Phones, robots and bikes will get smarter in 2020

From the Tech newsletter: Deloitte's TMT predictions cover how AI chips and private 5G will impact consumers and industries.

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Chips, robots and bikes could all be major disruptors in the year ahead, according to this year’s edition of Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunnications Predictions report.

Deloitte predicts that in 2020, 750 million edge AI chips will be sold, up from the 300 million it predicted would be sold in 2017, representing an annual growth rate of 36%. By 2024, Deloitte predicts that number could rise above 1.5 billion.

Why does this matter? Many of those AI chips are likely to find their way into consumer devices, such as mobile phones, robotics, sensors and more. That means users will not need to be connected to the internet (and the cloud servers that house AI systems) to utilize AI functions, allowing them to perform tasks while offline or when a user doesn’t want to use data.

According to Deloitte, one million robots are expected to be sold for use in enterprise settings – half of which will be personal service units (moving units that people interact with, as opposed to the ones with “arms” seen in industrial settings). Helped by 5G and AI advancements, it’s expected these robots will generate 30% more income next year than they did in 2019, and surpass the revenue generated by manufacturing robots by 2022. Canada, in particular, seems to have an appetite for robotics, with 172 robots installed for every 10,000 human employees, compared to the global average of 99.

While the upgrade to 5G connections is being hyped as having a major impact for consumers globally, Deloitte predicts private 5G networks could be even more disruptive to individual workplaces. Private 5G are sell-contained networks that operate only within a small area, removing the need for ethernet connections and bringing wireless communications to metal-rich manufacturing settings where mobile signals might otherwise be disrupted. But, given that the networks are private, it would also give companies more control over their networks and improved security.

“Private 5G networks [...] offer unprecedented opportunities for companies worldwide to grow and achieve new levels of productivity,” said Anders McKenzie, managing partner for TMT at Deloitte Canada, in the report. “Just like private wireline networks in the past, private 5G is likely to be more secure, cheaper and offer new features. As a result, history will likely view 5G not just as a technological marvel, but as a game changer for how the industry does business.”

Deloitte predicts more than 100 companies worldwide will begin testing private 5G deployments by the end of 2020, with the value of cellular mobile equipment and services for use in private networks alone adding up to tens of billions of dollars annually by 2024.

Another prediction is based around an old-school machine: bikes. Only 1% of the 16 million people in Canada’s workforce commute by bike, and Deloitte expects the number of trips made annually to increase by one percentage point by 2022. However, that still represents tens of billions of trips annually, which means less pollution from vehicles and more healthy people. This increase is being helped by innovations like improve lithium ion batteries, improved product design, wireless connections and predictive analytics that make cycling both more convenient and safer for commuters. Those technologies and data sources also allow bike sharing services to improve their services and make them more attractive to consumers, and the increase in numbers will have an impact on urban planning.