Top 10 breakthrough technologies of 2020

Between tiny AI and unhackable internet, this decade's tech trends will revolutionize the business world.

MIT Technology Review unveiled its top 10 breakthrough technology predictions on Wednesday. The trends--which include hype-inducing tech like quantum computing and unhackable internet--are expected to become realities in the next decade, changing the enterprise and world. 

SEE: Internet of Things: Progress, risks, and opportunities (free PDF)  (TechRepublic)

While many of the trends have a more scientific background, most can also apply to business, said David Rotman editor at MIT Technology Review. 

"Even though some of these sound science-y or research-y, all really do have important implications and business impacts. [For example], unhackable internet," Rotman said. "It's early, but we can all see why that would be a big deal. 

"Digital money will change how we do commerce; satellite mega constellations will potentially change how we do communications and the price of communications," Rotman added. 
 
The methodology behind determining the breakthrough technologies focused on what writers, editors, and journalists have been reporting on in the past year. All of the technologies are still being developed and improved in labs, Rotman said. 

MIT's top 10 breakthrough technologies of 2020 

The MIT Technology Review outlined the following 10 most exciting technologies being created and deployed in the next 10 years. 

1. Quantum supremacy

One of the most exciting technologies of the bunch, according to Rotman, quantum supremacy indicates that quantum computers are not only becoming a reality, but the functionality is becoming even more advanced.
Murmurs of quantum computer development have floated around the enterprise. The technology is able to process massive computational solutions faster than any supercomputer. 

While this form of computing hasn't been widely used yet, it will not only be usable by 2030, but possibly reach quantum supremacy, MIT found. 

"Quantum supremacy is the point where a quantum computer can do something that a classical conventional computer cannot do or take hundreds of years for a classical computer to do," Rotman said. 

The technology is now getting to the point where people can test them in their businesses and try different applications, and will become more popular in the coming years, Rotman said. 

Quantum computers are especially useful for massive scheduling or logistical problems, which can be particularly useful in large corporations with many moving parts, he added. 

2. Satellite mega-constellations

"Satellites have become so small and relatively cheap that people are sending up whole clusters of these satellites," Rotman said. "It's going to have an enormous impact on communication and all the things that we rely on satellites for."

These satellites could be able to cover the entire globe with high-speed internet. Applications of satellite mega-constellation use are currently being tested by companies including SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon, and Telesat, according to the report. 

3. Tiny AI

Another interesting, and surprising, technology in the study concerned tiny AI. The surprising nature of this comes with how quickly AI is growing, Rotman said. 

Starting in the present day, AI will become even more functional, independently running on phones and wearables. This ability would prevent devices from needing the cloud to use AI-driven features, Rotman said. 

4. AI-discovered molecules

"It's not just a first step, but it would be an important step in speeding up the search for new drugs," Rotman said.

Scientists have used AI to find drug-like compounds with specific desirable characteristics. In the next three to five years, new drugs might be able to be commercialized for a lesser cost, compared to the current $2.5 billion it takes to currently commercialize a new drug, the report found.

5. Climate change attribution

Researchers are now able to detect climate change's role in extreme weather conditions. With this discovery, scientists can help people better prepare for severe weather, according to the report.  

6. Anti-aging drugs

In less than five years, researchers will find drugs that treat ailments based on the body's natural aging process, the report found. Potentially, diseases including cancer, heart disease and dementia could be treated by slowing age. 

7. Unhackable internet

Within five years, the internet could be unhackable, the report found. 

Researchers are using quantum encryption to try and make an unhackable internet, which is particularly important as data privacy concerns heighten, Rotman said. 

8. Digital money

Digital money, also known as cryptocurrency, will become more widely used in 2020. However, the rise of this money will also have major impacts on financial privacy, as the need for an intermediary becomes less necessary, according to the report. 

9. Hyper-personalized medicine

Occupying three trends on the list, medicine is proving to potentially be a huge area for innovation. Currently, doctors and researchers are designing novel drugs to treat unique genetic mutations. These specialized drugs could cure some ailments that were previously uncurable, the report found. 

10. Differential privacy

Differential privacy is a technique currently being used by the US government collecting data for the 2020 census. The US Census Bureau has issues keeping the data it collects private, but this tactic helps to anonymize the data, a tactic other countries may also adopt, according to the report. 

For more, check out Forget quantum supremacy: This quantum-computing milestone could be just as important on ZDNet.

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