ICT trends and forecasts as of 2020
It is typical for the beginning of a new year to make forecasts for that year and for the future. Some analytics companies make it twice a year. This post is issued right after Gartner has published their new Hype Cycle curve and predictions, and Ericsson published their mid-year mobility report. The timing is additionally specific: after the first shock of the unexpected (unpredicted and unforeseen) pandemic at the beginning of 2020, we must get used to life in the new A.C. era (meaning “after corona”, as opposed to B.C. – “before corona”). In this post, I’m elaborating on ICT trends and in particular radiocommunications area.
Predictions, forecasts and trends
Thus, before we talk about predictions, forecasts, and trends and dealing with the unexpected, I believe it is important to understand the difference between them. “Prediction is possible only in a world in which events are preordained and no amount of action in the present can influence future outcomes. That world is the stuff of myth and superstition. The one we inhabit is quite different—little is certain, nothing is preordained, and what we do in the present affects how events unfold, often insignificant, unexpected ways.” – says Paul Saffo, the technology forecaster . I could not agree more!
Matthias Döring, data scientist and AI architect, in his blog, explains prediction vs forecasting : „Prediction is concerned with estimating the outcomes for unseen data. For this purpose, you fit a model to a training data set (…) Forecasting is a sub-discipline of prediction in which we are making predictions about the future, on the basis of time-series data. Thus, the only difference between prediction and forecasting is that we consider the temporal dimension.” Strictly speaking, this means that predictions do not always concern the future.
Finally, trend forecasting, it is quantitative, i.e., based on concrete numbers from the past. There may be several different types of patterns (linear, exponential, more complicated multidimensional) that tend to appear on a time-series graph. Uncovering these patterns allows showing a trend.
Trends and forecasts for ICT in 2020
These explanations are helpful to understand what the forecasters (including weather, market, or technology forecasters) and trends analysts actually do. With these definitions, we can now look at published trends and forecasts for our area of interest: Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and in particular radio communication. There are many publications on technology trends in 2020, so let us consider some prestigious examples by Gartner , Deloitte , Future Today Institute , Bernard Marr & Co.  presented in Forbes , IEEE Communication Society (IEEE ComSoc) presented in IEEE Communication Technology News , and Ericsson .
It is important to note that some of these companies or organizations focus on analytics research, consulting and forecasts for business using technology, not for technology itself (Gartner, Deloitte), some focus on technology in general, in multiple areas (Future Today Institute, Bernard Marr & Co.), some on ICT or just telecommunication (IEEE ComSoc) and one represents specifically the mobile communication industry (Ericsson), and presents just the related trends. Moreover, some of them provide as many as 25 specific technology trends for 2020/21 in their reports (Bernard Marr & Co.), some just a few, but more general (Gartner).
It has been immensely interesting to study these reports -. Let me share my subjective analysis of this reading in the table below. There, the technology trends related to ICT are listed, and indicated in which reports they appear. Trends related to other business sectors and science, like medicine and pharmacology, agriculture, finances, ethics and many other, are not mentioned (although some may be directly or indirectly dependent on ICT).
A different report by Global eSustainability Initiative Climate Group and Deloitte  focuses on sustainable-development opportunities brought by ICT to other business sectors. Although the ICT sector’s own emissions are expected to stabilize to 1.25 GtCO2e in 2030, specific ICT opportunities identified in  should lead to emission reductions in ICT –enabled sectors nine times the size of the sector’s own footprint by 2030. Furthermore,  provides some interesting articles on how ICT contributes to the low-carbon economy, and on decoupling energy from the traffic growth, which I believe is an important aspect of ICT (as the whole) general trend.
What I think is partially missing in listed trends and expectations results from unexpected, that is to say, predictions do not concern unpredictable. Naturally, I mean COVID-19 pandemic. Ericsson Mobility Report  says that data traffic increased by 20–100 percent as a consequence of COVID-19 lockdowns. In times of such crisis, digital communication capabilities proved to be very important. It has been noticed that these capabilities changed humans habits, work and social activities, and may have long-term impact on many aspects of life.
I believe that the meaning of most of the trends listed in Table 1 below is already commonly understood, however interested readers are invited to look at the mentioned reports for further explanations. Students interested in selecting “a trendy topic” for their Ph.D. research are welcome to pick one from the list!
|Technology trends||Gartner||Deloitte||FTI*||BMCo*, Forbes||IEEE ComSoc*||Ericsson|
|Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (formative, adaptive, self-supervising).||x||x||x||x||x|
|Blockchains and distributed ledgers, algorithmic trust||x||x||x||x|
|Cloud and edge computing||x||x||x||x|
|Digital twins, digital me, machine-brain interfaces||x||x||x||x|
|The Internet of Things (IoT)- Growing number of smart devices||x||x||x||x|
|Robots and cobots.||x||x||x||x|
|Big Data and augmented analytics.||x||x||x|
|Quantum computing/DNA computing/Beyond silicon computing||x||x||x|
|5G/6G, new spectrum, spectrum for industry||x||x||x|
|Robotic process automation||x||x||x|
|Intelligent spaces and smart places.||x||x|
|Digitally extended realities.||x||x|
|Voice interfaces and chatbots||x||x|
|Computer vision and facial recognition||x||x|
|Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles||x||x|
|Cybersecurity and resilience||x||x|
|Mass personalization and micro-moments||x||x|
|3D and 4D printing and additive manufacturing||x||x|
|Nanotechnology and materials science, metamaterials||x||x|
|Open RAN, network slicing and virtualization||x|
|Wearables and augmented humans||x|
|Natural language processing||x|
|Genomics and gene editing||x|
|Machine co-creativity and augmented design||x|
* FTI – Future Today Institute, BMCo. – Bernard Marr & Co., IEEE ComSoc – IEEE Communication Society
 P. Saffo, “Six Rules for Effective Forecasting”, Harward Business Review, July–August 2007 Issue.
 M. Döring, Data Science Blog, Prediction vs. Forecasting, 9th Dec. 2018, https://www.datascienceblog.net/post/machine-learning/forecasting_vs_prediction/
 K. Panetta, “5 Trends Drive the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2020”, 18th Aug., 2020, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/5-trends-drive-the-gartner-hype-cycle-for-emerging-technologies-2020/
 S. Buchholz, B. Briggs, “Tech Trends 2020 Executive summary”, Deloitte Insights, 15th Jan. 2020, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/tech-trends/2020/executive-summary.html
 A. Webb et.al., “2020 Tech Trends Report”, 13th annual edition of the Future Today Institute, March 2020, http://futuretodayinstitute.com/2020-tech-trends/
 B. Marr, “Tech Trends in Practice: The 25 Technologies that are Driving the 4th Industrial Revolution”, Wiley, 7 May 2020, ISBN: 978-1119646198
 B. Marr, “These 25 Technology Trends Will Define The Next Decade”, Forbes, 20th April, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2020/04/20/these-25-technology-trends-will-define-the-next-decade/#396c555529e3
 IEEE CTN Editorial Board, “Nine Communications Technology Trends for 2020”, IEEE Communication Technology News, January 2020, https://www.comsoc.org/publications/ctn/nine-communications-technology-trends-2020
 The Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2020, https://www.ericsson.com/49da93/ assets/local/mobility-report/documents/2020/june2020-ericsson-mobility-report.pdf
 Global e-Sustainability Initiative and Deloitte, “Digital with Purpose: Delivering a SMARTer2030”, 2019, https://gesi.org/research/gesi-digital-with-purpose-full-report
Prof. Hanna Bogucka received her Ph.D. with honors in 1995 and Doctor Habilitus Telecommunications in 2006 from Poznan University of Technology (PUT). Currently, she is a full professor and the Director of the Institute of Radiocommunications at PUT. Moreover, prof. Bogucka is the co-founder, Board Member, and the Head of Cooperation of Rimedo Labs, a spin-off from PUT. Prof. Bogucka is involved in research in the area of wireless communications: radio resource management, cognitive radio, and green communication. She has been involved in multiple European 5th – 7th Framework Programme and Horizon 2020 projects, European COST actions, National Science Centre projects, and industry cooperation. Prof. Bogucka is the author of 200 research papers, 3 handbooks on radio communications and digital signal processing, and 3 scientific monographs on flexible and cognitive radio. Prof. Bogucka has been appointed IEEE Communications Society Director of the EAME Region and elected IEEE Radio Communications Committee Chair for the term of 2015-2016. Currently, she is the IEEE ComSoc Fog/Edge Industry Community Regional Chair in Europe, elected Member at Large of the IEEE ComSoc Board of Governors representing the EMEA region (2023-2025), and a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences.