Technology on a roof

Our top 5 tech-related trends for 2019

As we head into 2019 in earnest, we sat down with Pete Kinder, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Wax Digital and other members of our product development team to produce a list of the technology trends we reckon will dominate 2019. 

From the rollout of 5G, to autonomous vehicles, to data management and digital twins – 2019 is set to be a landmark year for development of technology used for consumers and businesses. 

5G 

5g mobile signal technology

5G stands for fifth-generation mobile networks. Like 4G and its predecessors, 5G refers to a standard used to access data on mobile devices. Things like your tablet, mobile phone and other portable devices might make use of 4G and soon, 5G. 

It’s set to replace 4G and will roll out across the UK in 2019 or early 2020. But analysts suggest that 5G coverage won’t become widespread until about 2022, when the existing mobile telephone network is updated to support the 5G standard. 

Either way, 5G is set to transform our existing mobile phone infrastructure; with the chief benefit it is set to bring is that it is roughly 100 times faster than 4G.  

We’ve enclosed a table below to illustrate the advances in speed:  

Network type Year introduced Download speed Time to download an HD film 
3G 2001 384Kbps Over a day 
4G 2010 100Mbps 7 minutes 
4G+ 2011 300Mbps 2 and half minutes 
5G 2019-20 1-10Gbps 4-40 seconds 

Besides a faster data transfer speed, 5G will facilitate digital transformation, a revolutionary process that disrupts everything from the way business functions, to everyday life, in a way 4G hasn’t achieved so far. 

For instance, 5G benefits from a much lower latency, which describes the delay between you doing something and your device responding. This is instrumental in things like driverless cars – where any delay could mean the difference between life and death.  

In addition, 5G supports a greater capacity, which means the network will be able to support lots of connections from devices simultaneously, paving the way for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart fridges, driver user interfaces (UIs) and much more. 

For procurement, this helps the IoT enter the supply chain management process more readily, without the latency issues we’ve just described. We’ll talk more about IoT later in this article. 

Data

Filing cabinet 

Data is set to become more important to businesses and consumers over the next 12 months.  

Confidence in large companies and how they handle consumer data has been put under the microscope after the Cambridge Analytica scandal 

The controversy centred around how the political consultancy acquired personal data for 87 million Facebook users. In a raid on Cambridge Analytica’s UK offices, carried out by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), they identified that the political consultancy acquired all this data by using a Facebook app called: ‘This is Your Digital Life’. 

By giving this third-party app permission to capture their data, this also gave this app access to information on the user’s friends networks, which resulted in the 87 million Facebook users mentioned. Most of these people hadn’t given Cambridge Analytica permission to access their personal details. 

It raised numerous questions about how Facebook managed its third-party app developers, as well as heightened privacy concerns for social media users overall.  

When considering Facebook, research from Pew Research Centre shows that 42% of users have stepped back from daily activity and engagement. Also, the same survey goes on to say that 26% of users have deleted the Facebook app from their phones.  

Why is all this significant? Some commentators have linked the decline of Facebook users with the Cambridge Analytica scandal a lack of trust in the firm. It led to a fall of about 40% of the Silicon Valley giant’s share price. 

In 2019, we predict that another major scandal involving consumer data will take place, with GDPR and how effective it is, and how it can be enforced, to be tested.  

We expect politicians – much like those that quizzed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – to be pressured to take security breaches like those unearthed at Cambridge Analytica seriously, as awareness and understanding of how personal data is used by large multi-national organisations.  

IoT 

Internet of things on a smart watch

The Internet of Things (IoT), a term that refers to everyday devices such as fridges, smartphones and wearable technologies such as fitness watches is set to become increasingly important in 2019.  

According to technology analysts Gartner, 20 billion IoT devices will be active in 2020, up 12 billion according to data from IOT analytics. 

IoT has long been touted as a major technological development and it would be fair to say its growth has been slow. But with 5G becoming a reality sooner rather than later, the barriers preventing IoT being adopted on a large-scale are beginning to evaporate. 

Indeed, latency is a challenge facing manufacturers of driverless cars in their pursuit to perfect the technology. The solution proposed is something called edge computing – a technology intrinsically linked to IoT. 

Edge computing relies on edge devices, technology that provides access points to a network. For instance, routers, switches and similar devices act as substations; saving the need for data to be transmitted back to a data centre potentially hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.  

This is especially important for autonomous vehicles because the technology relies on quick decisions being made, such as braking quickly to avert life-or-death situations.  

Away from driverless cars, lower latency internet connections and edge devices will bring enormous benefits to the procurement industry. For instance, a weight-operated warehouse, complete with IoT devices that monitor weight could automatically detect when stocks are getting low and proactively order replacement stock.  

In addition, monitors and building sensors could be used to help maintenance crews in warehouses troubleshoot faults more quickly and effectively. The data collected by IoT-enabled devices could even help reduce maintenance costs and give procurement a window into supplier performance. 

The only barrier to IoT bring adopted on a mass-scale we can anticipate is the issue around how data from IoT-enabled devices are used. Given the controversy caused by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and more stringent privacy laws brought about by GDPR, will suspicion about how data is being used be a barrier IoT can overcome?  

Blockchain 

Blockchain-image

Blockchain is something that’s been doing the rounds in procurement for a couple of years now, but we expect this technology to really take off in 2019. 

We’ve blogged about it last year, and we’ll likely to continue to do so in the coming months as it becomes more and more prevalent in our day-to-day life.  

According to Jonathan Hassel: “Blockchain is a shared distributed ledger technology in which each transaction is digitally signed to ensure its authenticity and integrity — and it’s poised to make big waves in a wide range of business use cases.” 

From a supply chain perspective, blockchain will transform the process of moving goods from manufacturer, to supplier, to sale. The technology relies on securely making a record of every single transaction involved in the aforementioned process.  

It has the scope to reduce delays of good going to sale, reduce the amount of time it takes for goods to go on sale as well as eliminate human errors that plague the supply chain. 

Read more about blockchain in our blog post here. 

Digital twins

digital twins 

A digital twin is a virtual representation of things such as a building, a train network or an entire supply chain. Using AI algorithms, machine learning, IoT and 3D modelling, analysts can recreate anything in a virtual space to further understand how an object or process works, predict potential issues and make improvements. 

Imagine recreating your entire supply chain as a digital twin and feeding live data from IoT-enabled devices to create and simulate a range of scenarios? You’ll be able to anticipate weaknesses in your supply chain and plan for them accordingly. 

You’ll also be able to use your supply chain digital twin to optimise existing processes in your supply chain too. For instance, it could be possible to simulate obtaining goods from alternative suppliers and then demonstrating the impact it may have on your supply chain. 

While this technology is in its infancy, over the course of 2019, we anticipate digital twins to become an increasingly important part of supply chain management. 

Got anything you’d like to add? 

Is there anything you’d like to add to the trends we’ve talked about on this list? Or is there something you’d like to add that isn’t on the list in the first place? Do let us know on our Twitter and LinkedIn channels what you think.