Keeping up to date with evolving trends in the technology space helps organisations stay competitive. While many are focussing on areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and cyber-security, we look at some of the other evolving trends that organisations should be aware of in 2020.

5G Mobile Networks

We expect the fifth generation of mobile network technology (5G) to become mainstream in 2020. The 5G roll out is exciting businesses and consumers alike as it has the potential to facilitate a faster and more connected world.

Speeds will vary but 5G will reportedly offer speeds of up to 1GBps. It may someday provide speeds of up to 100GBps, which is up to 100 times faster than current 4G networks.

Another key benefit of 5G is low latency - the time it takes for information to be sent from one device to another. This low latency means devices across the network can interact with minimal delay and better response times.  The improved responsiveness and enhanced reliability of 5G could make a broad range of apps and streaming content more efficient and less frustrating to access. The introduction of 5G and its ability to efficiently deal with large amounts of data will also assist in the development and uptake of connected devices and advanced technologies like smart cities and mobility solutions.

Some operators have been offering 5G networks in the UK and Ireland since 2019. In 2020 we anticipate consumer demand to spike and for all Irish mobile operators to have deployed high speed 5G networks and the major manufacturers to offer 5G compatible handsets.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is a collection of ‘smart’ devices that connect to each other and usually collect data through embedded sensors and transfer it over the internet. Users can gain insights and control and interact with these devices through apps on their smartphone or even by voice control.

We already see the IoT in everyday consumer use with ‘smart’ speakers, wearable devices, security cameras and home automation. This year we expect growth in enterprise IoT across logistics tracking, autonomous vehicles, and smart city functions such as traffic management, security cameras and energy distribution.

The mainstream roll out of IoT promises to make users’ lives more automated and manageable. But the volume of data generated and processed by these devices is vast. Legal challenges for IoT app developers and device manufacturers include privacy, cyber-security, identifying who is liable if something goes wrong, data ownership, and consumer law issues.

It is not always easy to apply current laws and regulations to the range of IoT devices on the market. As IoT data and devices become more complex, the law may struggle to evolve quickly enough to address the challenges. Policymakers and regulators are still developing specific rules for this new class of technologies. Harmonised predictable standards for the operation of IoT devices that businesses can follow will lower the barriers for entry and help make systems interoperable, which will encourage wider adoption.

Though still a relatively new technology, the IoT is scalable and we anticipate the industry will experience rapid growth this year. This heightens the possibility that app developers and device manufacturers will face a degree of regulatory and media scrutiny in 2020.

Edge Computing

Edge computing is about the decentralised processing of data. Its primary characteristic is to maximise the efficiency of processing, by processing data at the ‘edge’ of the user’s network near to where the data is generated, as opposed to completely processing it in a central data processing hub. For example, processing will initially occur on a local mobile device itself, rather than being transferred to a cloud data centre.

Existing technology usually transfers all data to a central hub and then processes it. This can result in data congestion and latency. Edge computing minimises latency, increases efficiency and reduces costs by pre-processing data based on proximity. With cyber-security and data sovereignty requirements in mind, it also offers the advantage of only storing and processing data (including sensitive data) locally and not sending it to a public cloud network.

As more businesses adopt edge computing solutions this year they will need to consider some interesting technology law questions. For example, does edge computing require us to rethink who is a controller and who is a processor under GDPR; if the data is pre-processed on a local device how does that play into the cloud provider’s liability if the final outputs are incorrect; and what are the data security implications of edge computing?

Looking forward

The convergence of 5G, the IoT and edge computing looks set to benefit both the public and private sectors. The reduced latency and increased speed and connectivity these technologies offer will allow devices to process data in near real-time. The benefits for applications that are time critical, like air traffic control, autonomous vehicles or smart electricity grids, are obvious.

In 2020, these advancements in technologies, coupled with an evolving legal climate, will challenge today’s business leaders. We expect the pace of change to be rapid and look forward to seeing how technology and law continue to develop to meet these challenges.

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