‘Walking barcodes’ and near-invisible payments: the world in 2020

A Fjord trends report examines the forces shaping the first year of the decade.

If last year was all about overcoming digital overload through mindful design, the start of the new decade will bring a “realignment of the fundamentals,” according to a 2020 trend report by Fjord, a division of Accenture Interactive.

Climate change and political and social disruption, coupled with constant technological disruption, have led consumers to ask for products and services that are “not only meaningful to them, but also socially and environmentally responsible,” Fjord finds.

To boil down its predictions for 2020: “As this shift takes hold in varying markets at different speeds, developed markets will likely reject endless material consumption in favor of balance and conservation. Ultimately, the winners will be businesses that consciously consider their impact on an ever-evolving climate, society and world.”

Under that overarching meta-trend, Fjord identified seven trends based on crowdsourced observations from its more than 1,200 designers and developers in 33 offices around the world, as well research and client work. Here are a few of the highlights:

Money becomes ‘almost invisible’

Thanks to advancements in technology, the “very notion and shape of money is rapidly evolving,” notes Fjord. People’s ability to pay using their fingerprints or via facial or retinal recognition drives the push to go cashless. The report predicts that personal information and data will become embedded in money, making payments experience more seamless and personalized, enabling brands to, for example, apply a student discount automatically during purchase. By 2023, in-store and remote transactions authenticated using mobile biometrics are expected to reach $2 trillion.

“This trend is about how our relationship with money is evolving,” the authors write. “As it further develops, we’ll see the evolution of new ecosystems set in motion by non-traditional financial companies. Almost invisible payment systems will emerge, rendering our connections to and feelings about money more ambiguous.”

People become ‘walking barcodes’

Also in the realm of technology, the impact of facial and body recognition is twofold: trackable personal data cookies move offline, and bodies become machine-readable – “like human barcodes” – leading brands to launch new products and services that are more personalized.

“This trend is about how our bodies are becoming our signature – effectively blending our digital and physical selves,” according to Fjord. “It’s also about how living services – contextually-aware, sophisticated digital services – will segue from the digital world into the real world. Hyper-targeted customer experiences will become the norm in physical environments.”

But privacy and security remain on consumers’ minds and will have to be prioritized. So while 5G, facial recognition and other bio tech will continue unlocking new possibilities, brands will have to be mindful of transparency, ensuring customers are aware of each scan, transaction or consent obtained and building platforms that provide people with the information they want.

AI becomes a ‘helpful, collaborative’ tech

Used to enhance efficiency in its early stages, AI becomes increasingly sophisticated and more about “augmenting human ingenuity and creating new value.”

Over time, businesses begin blending humans’ skills with AI capabilities, leading to new and disruptive strategies. The report finds that organizations are investing more heavily in their AI programs – though customers and employees remain way of its impact on their lives – with 80% indicating they are now actively using it.

“This trend centers around how AI is expanding and blossoming as a helpful, collaborative technology. With more organizations seeking to use it beyond automation, they’ll need access to better and more dynamic tools, and to more carefully plan for AI’s social and economic impacts,” according to the report. “To succeed, business leaders need to commit to designing for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.”