Biggest tech advancements of 2020

Looking back at 2020, it’s highly improbable that your first thought is, “The 2020 tech advances were awesome!” We know it’s more along the lines of, “Is it over yet?” Still, even some years we would like to wish away have some merit, so we asked the Intuit® Developer community what they saw as this year’s biggest tech advancement.

2020 tech advances

More than 2,245 people participated in our latest Twitter poll, and 49.1% declared 5G the big winner. The adoption of AI followed with 25.1%, and serverless computing and distributed cloud competed for last place, with 13.2% and 12.5% of the vote, respectively.

Why did 5G dominate?

When 5G became available for commercial purposes in 2019, it was heralded by the Forbes Technology Council as exciting—if not “exhilarating”—technology for consumers, developers, tech-driven enterprises, and carriers. In their review of 5G and how it will affect mobile app development, Sanjay Malhotra wrote, “Looking ahead, 5G will allow developers to explore, build new platforms and create apps that will offer faster, more personalized user experiences.”

To understand why 5G is so exciting, you need to understand the difference between 5G and its 4G predecessor. According to Qualcomm, a company that says they contributed to the foundational technologies that help make up 5G, the architecture between the two technologies is different. “5G is based on OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference. 5G uses 5G NR air interface alongside OFDM principles. 5G also uses wider bandwidth technologies such as sub-6 GHz and mmWave.”

The increased connectivity brought by 5G technology outshines that of previous generations of mobile networks, but 5G is still maturing. Even so, 5G-enabled devices, such as 5G phones, are already taking advantage of the benefits:

However, full-scale adoption of 5G will take time. GSMA estimates that global connections will be at 20% by 2025, though there have already been 106 commercial 5G launches and 7% population penetration as of this date.

While 5G continues to expand its reach, the adoption of AI seems to be moving forward. An IBM survey found that 34% of U.S., EU, and China businesses have deployed AI. As Intuit’s Shir Meir Lador writes, AI “provides a myriad of benefits for their customers as well as to the business itself, including improving their efficiency by performing data-driven tasks faster and better than humans.” She notes other benefits, such as accelerating customer support and detecting anomalous behaviors in company systems.

In Demystifying artificial intelligence and machine learning, Brian Gorbett cites another benefit: early cancer detection. He unapologetically declares that “every business in the world should be an artificial intelligence company,” and says we’re in an AI revolution as algorithms have advanced, businesses in all industries are recognizing the power of data, and the availability of GPU is more affordable and available.

5G and AI in the future

Voting 5G and the adoption of AI as the top two 2020 tech advances was pretty spot on, if Forbes contributor Anshel Sag has any say in it. He sees 5G and AI as complementary technologies, now and in the future.

“What is interesting about both technologies is that they are universally applicable across many industries and are likely to change the way many of them operate,” he writes. “For that matter, each technology has its own set of use cases, which are also inextricably connected to one another. The pairing of 5G and AI stands to amplify the rate and impact of both technologies.”

He explains that 5G provides the connectivity AI needs to maximize its abilities, and that AI helps 5G scale data based on pertinence. The two currently work together in smartphones and within voice assistants, and he mentions that XR, transportation, and robotics are in the works for the future.

It will be fascinating to look back at the end of 2021 and see how 5G and AI technology will affect businesses in every industry. Will they land as the top two tech advances next year? We’ll have to wait and see. Until then, check out what Shir Meir Lador has to say about AI, including: