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Unlocking next level: Predicting the trends of 2020 

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  • In 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will step up a notch, enabled by 5G, and immersive AR experiences will make the jump from consumer to business.  
  • The immense amount of data being collected will need to be used to enhance people’s lives, and companies will need to stop transforming and start evolving.  
  • Blockchain will become a critical tool for enabling trust in IoT. 

 Welcome to the future. The theme heralding the arrival of the year 2020 is that after a period of turmoil, change is afoot. Two decades into the new millennium, much of it shaped by the innovations of a few tech giants, what new or continuing trends can companies anticipate in the year ahead and importantly, get ahead of?  

 Rather than ushering in seismic change, I believe 2020 will mark a shift where technologies that have been slowly evolving become seamlessly embedded into our personal and professional lives. Perhaps the theme then is not revolution, but evolution.  

 Certainly from the perspective of PwC, the future is already here. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is well underway, with IoT and AI becoming essential for the operation of businesses competing in the current environment. What was once-emerging technology has become core, and commercialized without many of us even realizing. 

 For example, I recently connected my stationary exercise bike to Zwift, whose augmented reality (AR) technology allows me to join a peloton, ride famed global courses and compete against real people, all from the comfort of home. This is just one such type of gamified experience that has become mainstream. But to date, they remain mostly in the customer realm.  

 My prediction is that augmented reality will move beyond the customer and become commonplace within business: From delivering the customer experience instore and online, to employee experience in training and development. The wholesale roll out of 5G technology will be the clincher for enabling this. 

 It all adds up to an exciting era for business: those that have laid the groundwork in the previous decade can now shift gears as a truly digital-first organizationSo buckle in, and prepare for a decade of total tech immersion. We present to you the predictions of the year ahead from partners around the US and Australian firms.  

John Riccio, Partner, Future of Work, PwC Australia 

 The ‘traditional’ approach to transformation has been cyclical, with organizations undertaking change programmed mostly when they are challenged and need to re-invent. Looking forward, organizations need to change their fundamental business architecture to enable them to have an enduring change capability, becoming an organization that can continually evolve, innovate and lead in the market. We have now entered an era where consumption of technology has levelled the playing field: it is available to all and no longer sets one company apart from the other. How can an organization add their own secret sauce to how they use technology, innovate with it and differentiate in the market? It could be brand, customer experience, or employee experience, but it will be totally unique to each business. 

Matt Coates, Technology Consulting Lead Partner, PwC Australia 

 2020 is the year that companies move beyond asking their people to adopt new programs, processes and ways of working and mandating execution. The runway of hoping for big return on investments has run out, and unlocking ROI will be driven by uncertainties in the economy, industry disruption and holding leadership accountable for value realization. To get there, it will take more than the half-hearted adoption of new tools seen in so many companies. It will require a continued culture shift toward an always-learning, always-driving state of mind. The companies that show both how new tools benefit employees, not just bosses, and mandate change can then use these digital advancements to change behavior and drive growth. The result: faster arrival at ROI and a competitive advantage. 

David Clarke, CxO Experience Consulting, Digital & Products Strategy GTM Leader, PwC US 

 Welcome to the year of permission. Companies have poured millions into doing digital transformation basics: moving to the cloud, a better CX, getting serious about cyber, etc. We have to move beyond the low-hanging fruit and start to shift cultures to build innovative solutions and drive forward. The missing element? Permission: the freedom and explicit invitation from leaders that allows their people to experiment, to use their skills to try new ways to get things done. Permission to innovate and drive outsized results. To collaborate for results. To not just bring together diverse perspectives, but to act on them. To speak up so that the best ideas can be heard — regardless of the level or title. Unlocking this door is key to building a successful modern enterprise  —not just in the future, but for today. 

Tom Puthiyamadam, Digital, Consulting & BXT Leader, PwC US 

 The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has enabled businesses across sectors to gain cost savings and efficiencies in operations, the supply chain and in new 4IR-driven products and services development. The rise of 4IR has accelerated over the decade since the Global Financial Crisis, as more and more businesses enjoy both top-line and bottom-line results, and reap benefits in worker safety, customer loyalty and employee satisfaction. Looking ahead to the next five years, PwC believes that the pervasive adoption of 4IR technologies — particularly AI, IoT, cloud computing and advanced data analytics — will provide important lessons and evidence of how value can be extracted in all economic environments, from strong to moderate, slowdowns and recessions. Businesses will have a better understanding of which 4IR strategies work best for their organizations as buffers and drivers, under different economic conditions, and will be able to make more informed decisions on what investments and initiatives will yield returns (and, just as importantly, bolster cybersecurity) based on that intelligence. Additionally, we will also see how 4IR can serve to make businesses more agile in an age where traditional trade alignments and relationships are in greater flux.  

Steve Pillsbury, Digital Operations Leader, PwC US 

 Augmented reality (AR) has the potential to revolutionize experiential media to better connect consumers and storytellers. Imagine a travel photographer doing a live show-and-tell lecture. As it unfolds, the audience could be transported to the wilds of the Serengeti or the Norwegian fjords. Over the next five years, AR is likely to create immersive experiences across live audiences in multiple locations — as well as other formats. Meanwhile, as entertainment and media (E&M) become increasingly digitized — with global digital revenues projected to top 60 percent of total E&M revenues by 2023 — expect a new crop of mobile-first options powered by improved connection speeds, increasing 5G uptake and IoT. Digital media growth and enhanced connection speeds will further pave the way for byte-sized entertainment as the streaming wars heat up.    

CJ Bangah, Principal, Technology, Media and Communications, PwC US 

 In 2020 and beyond, we’ll finally begin to see consumers benefit from the enormous investments in data collection, storage and analysis made by the health industry. We’re talking about more than tools that can help people monitor their vital signs, such as connected watches and at-home devices. We’re even seeing business models that help consumers monetize their health data. These are the developments we have been waiting years for in the health industry, and we’re excited they are finally gaining traction.  

Kelly Barnes, PwC Global and US Health Industries Leader 

 The huge connectivity of devices, people and things will lead to automation and machine learning powering activities across economy and society. As this scale, technologies that can handle trusted hand-offs between information repositories will become key. For example, a citizen who shares their personal information with the government will expect the data to be handled responsibly and differently whether for use in emergencies, national security matters or commercially. Sophisticated, secure and trusted arrangements for handling data will emerge, meaning blockchain technologies become key to managing complex data sharing protocols. 

Mohammad Chowdhury, Telecommunications, Media and Technology Lead Partner, PwC Australia