Let's get phygital: Most disruptive tech of 2020

The most disruptive technologies in 2020 will include automation, IoT, digital twinning, trust in digital interactions, phygital spaces, smart buildings, and data wallets, NTT found.

The role of digital disruption in today's enterprise Antony Shields talked with TechRepublic at the 2019 SAP SAPPHIRE NOW conference about how organizations can leverage digital disruption to improve business processes.

Tech service provider NTT released a report on Monday outlining the top digital disruption predictions for 2020. In the report, NTT CTO Ettienne Reinecke highlighted five specific disruptive technologies expected to impact 2020.

After gathering global insights on intelligent tech solutions from clients, NTT experts determined the future's most impactful disruptive technologies. Gartner's IT glossary defines digital disruption as "an effect that changes the fundamental expectations and behaviors in a culture, market, industry or process that is caused by, or expressed through, digital capabilities, channels or assets." 

SEE: Digital transformation: An IT pro's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

While the word disruption may have a negative connotation, digital disruption is a positive movement for the tech world.

"Disruption is actually a good thing, it's not a bad thing at all," Reinecke said. "Disruption could improve and transform a business model, giving professionals the opportunity to re-engineer their organization in a much needed manner.

Reinecke offered predictions on the technologies that will result in the most digital disruptionAt the heart of all digital disruption is data, which fuels operational and digital transformation. The disruptive technologies listed are all related to how data is collected, what data is used for, what platforms manage data, and how data is made available, he explained. 

The 5 disruptive technologies 

With Americans using 4,416,720 GB of data every minute, a DOMO report found, there is plenty of data to go around. Here are NTT's top five data-driven disruptive technologies predicted to make a splash in 2020.

1. Digital twinning

As internet of things (IoT) devices continue advancing, from sensors to wearables and smartphones, more data points about humans will be collected. Humans will generate enough data to create a digital twin, which is a virtual model that maps out data collected in real-time on the physical being, according to IBM's Cheat sheet: What is a Digital Twin?.  

As various wearables become more popular, the possibility of digital twins become more real, the report found. Once a digital twin is created, humans will be able to try out diets and see how it impacts their biometric twin. These digital twins will also be helpful in discovering medical conditions and how different preventative or prescriptive medications could help one's health, Reinecke said. 

SEE:  Prescriptive analytics research report 2019: Tech leaders open to emerging technology  (TechRepublic Premium)

Other industries are using digital twins to improve business outcomes. One example is the automaker Maserati, which used digital twin technology for product design. The company uses virtual modeling and simulation to test out new automobile features, reducing the number of physical prototypes, cutting costs and vehicle development time, reported ZDNet in The rise of the Digital Twin: Why the enterprise needs to take notice

2. Building trust through digital interactions

Moving into 2020, digital interactions will become more integrated in people's lives, causing humans to trust and rely on that tech, the report found. 

"As the data platforms and the availability of data is building, your artificial intelligence (AI) is even more accurate," Reinecke said. "As that becomes more accurate, we're starting to see the trust build between you and what you're getting out of the insights. There's a trust in the predictive side because predictions are being proven to be a lot more accurate than in the past."

For example, employees in call centers will start to rely on AI to determine when a senior-level supervisor needs to be involved in situations. "With real time analytics, pattern matching, and the computing power we now have, we can look at words, we can look at sentence constructs. We can even look at someone's tone, the frequency of voice dips, and start matching up that to things like sentiment analysis to find problems," Reinecke said. 

"We can detect it just by listening to the words, or analyzing the tone of a conversation, that we've got to inject a senior person into a contact center interaction," Reinecke continued. "We're starting to really see the trust built through the insights we get in the digital interactions."

An example of this technology is IBM Watson's Tone Analyzer, which used voice recognition technology and machine learning algorithms to detect subtleties in tone. The chatbot could determine if customers were satisfied or frustrated, helping businesses improve their customer experience, reported TechRepublic in With new Tone Analyzer, IBM Watson can tell if customers are satisfied or frustrated on its own.

3. Immersive, responsive 'phygital' spaces

Spatial computing, or digital technology that interacts with humans and their surroundings, brings all forms of realities together: Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality, and human reality, Reinecke said.

SEE: Mixed reality in business report: Despite potential uses, enterprise implementation lag (TechRepublic Premium)

The AR/VR industry is growing rapidly, predicted to be a $160 billion industry by 2023, Statista research found. Already, "we're starting to create a blend, particularly in business, between the physical and the digital;" also known as "phygital," Reinecke said. 

The first phases of phygital spaces included bringing entire baseball stadiums to high-definition screens at home, providing a 360-degree view of the complex, but while sitting on your couch, Reinecke said. 

A more advanced example, which we could begin seeing in 2020, brings AR into the picture. "In the Tour de France, we've been using augmented reality to provide a three-dimensional view of the profile of a stage of a race. You're watching the cyclists going across the Alps, but then what you could do for your second screen is log into an augmented reality three-dimensional view of the actual mountain stage," Reinecke said. "We have trackers on the bicycles, and we embed that in the augmented reality experience, so suddenly you can have a three dimensional perspective of what these athletes are actually conquering. It provides a very realistic blend between the physical and the digital world."

Another example could be mixed reality helping students practice surgeries, wherein residents could simulate surgeries through AR and VR, rather than on people, according to ZDNet's Your guide to mixed reality technology

4. Smart buildings

The smart building market has been expanding significantly over the past decade, especially with the development of smart home IoT tech and voice assistants. In 2020, however, IoT will become even more immersed in buildings, with the ability to adjust room temperatures based on the number of people in the space, or change a room's lighting based on the time of day, the report found. 

IoT won't be the only components evolving in smart tech. Even business management systems will become more intuitive in 2020. For example, "we're starting to see a lot of integration between building management systems, and your collaboration systems," Reinecke said. "Think about Office 365, it is a common platform, and you get a lot of analytics out of it. You'll have all your latest interactions, your latest interchange, and more."

In the future, "as you come into the office, and you're asking for a desk, the systems will detect who you are; that the systems will look at who you most often work with because you've got analytics through Office 365; it will then actually find the people you most often interact with, and put you next to them, or close to them in the same area of the office," Reinecke said.

In that process, there is no human touch. "It's all system analytics, and the system sentiments coming together. It's data, it's IoT, it's integration, it's automation, and suddenly things are getting easier in terms of the workplace," Reinecke said. 

SEE: Office 365: A guide for tech and business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

5. Data wallets

Data privacy is an overarching problem for internet users, with hackers constantly trying to steal personal information and credentials from users. The persistence of this problem resulted in data privacy legislation, such as GDPR in the EU, which attempts to give citizens more control over their personal data. 

The concept of data wallets aims to place data in exclusively in the hands of the person who owns it, Reinecke said. While the concept of a data wallet is vague in the report, Reinecke explained that with data wallets, nobody would be able to access someone's data without certain permission in place. If a threat is possible, then the wallet will be locked down, he said. 

Embracing the disruption 

Before embracing disruptive technologies, business must make sure they have a strong data architecture, or a process for which data is collected. Once a business has a solid data strategy, they will be able to determine which disruptive technologies will be most advantageous for their organization, Reinecke said. 

For more, check out Digital transformation: How to make sure your project is a success on our sister site ZDNet. 

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Image: Microsoft