In 2018, Frost & Sullivan’s Visionary Innovation Group—an interdisciplinary team of futurists, analysts and consultants—made their top 10 predictions for the year. Some, like the race towards quantum computing, the rise of enterprise behavioral science, and the shift away from virtual platforms, were on target. We were also on the ball (and we didn’t need a crystal one!) about how governments, regulators and consumers worldwide would push back against the omnipresence of technology, the danger of misinformation, and the loss of privacy (cue GDPR). In terms of how we scored, I’d give us 8 out of 10, but more on that later.
Less than two weeks into the New Year, and here’s my team’s list of top ten trends and ideas that will shape, shake and stir 2019:
Golden Ticket For Tech IPOs
If 2018 was a stellar year for tech IPOs, 2019 promises to be spectacular. Gear up for a raft of high profile IPOs with valuations in the $100 billion category for unicorn start-ups like Uber, and in the 11 digits for Airbnb, Pinterest and Lyft. Other $1 billion companies to watch out for include Slack, Palantir and Instacart. There’s also strong IPO buzz about three Chinese heavyweights: online brokerage company Futu (which plans to hit the public market in the US and China), tech giant Ant Financial Services Group, and ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing. It’s interesting that most of these unicorns were borne out of the shared economy. Moreover, several of them are ride-hailing firms that will have valuations higher than the giants of the past 100 years like Ford and GM.
A couple of caveats though: companies might be pressured to reduce their initial IPO valuations if a weak economic outlook and the stock market slide in the US persist. Also, some unicorn start-ups—particularly those whose performance has belied their initial valuations—might choose to delay their filings.
2019: A Space Odyssey
Forget Mustique and Tahiti. If you’re willing to drop a cool $200,000 to $300,000, get ready to spend your next vacation in space. Last year, we spoke about flying cars, this year you’ll have to set your sights a little higher. Space travel is set to accelerate as several companies—SpaceX and Boeing, among them—launch crewed test flights to space.
The implications of such private space flights are tremendous. It will mean the conversion of a highly regulated, government monopolized industry into a fiercely competitive one, populated by private players and venture capital firms. As competition intensifies, expect space tourism to take-off and space organizations like NASA to use the revenues generated by private space flights to fund their scientific research.
Insurance (finally) Enters The Digital Age
This will be a standout year for insurance. Insurers will actively embrace new markets (smart cities, autonomous vehicles, connected living, and the elderly), products (insurance for shared workspaces, working from home, automotive pay-per-mile, and cyber-protection), technologies (blockchain, virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR), and AI), business models (Prevention-as-a-Service, usage based car insurance, and on-demand insurance), and operations (increased automation, shifts in core systems, and even personnel and culture shifts).
The industry will be characterized by greater automation and partnerships with data management companies. M&As with product and service providers in adjunct industries will provide instant access to new technology and capabilities, allowing insurance companies to adapt more rapidly to next generation needs.
B2B Data Monetization Becomes Mainstream
This year will mark a watershed where new, non-traditional industries begin to establish and develop their data monetization strategies. Following in the footsteps of the credit, marketing and advertising industries where such practices are already widespread, car manufacturers, healthcare companies, IoT, and industrial aerospace IoT will push more aggressively towards data driven business models. Success for data monetization in these industries will be dictated by their ability to develop use cases, and innovative pricing and business models.
Investments in data initiatives will spiral, even as comprehensive data strategies become a cornerstone of future business plans. In the meantime, significant reductions in data generation and storage costs will allow companies the opportunity to more creatively and productively leverage their data.
Earth In Crisis
A flurry of reports in 2018 highlighted the devastating impact of pollution and climate change events. Issues like the destruction of wildlife and natural habitats, the rampant use of plastic, and climate change induced disasters like droughts, wildfires, floods and tsunamis, spurred a sense of urgency among governments, industries and citizens who committed to more sustainable environmental practices.
In 2019, ripple effects will be felt in the real estate business where investments and land prices are likely to rise in regions less likely to be affected by climate change. Political will and public pressure will elicit shifts in policy and regulations, even as they disrupt industries which continue with unsustainable operations. Promisingly, leaders with strong green credentials will accelerate the development of their countries as innovation hubs for next generation environmental solutions.
Get ready for marketplaces everywhere. The fourth generation of marketplace business models will be focused on the service sector. Three converging trends will drive their rapid expansion. Firstly, the over five billion connected devices and nearly 230 billion app downloads expected in 2019 will lead to an increase in mobile based marketplace models for services. China and India will lead the way here, primarily because of their growing app economy. Secondly, technologies like blockchain will transform online payment systems. Thirdly, a surging on-demand economy will fuel the expansion and diversification of digital service marketplaces.
Watch out for a series of niche service marketplaces—adult and child healthcare, vehicle ride-hailing services or vehicle after sales spares & services, for example—as a result of the focus on personalization and customization.
Bendable Devices Make Their Debut
Hone up on your origami because 2019 will see the launch of foldable phones with flexible screens, replacing convertible or detachable devices. These devices are expected to be lightweight, unbreakable and compact.
Several companies—Apple, Motorola, LG, Huawei and Samsung—are in a race to launch first generation foldable phones with flexible screens in 2019. In the meantime, LG has stolen a march over its competitors by unveiling its rollup, ultra high definition TV earlier this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Royole debuted its FlexiPal bendable tablet at the same venue.
First Wave Of 5G Enabled Smart Phones/High Speed Devices
5G enabled smartphones are on track to take over the mobile industry in 2019. Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Motorola and Huawei are among the leading mobile phone developers that are vying to launch 5G enabled mobile sets this year.
5G will enable more hybrid and cloud applications ranging from machine learning to cloud-based graphics rendering for VR, AR, and gaming. With gigabit speeds, 5G will also eliminate the need for wires as the last mile of connectivity, even within homes and enterprises.
Autonomous Is Here, Now and Everywhere
I have been advocating for a while now that anything that moves will be autonomous in the future. This year will set the scene with the commercialization of 1st generation autonomous products. Automotive, industrial robotics, aerospace and consumer appliance industries will ramp up their pursuit of autonomous technology in 2019. In the automotive sector, semi-autonomous and autonomous ride-hailing services are a strong likelihood with BMW, GM, Uber and Waymo planning to launch their own ride-hailing programs this year. Robots are set to become more commonplace in industrial workplaces. Aerial taxi services are very much on track, with Germany-based Volocopter set to test autonomous air taxis in Singapore later this year. For those looking for some help around the house, Amazon Alexa and Google Home are old news. Smart Home 2.0 devices with enhanced capabilities are all set to shoulder some of your household chores even as Amazon redoubles efforts to introduce its home robot to consumers this year.
Accompanying these developments will be the urgent need to formulate new regulations governing the safe testing and deployment of autonomous technologies.
The Future Is Edge
The edge is where it’s at. Investments will increasingly migrate from the cloud to edge computing. Porsche, Softbank, and Berkshire have already bet big on edge computing start-ups. Watch out for significant application enablement as a result. There’s going to be further movement shifting storage and processing to the edge. In the meantime, a slew of industries—defense and healthcare, among them—will begin to leverage edge computing technologies
And no, I haven’t forgotten about our two missteps from last year. First, our prediction that some tech giants, Apple in particular, would hit the golden $1 trillion valuation mark didn’t quite happen as expected; they did hit the mark but failed to sustain the momentum. Another of our predictions that didn’t turn out as anticipated was that a generation of young leaders would spearhead a new brand of politics. Disappointingly, the sheen of poster boys like Emmanuel Macron, Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, Kim Jong Un and Justin Trudeau dimmed considerably over the course of 2018.
I’m hoping that this time next year, I can tell you we’ve notched up a perfect 10 on our predictions!
This article was written with contributions from Lauren Taylor, a Principal Consultant in the Visionary Innovation Group at Frost & Sullivan, as well as the global Visionary Innovation Group at Frost & Sullivan. Research and analysis is developed in greater detail in the forthcoming “Top Trends for 2019” study.