2019 Predictions: Business and Technology

Hey ‘Nineteen: What’s Coming for Business and Technology?

If you’re responsible for any sort of digital business, 2018 has been a wild ride. We’ve seen GDPR enforcement and passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act, the launch of Open Banking and the looming of PSD2, and the coming of Skynet...uh, I mean robotic process automation. Here are three trends I see coming in 2019 for business and technology.

Regulatory Sandboxes: The New Hackathon

Many laws and regulations are designed to be technology-neutral so as to have a long life. But certain recent regulations have had to get specific about open standards and open APIs so they can achieve their goals of interoperability, for example, around personal data portability between digital services. We can see this in the financial world with UK Open Banking and the Australian Consumer Data Standards.

While API publishers usually hold hackathons (like our Open Banking hackathon in September!), what we can expect from regulators in future is increasing use of regulatory sandboxes: formally sponsored cloud environments that foster innovation within legally compliant boundaries. This is a great next step – awakening regulators to both the need for innovation and the reality of the innovation process. The concept is still relatively new. To date, regulatory sandboxes have been most closely associated with financial services, but now the EU is looking at them for testing AI capabilities in connected cars and autonomous shipping. And stay tuned to see them in other tech arenas as well.

User Centricity: The Miranda Warning of Privacy

Many years ago, I heard that American cop movies, with reenactments of the Miranda warning – you have the right to remain silent etc. – were influencing audiences in other countries. Non-US people started to think that they too had those rights. I don’t know if it’s really true, but I’m starting to think Americans are experiencing something similar, having undergone the “GDPR shift” this past May: lots of rewritten privacy notices and, in a few cases, improvements  in data transparency and control.

In 2019 and certainly beyond, both market and regulatory forces are conspiring and intertwining to encourage a continued shift towards user-centric privacy. If your business has a mobile presence – guessing that’s a yes?? – then you’ll care what the Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s 2018 Global Consumer Trust Report discovered as you head into the new year: users are absolutely willing to take action to protect themselves. Of their respondents, 76% take at least one of 12 privacy actions; 26% started taking action in the first half of 2018; and and 63% are willing to manage their own personal data.

And an example of regulatory forces continuing well beyond GDPR comes from the UK Pensions Dashboard project; its recently published feasibility report stresses “put[ting] the individual at the heart of the process by giving people access to clear information in one place online” and “ensur[ing] the individual is always in control over who has access to their data”. (The project’s consultation period is open until January 28.)

Blockchain: The Great En-Sobering

It was only a couple of years ago that I promoted a drinking game that could kill us all: When someone says blockchain, you drink!

Of course, everyone still wants to talk about it. During a recent “futures” talk where our audience threw ten topics on the whiteboard, my co-presenter and I were still forced to spend 90% of our time on blockchain. But 2019 will surely be a time for sobering up. Many in the audience had done some homework and come to reasonably skeptical conclusions. (And they couldn’t even have seen this snarky article from The Register yet, which would have added fuel to the fire.) The headline of the night: “Blockchain is one tool in a vast toolbox; it won’t solve everything; think use cases first.”

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Wishing you happy holidays – and some Cuervo Gold, or whatever your favorite tipple is – before 2018 runs out!