that will eliminate keyboard input by 2020. You will be able to “think” input to your computer.
While security is a critical issue in this industry, the prognosis for growth is good. According to Electronics 360 Magazine, the connected medical devices market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20% to an anticipated global revenue of $73.1 billion in 2024.
3. Cyber Security Growth
Phishing, hacking, ransomware, trojans, bots and other malware all are persistently attacking networks, computers and connected devices. This is not a new trend but will continue to grow and change in 2019 as the cat and mouse battle between offense and defense continues. As IT security specialists devise new defenses, cyber criminals are continually coming up with more sophisticated attacks.
First, the explosive growth in IoT devices will open doors for hackers. IoT devices are notoriously light on cyber security. They usually rely only on passwords which are easily exploited by hackers. Gartner forecasts that there will be 21 billion connected devices (excluding smartphones and tablets) by the year 2020, up from about 8 billion in 2017. This is a potentially huge threat landscape for hackers against individuals, corporations and government networks.
A report by MindMajix shows cyber security spending by enterprise and government organizations, including defense, aerospace, finance and health care to be about $165 billion in 2019. So the fight will continue and grow during the next year. Look for governments to get more involved with legislation and regulations attempting to force better security practices on networks and connected device manufacturers. Growth of the threat landscape, growth in the number of attacks, growth in new connected devices, growth in cyber defense spending all point to a cyber security boom in 2019 and beyond.
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4. AI, Robotic Process Automation and Job Disruption
Books and academic papers have been published with titles like “Rise of the Robots” and “Humans Need Not Apply.” The future of human employment is being discussed and predictions are being made of a jobless society. Consider these arguments and quotations regarding automation making humans redundant. Also note the dates:
“March of the Machines Makes Idle Hands” New York Times 1928 The term “technological unemployment was coined by John Maynard Keynes in the 1930’s A major domestic challenge is to “maintain full employment at a time when automation…is replacing men.” John F. Kennedy 1960 The advent of the Personal Computer in the 1980s provoked concern over potential job losses. Indeed, jobs were indeed lost to the revolutionary technology. However, an entire new industry supporting computers and 'internetworking' was launched creating a wide variety of new jobs that were previously never imagined.
It seems to be an intuitive argument that AI and process automation will create a massive loss of jobs. What is less intuitive but born out in history is that automation may cause disruption in unemployment but ultimately creates more opportunity for other types of jobs. David Autor, an Economist at MIT, explains that automating a task so that it can be done more quickly or cheaply, increases the demand for human workers to do other tasks around it that have not been automated.
The Automated Teller Machine (ATM) was thought to be the end of the line for bank tellers. However, as the number of human tellers per branch decreased, the number of branches banks opened increased causing a net increase in bank employment. Routine tasks were automated so the bank tellers were free to perform other important tasks related to more complex customer service and sales functions. Computers, historically have reallocated employment rather than displaced jobs. There are also examples of similar reallocation rather than displacement more currently where AI has taken over routine tasks but freed up personnel to work on other non routine tasks.
There is evidence that the hand wringing about AI and RPA creating a jobless society may be premature. Reviewing employment history from the turn of the century, it is likely that policies promoting the acquisition of new skills can produce a soft landing to job disruption. Ultimately, by embracing automation, we increase productivity and create new job opportunities. Jobs like Robot Maintenance Engineer and AI Programmer will flourish in 2019. Job seekers will do well by keeping an eye on future technology and related opportunities. Credit to The Economist for this interesting perspective.
5. Mobile Payments on the Rise
According to a Business Insider article citing iResearch, mobile payments in China will reach $6.3 trillion by 2020 capping a 33% CAGR over five years. In India, mobile payments are estimated to reach $644 billion during 2019 and continue on a double digit growth path. By comparison, United States mobile payments amounted to $154 billion in 2018.
Mobile payments are defined as payments for goods or services made via a mobile device instead of paying with a bank check, credit card or cash. The mobile payment industry is positioned well for double digit growth throughout the coming decade. Rapid smartphone adoption, particularly in high population countries like India and China, and a supportive regulatory environment are providing tailwinds to this market.
While mobile payments in China and India will continue to grow rapidly, reports indicate that the United States and Europe will lag in the coming years. There are some interesting reasons for this technology adoption gap and smartphone availability is not one of them.
In developing economies such as India and China, over half of consumers have no bank relationship. Their options are cash or mobile payments. Therefore, mobile payments provide direct consumer benefits over cash such as security and financial manageability. So, with consumers preferring mobile payments, merchants are quick to adopt the technology as well. Mobile payments offers additional security, productivity and manageability to the merchant as well as the consumer. Everyone wins.
By contrast, in European and North American economies, the broad majority of consumers have existing banking relationships that provide a variety of simple, secure and manageable payment options. Mobile payments are somewhat more difficult to use than a credit card. Consumers use what they are comfortable with and there is not yet a compelling reason to change to the new technology. Likewise, if consumers are not demanding it, merchants are not quick to invest in it.
For 2019 and the next few years, mobile payments will skyrocket in China and India. The US and Europe will also grow but will continue to lag the less developed economies.