A decade of disruption: 5 tech storylines set to define 2020 and beyond

Once again, the past decade was all about disruption powered by technology. AirBnB, Uber and Lyft ushered in the era of the sharing economy; Netflix flipped the film and television industry on its head; while Google and Tesla made sci-fi dreams a reality with advances in self-driving cars.

At Rakuten, we have continued to lead on innovation around the world, from online shopping and drone delivery, to fintech, sports partnerships and our pioneering Englishnization initiative. But as eternal optimists (rakuten means “optimism” in Japanese), the editorial team at Rakuten Today is still excited about what lies ahead. Here are five transformative tech trends we will be watching as we enter the next decade.

1. Content streaming competition ignites

Since the Mandalorian launched in November on Disney’s nascent streaming service Disney+, Baby Yoda has been inescapable. But will the force of a Jedi Master (and Disney’s enviable catalog) be strong enough to hold onto the wallets of content fans the world over amidst the great streaming war of 2020?

New streaming services from the likes of Warner Bros. (AT&T WarnerMedia) and NBC Universal will go head-to-head with the recently launched Disney+, Apple TV+ and the incumbent streaming content kings, forcing all parties to put out their best content yet if they hope to hold on to and grow their audiences. Rakuten TV, which recently expanded its own video-on-demand offerings across Europe, is enjoying the success of its original series Matchday – Inside FC Barcelona. And so are we. In 2020, we will be spoiled for choice. Better stock up on popcorn!

2. Fashion (finally) wins the internet

Did you know that after grocery shopping, fashion represents the largest e-commerce segment globally? And it’s growing rapidly. According to Statista, the market is already valued at over half a trillion dollars annually and is expected to be worth $922 billion by the end of 2023.

Since Rakuten first launched its online marketplace in 1997, fashion has been one of its most popular segments. In 2020, the company will double-down on its fashion focus as the title sponsor of one of the world’s premier fashion events, Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo. 2020 Autumn/Winter collections will hit the runway in mid-March in the trendy Tokyo fashion hubs of Shibuya and Omotesando.

3. Tech transforming healthcare

Virtual healthcare, nanomedicine and robot-assisted surgery: these are just a few of the technological breakthroughs revolutionizing healthcare. While innovations in medtech may not grab as many fevered headlines as speculation on the latest iPhone, there are few fields with this much potential to impact our quality of life. And the optimism in 2020 is palpable.

Speaking about advances in cancer treatment last summer in Yokohama, David Agus told the Rakuten Optimism audience, “The things we can do today would be considered science fiction just a few years ago. It’s an amazing time. For the first time in my career, I can walk into the room of a patient with cancer with real optimism. Optimism is there on the patient’s side and my side.”

Society is continuing to explore and adopt new approaches to age-old problems, and it is driving innovative and agile startups, such as Rakuten Medical, to bring these solutions to market.

4. Tokyo Summer Olympics and tech in sports

Japan and its capital have been preparing for this moment for almost a decade. Thanks to concerted efforts by Japan’s government and the travel industry, tourism has nearly tripled over the past 10 years. In summer 2020, the world will see if Japan is ready. But the reality is that only a fraction of those who view the Olympics will physically be in Tokyo. This fact was not lost on the organizers, and thanks to the wide adoption of ultra-HD TVs, 5G infrastructure, AI and even robots, the Tokyo Olympics are set to provide one of the most immersive viewing experience the world has ever seen. 3D athlete tracking in particular is going to change how we experience and enjoy sports.

Elsewhere in sports, the world’s top teams and athletes will continue to connect with fans around the globe, far away from their physical hometowns or league locations. Last year the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets played a pair of preseason games in Japan for the NBA Japan Games 2019 Presented by Rakuten, while FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC brought world-class soccer to Japan. At the same time, technologies like VR and 5G-powered broadcasts hold vast potential to add new layers to the fan experience.

5. 5G lives up to the hype

5G, with its high speed, low latency and massive multi-connectivity, will be key to unlocking the full potential of many of the game-changing technologies mentioned above, such as autonomous vehicles, remote surgery, and drone delivery. 5G services are set to launch in Japan this year, with newcomer Rakuten Mobile planning to launch 5G services in June. The company has partnered with a variety of global tech leaders, including Intel, Qualcomm and Cisco, to build the world’s first fully virtualized, end-to-end cloud-native 5G-ready mobile network. Rakuten Mobile’s approach enables it to rapidly scale a faster and more reliable mobile infrastructure at a cost lower than legacy networks, which is set to bring significant benefits to the consumer, including lower prices, blazing 5G speed and low latency.

It is hard to limit the list to only five, but this already looks like more than enough to set the stage for another decade of disruptive innovation.

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