Tech tensions offer opportunity

09/12/2019 - 15:15


Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

The tech sector continues to shift through the gears as 2020 approaches, hurtling society towards an increasingly complex, digitised and mediated world.

Tech tensions offer opportunity
The ‘dark design’ of mobile devices can lead to endless scrolling through social media platforms. Photo: Stockphoto

There’s a growing move towards the creation of tech solutions that put user needs first.

The tech sector continues to shift through the gears as 2020 approaches, hurtling society towards an increasingly complex, digitised and mediated world.

As this complexity increases, so does our desire for simplicity, human connection and purpose.

It is a tension that will continue in 2020 and beyond and present both a challenge and opportunity for business.

This tension becomes especially important as millennials – known for their love of tech and desire to save the world – move from just being the majority in the workforce to the majority of leaders.

Here are three key strategic trends for 2020 that highlight this tension, while also providing insight into how it can best be navigated by business.


Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) are becoming standard tools being adopted by business for everything from product design to safety training to marketing.

To give you a sense of the growth of this space, I was at Unity Technologies’ first Australian Industrial Summit last week, which was focused entirely on enterprise uses of VR/AR and the real-time 3D modelling software that makes it all possible.

Deloitte Digital, Microsoft, Toyota and Qantas are just some of the companies playing in the space.

The next evolution of enterprise VR/AR is what’s being called multiexperience.

One of Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020, multiexperience is an ecosystem of connected technologies and experiences that can include everything from VR/AR to smart devices.

Instead of creating discrete, standalone apps, augmented reality experiences or customer service chat bots, multiexperience means these experiences are designed to be experienced together, seamlessly, across a variety of touch points rather than a singular interface.

In multiexperience, human or business application becomes the focus, rather than the technology.

Gartner predicts that, by 2023, 25 per cent of mobile apps, progressive web apps and conversational apps created by large businesses will use multiexperience platforms.

Light design

While multiexperience reflects a shift towards people-centric experiences enabled by technology, it can still contribute to feelings of overwhelm, distrust and disconnection that drive people away from technology and towards tech minimalism and digital detoxes.

Continuing that trend into 2020 is minimalist tech design, such as the Light Phone II, which was named one of Time magazine’s best inventions of 2019.

The Light Phone II is chunky and looks sort of like an iPhone 4 (remember those?). It has most of the essential features of a modern smartphone, such as a big touch screen and full keyboard.

But the key difference is that the Light Phone is app-free, which puts an end to endless scrolling on social media.

The Light Phone was designed in response to ‘dark design’, which is the use of things such as emotion and distraction to get users to do things they don’t really want.

In a sense, this sort of ‘light design’ is a return to technology designed to serve the needs of the person actually buying the phone, not big tech companies.

Circular economy

Following mainstream sustainability as one of the key trends for 2019, the circular economy is one of the ways we can get there.

As the name implies, the circular economy is a model whereby old products and packaging become the responsibility of the companies, rather than consumers.

Instead of going to landfill, used products and empty packages are taken back by companies to be used again.

In other words, it’s recycling at the enterprise level. And it can happen in a variety of ways.

For example, IKEA recently announced it would buy back used IKEA furniture, which it would then repair and resell in its ‘as-is’ section.

Adidas also announced its foray into the circular economy with its ‘Futurecraft Loop’ running shoe.

The shoe is designed to be 100 per cent recyclable, with Adidas taking old shoes and turning them into brand new ones.

The next decade

So what do these trends suggest for business?

They underscore the importance of building or rebuilding trust with consumers who are looking for companies to take responsibility beyond profit and for more transparency, especially about how personal data is being used and who is benefiting from its use.

And as the increasing appetite for light design shows, there’s also a growing opportunity for companies to create technology that puts user needs and human connection first.


Subscription Options