Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2020
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Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2020

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Prediction Consensus 2020 Bingo Card

Prediction Consensus: What Experts See Coming in 2020

Through the ages, humans have feared uncertainty. We’ve searched for clues in everything from entrails to tea leaves to the arrangement of heavenly bodies in the night sky.

In the modern era, data and media are the new magic 8-ball. The jury is still out on whether we’ve gotten any better at anticipating the forces that will shape the coming year, but that certainly hasn’t stopped people from trying.

Of the hundreds of forward-looking pieces of content published in the lead-up to 2020, how many of the expert predictions lined up? Was there a consensus on any particular trend, or were predictions all over the map?

During the month of December we analyzed over 100 articles, whitepapers, and interviews to answer that question. While there was no firm consensus on where 2020 will take us, there were a few themes that appeared in multiple publications. Today’s graphic highlights these reappearing predictions, and below, we examine seven of them in more detail.

The Promise and Controversy of 5G

One technology that’s sure to capture the headlines in 2020 is 5G. Broadband speeds of over one gigabit per second will become a reality when 5G technology rolls out across the country, without the cable that currently connects most homes. This prediction is a slam dunk, as some carriers are already testing the technology in select neighborhoods around the United States.

prediction consensus 5g

Experts also predict that a wave of 5G-enabled smartphone and IoT products will become commercially available in 2020.

The wild card in this 5G story will be guessing which companies end up building out the new network. Huawei was in a strong position to lead the charge, but the company has been stonewalled in a number countries – most notably the United States, Australia, and Japan. Whether due to national security concerns or protectionism, Chinese companies may continue to face an uphill battle in Western markets.

Fake News 2.0

While many predictions for 2020 were fueled by excitement for new technologies, there was one that was decidedly more ominous – the proliferation of deepfakes. Simply put, deepfakes are videos that harness artificial intelligence to create a convincing likeness of a real person.

prediction consensus deepfakes

With the U.S. presidential election just around the corner, many experts fear that deepfakes are going to do serious damage, manipulating public opinion on both sides of the political spectrum. Unlike fake news, which often comes with obvious visual cues to help determine authenticity, even deepfakes created using free online tools are extremely convincing. If predictions come true, the lead-up to the U.S. election could be a wild ride.

Consumerism in Flux

The late 2010’s were a turbulent time for retail. The rise of ecommerce and shifting consumer preferences combined to cause a “retailpocalypse”, and many brands are still struggling to evolve their brick and mortar strategy to compete in an Amazon Prime world. Experts are predicting new evolutions for physical stores that are powered by technology instead of human employees.

prediction consensus cashier less stores

The incarnation of this approach that will likely garner the most attention will be the next wave of cashierless Amazon Go locations opening in cities around the country.

Experts also predict that brands will mimic the example of Amazon’s Whole Foods, and incorporate online order pick-up locations within their physical stores. Increasingly, the line between ecommerce and traditional retail is blurring.

The Cookie Begins to Crumble

In 2019, approximately $330 billion was spent on digital advertising, but privacy regulations such as GDPR and the CCPA – California’s new privacy law – are causing massive disruption and upheaval in this industry.

For many years, the humble internet cookie has done the heavy lifting in collecting your personal data from online activity. This data is what advertisers use to reach you as you scroll Instagram or read articles online. Already, changes to Safari and Firefox wiped out about 40% of all third-party cookies, and in a world where people need to physically click a button on each site to allow cookies, it’s unclear how viable the technology will be as privacy measures are enacted.

prediction consensus death of cookies

The Call of the Picket Fence

One of main predictions going into 2020 is that starter homes will be a leading category in new home builds. For millions of millennials around the country in the rental market, a starter home – the first residence a person or family can afford to purchase, often using a combination of savings and mortgage financing – will begin to look more appealing.

Rent in American cities has been marching upward for nearly a decade, and the promise of more space and entry into the home ownership market may lure more of this generational cohort to the suburbs.

prediction consensus suburbs

Also on the topic of real estate, a few experts noted that even if there is an economic downturn in 2020, the housing market is unlikely to take a big hit.

All Eyes on IPOs

Despite experiencing a rough patch in 2019, SoftBank and its gargantuan Vision Fund will remain one of the most powerful forces in Silicon Valley this year. Masayoshi Son, Softbank’s enigmatic CEO, appears to have adopted a more pragmatic approach, citing a company’s “ability to turn a profit in the future” as a yardstick of evaluating the value of an investment.

Experts predict that in light of the very public PR disasters of unicorns Uber and WeWork, investors will be much more skeptical of high-valuation IPOs.

prediction consensus unicorn skepticism

In 2020, more companies are predicted to opt for a direct listing to go public.

What Goes Up?

When the ball dropped to usher in 2019, market sentiment was leaning toward an impending recession. A year later, the economic expansion is still underway, and many experts now have a more positive outlook for 2020.

prediction consensus no recession 2020

The majority of predictions we analyzed foresaw a year of continued job growth and modest gains in the stock market. Here’s a look at S&P 500 end target predictions from some of Wall Street’s top strategists:

prediction consensus wall street

The Elephant in the Oval

One prediction nobody seemed particularly keen to make was on the result of the impending U.S. presidential election.

Experts are likely happy to take a wait-and-see approach until the Democratic nominee is announced. Also looming in the back of people’s minds might be the memory of 2016, which was a powerful reminder that even predictions that seem like a sure thing don’t always pan out as expected.

[Experts] can’t predict the markets with any useful consistency, any more than the gizzard squeezers could tell the Roman emperors when the Huns would attack.

– Peter Lynch

A note on methodology: To make sure we captured a robust cross section of predictions for the coming year, we spent the month of December tracking down and analyzing hundreds of articles, whitepapers, and interviews from respected sources. For this exercise, we chose to focus on four broad, interconnected themes – the economy, consumerism, real estate, and technology. In the end, we analyzed 100+ published pieces, and captured 150+ predictions. We focused on content from media publications in Comscore’s top 100, major banks and consultancies, and brands and agencies with high-quality thought leadership. In the end, we highlighted the 25 predictions that appeared the most often.

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The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web

A lot has changed since Yahoo and AOL were the homepages of choice. This visualization looks at the largest internet giants in the U.S. since 1998.

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The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web (1998-Today)

With each passing year, an increasingly large segment of the population no longer remembers images loading a single pixel row at a time, the earsplitting sound of a 56k modem, or the early domination of web portals.

Many of the top websites in 1998 were news aggregators or search portals, which are easy concepts to understand. Today, brand touch-points are often spread out between devices (e.g. mobile apps vs. desktop) and a myriad of services and sub-brands (e.g. Facebook’s constellation of apps). As a result, the world’s biggest websites are complex, interconnected web properties.

The visualization above, which primarily uses data from ComScore’s U.S. Multi-Platform Properties ranking, looks at which of the internet giants have evolved to stay on top, and which have faded into internet lore.

America Moves Online

For millions of curious people the late ’90s, the iconic AOL compact disc was the key that opened the door to the World Wide Web. At its peak, an estimated 35 million people accessed the internet using AOL, and the company rode the Dotcom bubble to dizzying heights, reaching a valuation of $222 billion dollars in 1999.

AOL’s brand may not carry the caché it once did, but the brand never completely faded into obscurity. The company continually evolved, finally merging with Yahoo after Verizon acquired both of the legendary online brands. Verizon had high hopes for the company—called Oath—to evolve into a “third option” for advertisers and users who were fed up with Google and Facebook.

Sadly, those ambitions did not materialize as planned. In 2019, Oath was renamed Verizon Media, and was eventually sold once again in 2021.

A City of Gifs and Web Logs

As internet usage began to reach critical mass, web hosts such as AngelFire and GeoCities made it easy for people to create a new home on the Web.

GeoCities, in particular, made a huge impact on the early internet, hosting millions of websites and giving people a way to actually participate in creating online content. If it were a physical community of “home” pages, it would’ve been the third largest city in America, after Los Angeles.

This early online community was at risk of being erased permanently when GeoCities was finally shuttered by Yahoo in 2009, but luckily, the nonprofit Internet Archive took special efforts to create a thorough record of GeoCities-hosted pages.

From A to Z

In December of 1998, long before Amazon became the well-oiled retail machine we know today, the company was in the midst of a massive holiday season crunch.

In the real world, employees were pulling long hours and even sleeping in cars to keep the goods flowing, while online, Amazon.com had become one of the biggest sites on the internet as people began to get comfortable with the idea of purchasing goods online. Demand surged as the company began to expand their offering beyond books.

Amazon.com has grown to be the most successful merchant on the Internet.

– New York Times (1998)

Digital Magazine Rack

Meredith will be an unfamiliar brand to many people looking at today’s top 20 list. While Meredith may not be a household name, the company controlled many of the country’s most popular magazine brands (People, AllRecipes, Martha Stewart, Health, etc.) including their sizable digital footprints. The company also owned a slew of local television networks around the United States.

After its acquisition of Time Inc. in 2017, Meredith became the largest magazine publisher in the world. Since then, however, Meredith has divested many of its most valuable assets (Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune). In December 2021, Meredith merged with IAC’s Dotdash.

“Hey, Google”

When people have burning questions, they increasingly turn to the internet for answers, but the diversity of sources for those answers is shrinking.

Even as recently as 2013, we can see that About.com, Ask.com, and Answers.com were still among the biggest websites in America. Today though, Google appears to have cemented its status as a universal wellspring of answers.

As smart speakers and voice assistants continue penetrate the market and influence search behavior, Google is unlikely to face any near-term competition from any company not already in the top 20 list.

New Kids on the Block

Social media has long since outgrown its fad stage and is now a common digital thread connecting people across the world. While Facebook rapidly jumped into the top 20 by 2007, other social media infused brands took longer to grow into internet giants.

By 2018, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook’s umbrella of platforms were all in the top 20, and you can see a more detailed and up-to-date breakdown of the social media universe here.

A Tangled Web

Today’s internet giants have evolved far beyond their ancestors from two decades ago. Many of the companies in the top 20 run numerous platforms and content streams, and more often than not, they are not household names.

A few, such as Mediavine and CafeMedia, are services that manage ads. Others manage content distribution, such as music, or manage a constellation of smaller media properties, as is the case with Hearst.

Lastly, there are still the tech giants. Remarkably, three of the top five web properties were in the top 20 list in 1998. In the fast-paced digital ecosystem, that’s some remarkable staying power.

This article was inspired by an earlier work by Philip Bump, published in the Washington Post.

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Visualizing the Power of the World’s Supercomputers

Supercomputers are some of the most advanced machines humans have ever created. See how they stack up in this infographic.

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Visualizing the Power of the World’s Supercomputers

A supercomputer is a machine that is built to handle billions, if not trillions of calculations at once. Each supercomputer is actually made up of many individual computers (known as nodes) that work together in parallel.

A common metric for measuring the performance of these machines is flops, or floating point operations per second.

In this visualization, we’ve used November 2021 data from TOP500 to visualize the computing power of the world’s top five supercomputers. For added context, a number of modern consumer devices were included in the comparison.

Ranking by Teraflops

Because supercomputers can achieve over one quadrillion flops, and consumer devices are much less powerful, we’ve used teraflops as our comparison metric.

1 teraflop = 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) flops.

RankNameTypeTeraflops
#1🇯🇵 Supercomputer FugakuSupercomputer537,212
#2🇺🇸 SummitSupercomputer200,795
#3🇺🇸 SierraSupercomputer125,712
#4🇨🇳 Sunway TaihulightSupercomputer125,436
#5🇺🇸 PerlmutterSupercomputer93,750
n/aNvidia Titan RTXConsumer device130
n/aNvidia GeForce RTX 3090Consumer device36
n/aXbox Series XConsumer device12
n/aTesla Model S (2021) Consumer device10

Supercomputer Fugaku was completed in March 2021, and is officially the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It’s used for various applications, including weather simulations and innovative drug discovery.

Sunway Taihulight is officially China’s top supercomputer and fourth most powerful in the world. That said, some experts believe that the country is already operating two much more powerful systems, based on data from anonymous sources.

As you can see, the most advanced consumer devices do not come close to supercomputing power. For example, it would take the combined power of 4,000 Nvidia Titan RTX graphics cards (the most powerful consumer card available) to measure up to the Fugaku.

Upcoming Supercomputers

One of China’s unrevealed supercomputers is supposedly named Oceanlite, and is a successor to Sunway Taihulight. It’s believed to have reached 1.3 exaflops, or 1.3 quintillion flops. The following table makes it easier to follow all of these big numbers.

NameNotationExponentPrefix
Quintillion1,000,000,000,000,000,00010^18Exa 
Quadrillion1,000,000,000,000,00010^15Peta
Trillion 1,000,000,000,00010^12Tera
Billion1,000,000,00010^9Giga
Million1,000,00010^6Mega

In the U.S., rival chipmakers AMD and Intel have both won contracts from the U.S. Department of Energy to build exascale supercomputers. On the AMD side, there’s Frontier and El Capitan, while on the Intel side, there’s Aurora.

Also involved in the EL Capitan project is Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which claims the supercomputer will be able to reach 2 exaflops upon its completion in 2023. All of this power will be used to support several exciting endeavors:

  • Enable advanced simulation and modeling to support the U.S. nuclear stockpile and ensure its reliability and security.
  • Accelerate cancer drug discovery from six years to one year through a partnership with pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Understand the dynamic and mutations of RAS proteins that are linked to 30% of human cancers

Altogether, exascale computing represents the ability to conduct complex analysis in a matter of seconds, rather than hours. This could unlock an even faster pace of innovation.

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