As we hurtle towards the end of 2019, and constantly find ourselves asking where the year has gone, we need to start considering what the world will look like as we head into the next decade. The ways in which consumers and brands interact are continually in a state of flux as new technologies, platforms and ways of thinking emerge every day.
A key technology for 2020 is the much-anticipated 5G network. This innovation currently sits at the very top of the Peak of Inflated Expectation in the technology hype cycle, with consumers eagerly awaiting the network to be fully rolled out. It is the hottest technology trend on social media at present and only comes second to renewable energy in importance in global survey data (Brandwatch).
The growth of 5G will be particularly impactful on the Internet of Things and consumer-facing technology. With promises of connection speeds at least 20 times quicker than 4G, reduced latency and the ability to connect more devices to the network, there will be a shift to an even more mobile, more connected world.
Smart speakers will become smarter, and when paired with advances in AI, even more human. Consumers will be able to conduct natural conversations with their technology and use them for everything, from turning their heating up to ordering another pint of milk, with a simple uttering of ‘I’m cold and we’re out of milk’.
This, in turn, raises the idea of machine-to-machine marketing. Amazon has already patented its ‘anticipatory shipping’ technology, which prepares orders for customers before they even know they need them. In the future, buying decisions will be carried out by machines using data they have learnt about the consumer. If technology is the one choosing the products, then surely they are the ones to target?
5G also opens the door for advances in Augmented Reality. The value of the AR market is estimated to rise to almost $200bn by 2025, growing steeply after the launch of 5G (Statista). In order for AR to be effective, a huge amount of data needs to be processed in real time, so increased connection speeds and traffic capacity is key.
There have already been demonstrations of technology using AR to allow consumers to test a range of products, from clothing to furniture, at home before purchasing. These visualisations will only get more realistic with 5G.
As more and more products become connected, the possibility of hyper-personalised targeting, similar to that seen in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Minority Report, will become more of a reality. Individualised content based off location, behaviours and preferences, linked with the increased use of AR, will mean exciting opportunities for DOOH and new ways of interacting with the consumer.
However, this shiny new world of connectivity and personalisation will require an abundance of data and, given recent events around privacy, consumers are likely to be sceptical. Not to mention the sky-high wall of rules and regulations set in place by GDPR that companies will have to overcome.
There have also been a number of concerns surrounding the health impact of 5G. In order for the technology to work, many more base stations are needed to receive and transmit mobile signals.
To this point, the UK government has said "while a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves is possible when 5G is added to the existing network, the overall exposure is expected to remain low".
There is no doubting that 5G will provide many exciting and innovative opportunities. It is a key enabler for new technologies, experiences and ways of communicating. However, this shift will not be instantaneous. There will be many barriers and teething problems to get through, as well as the challenge of encouraging consumers to engage with these new technologies.
That said, if you had told someone 20 years ago that one day their Nokia 3310 will be replaced with today’s modern smartphones, they probably would have called you crazy. So, who knows, maybe the world envisioned in Minority Report isn’t really that far off.
Rachel Mulcahy is senior insights executive at Reprise Digital UK.