Preloader image

HBA’s Top Tech Trends For 2020 — By Alan Baldachin and Sara Bagley

Technological growth can change the world by advancing society and bettering humanity.  Startups as well as more mature businesses in content, health, and beauty are taking advantage of new technologies and platforms to drive growth. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence and the internet of things, conveniences are becoming even more convenient.  As we start off a new year, we thought it would be useful to highlight some of the areas in tech that we’re keeping an eye on.

  1. The Streaming Wars

As we know, traditional cable television is on life support in favor of streaming (even the term “over the top” or “OTT” now seem quaint).  In the streaming wars, Netflix has reigned supreme, but new entrants Disney+ and AppleTV+ have joined Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube Red, Facebook Watch, HBO Go, and the other network-specific streaming services.   Apple TV+’s original show, The Morning Show, was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and Disney+ gained ten million subscribers within the first day of launching.  Here we are seeing the continuing seismic convergence of Big Tech and media, platforms, and content.

While initially, it may be cost-effective to cancel your expensive cable package and opt for a few streaming subscriptions, subscribing to enough platforms to access everything that’s popular might end up costing you the same amount as your old, bulky cable package (particularly if you add in a “skinny bundle” from Hulu, YouTube, etc.). The attraction of each of the streaming platforms lies in the appeal of their own original, extremely expensive content.  Recently, memes of Baby Yoda from Disney+’s The Mandalorian and Joe Goldberg from Netflix’s You have been dominating social media feeds and fostering discussions. How will social media’s meme-marketing continue to heavily influence the popularity of streaming services in 2020?  Will we continue to care?

In 2020 we are also looking forward to the April launch of Jeffery Katzenberg’s Quibi, a new short-form video platform with a billion-dollar budget. We are interested to see how our celebrity-obsessed culture reacts to this new platform with name-brand talent. Is this where the future of streaming could be headed?  How will audiences react to highly produced, short-form narrative content?

  1. Console Wars Redux

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are both set to launch during the 2020 holiday season. The new Xbox, which will be backwards compatible, will be released with a new wireless controller equipped with a “share” button to make screenshotting and capturing game clips easier, a boon to YouTubers and Twitchers. PlayStation 5’s new controller will adopt haptic feedback, replacing the rumble technology, so that players get a variety of textures through their controllers. Adaptive triggers will be another key feature of Sony’s new controller design, allowing developers to program triggers with different resistance to create a more powerful tactile experience.

With the next-generation version of both Xbox and PlayStation releasing during the 2020 holiday season, it will be interesting to see which console’s new features attract more consumers. Will virtual reality advancements, such as the new Teslasuit Gloves and HaptX Gloves – which will now allow virtual reality gamers to feel shape, texture and motion of virtual objects – be the feature that nudges virtual reality compatible PlayStation ahead of Xbox Series X? Will current video game console users stay loyal with the upcoming releases or switch sides and see what the other brand has to offer?

  1. Peer-to-Peer Electronic Payments to Dominate

Electronic payments are set to become the new standard purchasing method. It’s plastic-less, cashless, and connected to the devices we can’t let leave our side. Paradoxically, we are a sanctimonious society addicted to convenience and comfort (how many of us deleted Uber? canceled Equinox memberships? boycotted Delta?), and now we can buy things with the click of a button on our watch.  That’s as easy as it gets. Apps like ApplePay, Venmo, Zelle, PayPal, CashApp, and even the abilities of your bank apps make it possible to never pay another credit card bill again. On the downside, users will be even more dependent on devices than ever. Having a dead, broken, or stolen phone could prevent people from accessing their funds in real-time.  In addition, is the increased specter of hacks and stolen funds.

  1. Biometrics Replace Passwords and Signatures

Older movies, such as 1980’s films Blade Runner and Never Say Never Again, depicted futuristic personal identification or access into highly secure areas being restricted by iris or hand recognition. Our phones already have fingerprint, facial (with gaze-detection), and voice recognition abilities. These biometric technologies can replace passwords and be used to authenticate identity and control access. Will other biometric methods for unlocking access be introduced into the mainstream this year? Will newer technologies move towards using multimodal biometrics by combining several biometric sources to increase accuracy and security, hoping to reduce error rates?

Payment cards are currently authenticated by either the “chip and signature” (credit cards) or “chip and PIN number” (debit cards) methods. Press releases from VISA and Mastercard in recent years announced pilot programs to test Biometric Sensor Cards, i.e., credit/debit cards with embedded fingerprints sensors to authenticate payments. Fingerprint data is stored locally on the card, in an encrypted format, avoiding the privacy and cybersecurity concerns that might be associated with a cloud-based centralized database. The fingerprint scanners are charged by the card readers, eliminating the need for a battery. These pilot programs are being slowly introduced in different areas with different banks, but will 2020 be the year that we finally leave PIN numbers behind?

  1. More Direct to Consumer Influencer Beauty Brands

Beauty and lifestyle influencers are a prime marketing resource for many beauty brands to push their latest products.  However, what we’ve seen is that the more prominent influencers have caught on to the game. The beauty industry is worth over $500 billion and influencers have shifted into creating their own beauty brands rather than promoting other brands for a relative pittance.  2019 was huge for the makeup community with many popular beauty influencers launching new beauty brands and collaborations. Coty purchased a 51% controlling share in Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie Jenner’s billion dollar makeup brand, for $600 million in mid-November. Fenty Beauty, by Rihanna, broke industry standards in terms of skin tone shade range while Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson’s YouTube Documentary Series revealed the behind-the-scenes process of makeup from concept creation and manufacturing to the promotion and sales of a completed makeup collection, showing people the realities of creating makeup.

Many new brands launched last year, including everything from Kim Kardashian West’s Skims Solution Wear Line to new entrepreneurial makeup brands from popular YouTubers like Dragun Beauty by Nikita Dragun, Jaclyn Cosmetics by Jaclyn Hill, and Tati Beauty by Tati Westbrook (who also has a vitamin line, Halo Beauty). The iconic Lady Gaga launched makeup brand Haus Laboratories this year, as did teenage actress Millie Bobby Brown, whose beauty line, Florence by Mills, is geared towards young teens. Will this trend see continued growth in the upcoming year, or did it break the ceiling and hit its peak in 2019?

  1. Wearable Technology and Biodata

Where technology’s conveniences may make us complacent, there are also technologies that remind us to get up and stay active. Apple Watches and Fitbits are examples of wireless wearable technology that has been around for a few years.  Beyond smartwatches, it looks like new wearable devices may be entering the wearable technology space. Advertisements for UpRight have flooded social media feeds.  Upright is a wearable device that trains the wearer to improve their posture and strengthen their core and back by vibrating when it senses slouching. Wearable technology can be more than accessories, such as the Owlet Baby Monitor smart sock that can tell you important facts about your baby, including his or her current heart rate and oxygen levels. BearTek’s SnowSport Gloves allow you to control your phone (music, camera, calling) with gesture control. Athos and Hexoskin have developed smart shirts that have sensors that monitor heart and breathing rates.

And even beyond health/fitness tracking, wearables are also making inroads into entertainment.  At Amazon’s September 2019 launch event, Amazon unveiled two wearable Alexa products, the Amazon Echo Loop, a smart ring with a microphone and speaker built-in, and the Amazon Echo Frames, smart glasses with Alexa built-in with speakers above the ears and phone connectivity. While these Amazon products are available by invite-only and are only compatible with Androids, Apple recently filed its own smart ring patent.

  1. Continued Focus on Privacy. Regulating Big Tech

It has become axiomatic that with greater reliance on technology, and in particular the cloud, private information grows more vulnerable. While it is common knowledge that Big Tech manipulates and sells harvested personal information, people are becoming much more attuned and regulators are responding. While the European Union implemented the General Data Protection Regulation law back in 2018, the United States is now actually acting on the importance of data protection and privacy. The California Consumer Protection Act just came into effect at the beginning of 2020 with enhanced privacy rights and consumer protection for California residents. California residents now have statutory privacy rights and can make informed decisions about what companies do with their personal information, and we believe it to be only a matter of time before more states start catching on to the trend (and the federal government steps in).

Speaking of Big Tech, will this be the year Facebook is regulated or even broken up?  Perhaps not, but something is in the air.  How much longer will Facebook credibly be able to resist regulation of hate and/or fake content and by claiming it’s a “neutral platform” only, while traditional media companies are required to be accountable for content?  Whether in 2020 or beyond, it’s a good bet that Facebook as we now know it has a much shorter half-life than we might believe.  Example:  Libra, Facebook’s native digital currency initiative, is badly stalled if not completely DOA.

  1. Internet of Things Will Grow and Devices Will Gain Fully Wireless Capabilities

Wireless headphones, controllers, charging, and connection are already existing abilities for many modern cellphones. How much longer until we can fully leave the wires behind for good? Wireless capabilities are expected to keep getting better this year with 5G cellular systems, wireless sensing, and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) wireless advancements.

Computers are embedded into even the simplest of objects and our devices can be remotely monitored and/or controlled and can perform various functions without any direction from users. Devices have the ability to transfer data themselves over an internet network without requiring any human interaction. My Apple Watch interacts and shares information with my MacBook and my iPhone without me having to ask it to.  We understand that a version of this type of functionality is in the works for Apple’s next generation of AirPods. “Smart home” technologies, such as lights, thermostats, blinds, security systems, and other appliances, can each be monitored and/or controlled by another device that is associated within the smart home ecosystem. Today, it’s difficult to find a “dumb” device.

  1. Home Security Concerns Heighten

Security cameras, which consumers buy with the intention of increasing personal security, are being hacked into and people are being spied on by strangers.  Randoms or, worse, predators, can step inside of your home and observe you without you ever knowing (extremely disconcertingly given our kids’ attachment to devices, including the new Amazon Echo Show 5 which has a screen, a mic and a camera). In addition, as has been seen in recent viral videos, hackers are seen trying to communicate with people in the homes they’re watching. Amazon’s Ring security cameras have recently fallen victim to hackers and are now facing lawsuits over alleged security camera hacks. That elusive, omniscient FBI agent that’s watching you through your camera is all too real now… except instead of, or in addition to, the government spying on you, it’s strangers with unclear intentions.

  1. Augmented Reality Will Continue to Grow

Augmented reality, an overlay of computer graphics onto our view of our immediate physical environment, has been around for some time: think of the fun face-altering filters on Snapchat and Instagram, both of which platforms continue to develop more applications and abilities. Artificial Intelligence is an essential component of augmented reality and the continued growth in AI provides the background for a boom in AR.

The automobile industry is experimenting with AR by placing voice assistants and AR navigation technologies in cars. Indoor navigation apps that help users navigate through massive buildings to find their destinations might become more mainstream in 2020. AR-enabled shopping, where you can try on new makeup looks, hairstyles, watches, frames, or even clothes or get information about the stores and products near you, exists and is growing.

  1. Deepfakes

In an era where cameras are attached to us 24/7, an unbelievable story is worth nothing without picture or video proof. As defined by Urban Dictionary, “pics or it didn’t happen” was a popular phrase on the internet in 2019 referring to an unverifiable claim, such as meeting your favorite celebrity or witnessing something bizarre in public. While photoshop and photo-editing programs have been around for a while, the introduction of deepfakes, an algorithmically-driven form of predictive video-editing, threatens to ruin the credibility of media evidence.

Deepfakes are manipulated videos depicting fabricated images and sounds to appear real and can be used as a form of disinformation. Deepfake technology uses deep learning algorithms, a subset of artificial intelligence, to make fake situations appear real, leading to potentially detrimental consequences, depending on who or what is the subject of the video. Deepfakes create huge security and legal concerns. At the risk of getting overly “post-structural”, deepfakes threaten the foundational reliability of video evidence. Concerns over evidence tampering will mean a move towards more secure video recording devices, perhaps with some form of authentication that a video is untampered and original (itself a word with a slippery meaning).

Politicians and celebrities are the most popular deepfake victims. President Trump has himself been a victim of many deepfakes, while also sharing a deepfake of Nancy Pelosi stammering on his own Twitter account. The 2016 election hacking and interference with the vast spread of false information online had a significant impact on the election and these deepfakes could be a huge problem for the upcoming  2020 election. While deepfake videos can be created for amusement, potential danger arises when deepfake videos and “cancel culture” combine to have real, negative, undeserved impact on those portrayed or the public. The popular saying used to be, “you have to see it to believe it.”  Nowadays, even seeing it may not be enough to believe it.

  1. Nanotechnology Advancements

The applications of nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale, are endless. Advancements in the medical field could change the way medical professionals approach treatment in the future. Doctors can inject tiny sensors into our bodies or implants that stimulate cell growth and positive gene expression. Researchers are developing particles that can detect, and possibly even destroy, cancer cells.  Researchers have developed another type of wearable technology with nanotechnology called nanomesh” with skin displays and electronic tattoos embedded with sensors that can relay information on one’s emotional state, vital signs, and muscle movement.

Aside from placing little doctors inside of your body, nanotechnology can be used to detect infrastructure issues and create self-healing materials. Sensors can be placed over all over critical infrastructure (think: bridges, tunnels, planes, and trains) to ensure that things are operating smoothly and detect any issues that may arise. Coating additives can create extremely hard surfaces and give nanotechnology the ability to self-heal damaged material, such as filling cracks or allowing textures to repel water. Scientists have developed self-cleaning surfaces that can break down debris or bacteria or repel dirt and water. Nanotechnologies have been around for a while, but with endless applications, will advancements in nanotechnology finally leave the research lab and integrate into our everyday lives?

  1. More Electric Cars

The earth is dying but at least the automobile industry seems to be making small steps towards cleaner air.  Electric car sales doubled in 2019 and growth in the electric car industry is showing no signs of slowing down. Charging stations are popping up all over the country. Automobile companies, both economy and luxury, are all developing electric vehicles with many new models to hit streets in 2020.  As battery tech advances, we are on the lookout for a tipping point where society moves on from gas combustion to electric.  Will 2020 be the year?

  1. Stall of Autonomous Vehicles

No one thought autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles would be ready for prime time in 2020.  However, conversations about and advancements in autonomous vehicles seems to have stalled out.  Unclear regulations, which differ in each state, have created roadblocks for growth of the autonomous vehicle industry (pun intended!).  In addition, unresolved issues linger such as adverse weather, unpredictable traffic events, jaywalkers, and general liability concerns from some high-profile accidents involving driverless cars. While there have been attempts to push autonomous vehicles into the mainstream with Tesla’s auto-pilot function and driverless Ubers, the rollout seems to have been met with issues every step of the way.

Still, certain industries have signaled an openness to shifting into the use of autonomous vehicles to accomplish, for example, transportation and delivery tasks.  Amazon and FedEx Delivery Robots were spotted last year, yet some cities, like New York, are less than welcoming.  Autonomous vehicles also offer the promise of safe, cost-effective, alternative transportation for those who are incapable of driving themselves, like the elderly or the disabled.  Perhaps lawmakers and industry leaders will resolve these issues and we’ll see more car companies introducing some higher levels of autonomous driving into their vehicles in this new decade.

  1. The Rise of Informative, Neighborhood-Oriented Social Media

Apps like Citizen and Nextdoor offer interactive platforms for users to share local information with each other. Citizen notifies nearby users of real-time crime and safety alerts with user-generated video streaming and discussions. Nextdoor is a neighborhood-oriented social media site where neighbors can share local news and information. While it may feel like some neighborhoods have lost their sense of community, it might be that, instead, interconnectivity between neighbors may be stronger online.  Will there be more growth in online communities and information sharing? Will neighborhood-oriented apps truly enhance safety and awareness while bringing communities closer together?

  1. TikTok Makes the Cut for Most Popular Social Media Platforms

Who knew there was room for yet another social networking platform? With the domination of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and LinkedIn, we didn’t think there was room for any more sharing. With the help of social media, we overshared our lives, created celebrities seemingly out of thin air (@emrata anyone?), and harnessed the power to even enact some real change in the recent years. But hold up, there was a new kid on the block in 2019: TikTok.  TikTok’s downloads exploded last year and it is currently listed fourth most popular on the Apple App Store’s Top Free Charts, right behind YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.

What caused TikTok’s rise in ranks? TikTok’s content has been posted to other popular forums, like Twitter and Instagram, sparking interest in the platform. It’s also being used by many of the most followed celebrities and influencers, some of which were likely paid to promote the app. Is TikTok’s popularity going to be short-lived? On December 16, 2019, the Defense Information Systems Agency issued a cyber awareness message declaring the Chinese-owned app a cyber threat that will be banned from all government-owned phones. Will the Pentagon’s warning curb TikTok’s growth or will its newly forbidden status only heighten its appeal? Will TikTok survive and become a long-lasting member of the social media Mt. Rushmore, or is TikTok riding a short, contact high of new fame which will deflate into irrelevance like Vine or YikYak? Only time will tell.

  1. Vision Fund’s Flop Investment in WeWork

WeWork, the commercial real estate company that wanted to be a tech company, seemingly disrupted commercial real estate on its way into orbit.  Sometimes at least, what goes up does, indeed, come careening down.  After releasing its IPO prospectus back in August of last year, WeWork’s tanked and pretty much everything turned to shit. WeWork’s IPO prospectus revealed many large, burdensome financial commitments, including billions of dollars in long term lease obligations.  It also disclosed a horrifying web of related-party transactions and nepotism centered around founder Adam Neumann that would make even the Trump family squeamish (OK, maybe not them, but you get the idea). SoftBank’s Vision Fund, a monster investor in WeWork, has taken major losses on their investment—writing down a reported $4.6 billion in the third quarter of 2019 from WeWork alone. After withdrawing their IPO, laying off thousands of employees in December 2019, and handing control over to SoftBank, their biggest investor, what’s next for WeWork?  We think a full-blown bankruptcy is an inevitability, and, if a WeWork bankruptcy happens, it’s going to take a boatload of landlords down with it and with them a good chunk of the economy.  Be afraid people, be very afraid.

 

Craving more discussion on technology trends? Check out some of our favorite 2019 and 2020 Tech Trends Lists linked below! 

 

Alan Baldachin is the Managing Partner of HBA, a venture law firm based in New York City. He is also the host of The Medium Rules available on Youtube, the HBA website, and all major streaming sites.

Sara Bagley practices corporate, intellectual property, and transactional law at HBA; focusing primarily in the fashion, lifestyle, media, and technology industries.