2020 tech trends to watch out for

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The rise of cashless payments will result in ATM deserts.
The rise of cashless payments will result in ATM deserts.

In 2020, the drive towards a cashless society will result in increased debt for consumers, and the increasing popularity of drones will replace fireworks.

These are some of the predictionspublished by Nesta, the global innovation foundation, in its annual predictions report for 2020.

Last year, Nesta predicted the rise of deepfakes as a political tool and 2019 has seen repeated controversies over the use of faked video.

In 2020, the foundation forecasts the consequences of living in a cashless society will become evident, as more people make the transition from using cash to mainly using cashless alternatives such as debit cards, credit cards, mobile payment apps and tap-to-pay solutions.

As the use of digital payments keeps rising across the globe, cashlessness is reaching a tipping point that will soon bring changes to our lives far beyond the split-second decisions of how to pay a bar tab, according to the report.

This is expected to fundamentally change the way people spend money and potentially lead to more debt in some parts of the world.

“For instance, in the UK, where three in 10 transactions are cash, there will be growing ATM deserts that make it hard to get hold of cash. This means the 1.5 million people in the UK who don’t have a bank account and are cut off from a cashless world will be unable to access cash, resulting in an economy where consumers can’t spend cash,” explains Olivier Usher, lead researcher at Nesta.

This could also mean governments, employers or landlords can use electronic payment systems’ data as a tool to control, study or manipulate consumers’ behaviour, adds Usher.

However, in some countries, cash still reigns: in Italy, over 80% of payments are still in cash, and in Germany only a quarter of retail transactions are paid for with a card, notes the report.

Africa still has a heavy reliance on cash, with around 90% of retail transactions taking place in cash.

Below is the list of Nesta’s predictions for 2020:

Fireworks will be replaced with swarms of drones

Fireworks have been part of public celebrations for centuries, but in 2020, their unsustainable financial, human and environmental cost will see them fall out of favour, increasingly replaced by drone swarms.

Capable of vastly more intricate and engaging displays than fireworks and at an increasingly lower price, eventually, drone swarms will replace fireworks altogether.

Digital twins

The big decisions in our lives can paralyse us as we play out different futures in our minds. In 2020, more people will use digital versions of themselves to analyse and test out the impact of everything – from career moves, to buying a house or what going vegetarian will mean for our health – all before they have to make the real-world decisions.

Our faithful twin could even warn us about risks to our health and possible mitigations to take now, decades before symptoms start to show.

Gait recognition tech

Debates about facial recognition tech used to track people without their knowledge have raged throughout 2019.

In 2020, another kind of surveillance will take centre stage: gait analysis, a type of biometric technology that can be used to monitor people without their co-operation.

Surveillance technology that can identify people from the way they walk will lead to an outbreak of Monty Python-style silly walks.

Cyber insurance

As digital assassinations – the manipulation of someone’s online life to erase or effectively kill their cyber presence – become common, more people will start to insure themselves against this type of cyber attack.

Digital assassination is increasingly common, but few people see it as a real threat or take steps to protect themselves from potentially ruinous attacks. However, cyber insurance is now available to cover people, and in 2020, more people will start seeing it as a worthwhile investment.

Women get to understand their hormones with the help of data

The rise of menstrual cycle tracking apps have helped women to better understand their hormones. With a huge pool of mostly untapped data, in 2020, women will start to plan and respond to hormonal changes based on this acquired insight and doctors will be able to use it to better understand women’s health.

Doctors will prescribe eco-action to combat anxiety

Eco-anxiety, a chronic fear of environmental doom, is an increasingly common response to the climate crisis and is already having an impact on our well-being.

In 2020, doctors could start prescribing time outdoors, tree-planting, and even activism to help improve our mental well-being.

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