2019 forecasts: trends of trends

Par : Benoit Zante
17 December 2018
Temps de lecture : 7 min

Teams at the HUB Institute have collected and analysed trends and forecasts for 2019 supplied by consultancy firms, brands, agencies and futurologists etc. Here's what you need to know.


It's still all about AI!

One certainty: if your 2019 trends list doesn't mention Artificial Intelligence, your credibility will take a nose-dive! Once again it's hard to miss: from food to health via marketing and fashion, AI is everywhere.

Although the US magazine Inc. is announcing a wave of failures and buy-outs of startups purporting to do AI ("at best, their technologies will turn out to be based on standard algorithms, at worst, on hot air"), it is still able to announce a new groundswell: a coming wave of startups whose tools generate their own data.

At Gartner, the firm reckons that in the absence of sufficient talent, AI will for several years remain the province of sorcerers' apprentices, operating on the fringes of their organisations. But things will change when firms take AI out of the testing sheds and focus on its business impact.

The voice is not going to replace the screen

Another buzzword that's still current is voice. Deloitte predicts that smart speakers will be the fastest-growing connected devices in 2019, with 250 million devices globally by the end of the year. The growth will be spearheaded by the non-English-speaking markets, which Amazon Echo, Google Home and other Xiaomi AIs are beginning to conquer. At the same time, voice recognition quality will continue to improve and speaker prices will fall... One part of the growth could come from B2B, especially hoteliers, who are starting to fit their rooms with smart speakers.

But what about uses? For Inc., Voice isn't about to replace screens and keyboards, but it will remain an additional way to access the web. It's all about ease of use: consumers want the most practical user experience, depending on their situation.

Everyone will get their "digital twin"

It's official: digital twins are now at the top of the Gartner hype curve. The firm reckons that these will become mainstream in businesses 5 to 10 years from now. So what is a digital twin? Using internet-of-things sensors, it becomes possible to model systems (business, factory, infrastructure etc) accurately and in real time. The benefit is clear: the ability to display data and interactions makes it possible to achieve operational efficiencies, anticipate crises and design more flexible ecosystems.

The digital twin isn't just for industry: it can also be applied to organisations, or even to humans. In particular, Ericsson predicts more and more realistic avatars "which mean we can be in two places at once". With developments in virtual and augmented reality, their uses will go far beyond video games.

Transparency and trust will always be paramount

The HUBFORUM wasn't wrong in choosing the theme "No Trust, No Business" for its 2018 event: the theme of trust will be more relevant than ever in 2019... Fake news, fake influencers, fraud, security breaches, data theft... there are a host of issues of concern to citizens, and also to businesses. "We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever" explains Keith Weed, Unilever CMO (who is about to retire), quoted by JWT in its "Instagram Backlash" trend, about influencers.

This idea of trust is intimately linked to that of transparency. "If businesses base themselves around transparency, they'll be able to rebuild trust", reckons Fjord, the Accenture design agency. Trendwatching meanwhile talks about "Superhuman Resources" to describe the growing demand of citizens for "artificial intelligence and algorithms that make correct, unbiased decisions." 

What is certain: faced with a technological black box, the need to understand and to lift the bonnet is stronger than ever, both for professionals and for users.

Mental health is becoming an area for concern

Ford's “Digital Detox”, Ericsson's campaign against "mental obesity", “Social Media Wellbeing” at JWT: the question of mental health, put under severe strain by the over-demands of smartphones and social networks, is now front and centre. Under pressure from awareness-raisers like Tristan Harris, founder of "Time Well Spent", the platforms headed by Google, Apple and Facebook are beginning to study the impact of their technologies on our behaviours and to supply tools to take back control.

Paradoxically, by trusting machines to make our decisions, our brains get more and more lazy - how do we retrain them to think? That's what Ericsson is asking. They report that in one of their studies, a third of respondents were worried that virtual assistants will make people forget how to make their own decisions. Meanwhile Ford cites a statistic: 83% of employees would like their employers to offer mental rest days. Is digital well-being the next social issue?

Other new buzzwords to look out for...

After the blockchain, machine learning, AI, VR and AR, there's room for new concepts: "quantum" applied to IT and marketing (at Fleshman Hillard), "reinforcement learning" (at Terradata), "edge computing" (at Forrester) or even "smart dust"...

– Benoît Zante, Head of Research, HUB Institute

Quantum is the new AI. Unless it's Edge Computing.

Have you had enough of hearing about artificial intelligence all day long? Well be of good cheer, nature in general and tech in particular abhor a vacuum, so it's highly likely that another buzzword will emerge to bring variety to our routine daily tech vocabulary. According to our forecasts, quantum and edge computing are in pole position to hit the 2019 jackpot.

The coming developments in AI will in fact be driven by those in quantum computing, whose processing power is far superior to what we know currently, and for a lower power consumption. Edge Computing meanwhile brings all the flexibility of the cloud closer to the devices it supplies data to, at the periphery of the network. This saved time - which is basically used for going back and forth in the cloud - will prove critical in some areas. For example there's an obvious benefit to self-driving cars, where it's clear that managing latency times is critical. 

The winter of crypto

Gartner had already got us worked up this summer with its celebrated 2018 Hype Cycle edition: after the hysteria phase, the blockchain started its freefall into the Trough of Disillusionment, where technologies go to die when they fall to match up to the expectations of the ecosystem. As for cryptocurrencies, they are right at the bottom of the hole: Bitcoin dropped more than 85% in a year, going from almost $20,000 in December 2017 to $3,800 today. Such volatility that this year you'll be hearing a lot about "stablecoin", literally a stable cryptocurrency, backed either by a fiat currency or another cryptocurrency.  

In any event let's not be too cruel or dismissive: as is often the way, hype and counter-hype follow each other in rhythm as technologies and their uses grow, and the blockchain has clearly not had its day. Gartner focuses particularly on targeted block technology applications, as in data security. The US banking group Citigroup continues for example to invest in startups in the area, ensuring that, more than the distributed registry technology which forms the blockchain, it will be "integration into existing systems, as well as adoption" that will be the major challenges to blockchain development.

Subscription is the big trend

There is no doubt that subscription will be THE economic model of 2019. At least that is what GP Bullhound reckons, arguing that B2C subscriptions will put advertising in the shade. In its report on tech trends that will mark 2019, the merchant bank specialising in technologies lists Consumer subscription as the major trend, affecting areas as diverse as entertainment, media, health, well-being, education and others besides.

User experience has suffered from advertising, the proliferation of fake news, endless data leak scandals etc. Consumers are now wiser and highly sensitised to digital uses in general, and to what's done with their data in particular. As with B2B, where SaaS subscription has become standard, they are willing to pay for the benefits of a robust and quality user experience. One thinks of course of Spotify and Netflix, who have successfully converted millions of users into payers through their web interfaces, but the trend is appearing in other less expected verticals, like retail: the Bocage (shoe) brand has just launched a subscription rental offer, Atelier Bocage, offering a new pair every two months for €39 per month. Which illustrates another marker of the age, where use is prioritised over ownership.

– Carolina Tomaz, Head of Content, HUB Institute

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Head of research

Il a plus de 8 ans d'expertise du digital et du marketing, développée au sein du magazine CB News, au planning stratégique de Publicis, puis chez Petit Web, dont il est le co-fondateur et où il a été rédacteur en chef de 2011 à 2018.

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