A year is a very long time in tech, and who knows where we’ll be heading into 2021. But it’s fair to say the past few years have given us a fairly good indication regarding expectations over the next 12 months and beyond.

Technologies like super-fast wireless, AI and increasingly sophisticated cloud-based services and apps means this year we’re to expect many promises of digital disruption delivered in startling ways. The journey will also have many challenges, not least of which the rising spectre of cyber-crime.

In this first of our two-part series, we outline the evolution of faster, smarter networks that are empowering more intelligent software for better decision-making, while transforming how people work.  

We have set out below what we feel will be the top 7 tech trends for Australians to watch in 2020.

1. Faster wireless
It’s one of the most hyped technologies of the past few years, but with a number of key milestones hit in 2019, it looks like 2020 will see major advances in the rollout of high-speed mobile services in Australia.

This will have major implications for how organisations – and people – perceive wireless versus fixed communications. For instance, analysts predict that the rollout of 5G will lure business and residential customers away from the NBN; especially those that have been underserved and / or can’t access the network.

One of the lesser discussed wireless technologies – which in fact uses the same mmWave technology employed by 5G – is fixed wireless. Already delivering speeds far in excess of traditional copper networks, fixed wireless is emerging as powerful disruptive technology for business communications, which you can expect to hear a lot more about in 2020, especially as an alternative to NBN and other fixed line services.


2. More fibre
The past few years have seen a large increase in the deployment of fixed fibre infrastructure, including long-distance networks connecting countries via sub-sea cables.

Few people are aware that over 95 percent of all internet traffic passes through these sub-sea cables, making them critically important for global communications.

One of the most recently completed  sub-sea cables is the INDIGO cable system between Australia and South East Asia (live since  May 2019) stretching 4,600km between Perth and Singapore (INDIGO West) and 4,600km from Perth to Sydney (INDIGO Central). Featuring new spectrum- sharing technology and spanning at total 9,200km, the INDIGO cable system will strengthen connectivity between Australia and fast growing Southeast Asian markets, providing lower latency and more reliable communication services.

Expect to see a lot more activity on the deep sea cable front in 2020.


3. AI
Already we have seen giant strides being made here, to the point where we’re now starting to take for granted technologies like Siri, Amazon and Google, which happily help us manage simple tasks in ways that would have seemed like science fiction just 10 years ago.

The CSIRO’s digital agency Data61 completed a 60-page report last year looking at Australia’s AI sector, citing a 2018 AlphaBeta study which found digital technologies, including AI, that would potentially be worth $315 billion to the Australian economy by 2028.

Deployment of technologies supporting artificial intelligence and machine learning will accelerate at an increased rate throughout 2020 and a British PwC study from earlier this year, which found AI could be worth $22.17 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

Automation, which until recently was seen as a dirty word, will be a major trend this year as industries across the board look to improve how they operate. Instead of people being pushed out of jobs, new opportunities are predicted to emerge for people to do more meaningful work.

The Data61 report says the Australian ICT sector employs 663,100 workers in fields related to AI, but that this will grow to 758,700 workers by 2023 at a rate of 20,000 additional workers per year.

While AI promises real transformation for businesses, people and communities, its deployment will create new challenges for organisations around data management and accessibility. In particular, network speeds and reliability will become paramount for ensuring people can access large volumes of data and move towards the Holy grail of so-called ‘real-time’ analytics, in the hopes of driving more intelligent decision-making at the front line of operations.


4. Distributed workforces
Workforces have become increasingly ‘distributed’ over the past decade with the burgeoning number of residential broadband connections, and to a lesser degree faster cellular (ie 4G) and wifi technologies.

But with the arrival of enterprise grade mobile networks, not only will individuals be afforded greater flexibility in where and how they work, entire organisations are now able to move staff and operations to more places without worrying about the constraints posed by traditional fixed infrastructure services.

And ‘cultural’ acceptance of people working off-site has removed one of the biggest obstacles to adoption. The Japanese Government and Olympic Committee has urged eight million employees to telework during this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Meanwhile, so-called ‘gen z’ is predicted to make up 12% of the Australian workforce this year, likely leading to greater uptake of mobile, cloud and other technologies that support distributed workforces.