Technology Predictions for 2020 from PARC Research Staff

We will reach a tremendous milestone in 2020, as PARC celebrates its 50th anniversary. For the past 50 years, PARC has been at the forefront of some the most significant technological advances, which have changed the way we live and work. We asked members of the PARC research team to share their perspectives on where technology will take us in 2020 and beyond.

Emergence of Cleantech

“We’ll see climate change continue to make headlines in the news as the world enters the hottest month/year/decade ever. The Tokyo Olympics will remind millions of visitors just how much we take energy-hungry technologies like air conditioning for granted. My guess? More deadlock on the policy front, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see the emergence of a cleantech titan as the private sector steps up.” – Eugene Beh, Researcher, Energy Materials & Systems, Hardware Systems Lab


Increased Adoption of Recyclable/Degradable Plastics & Other Green Materials

“Public awareness about human impact on the environment is growing as we begin to feel tangible effects from global warming. The chemical industry will need to respond. I believe we will see increased adoption of plastics and chemicals that are derived from renewable feedstocks and CO2 as well as increased adoption of plastics that are recyclable or degradable. Materials in both of these categories have struggled to match performance with petroleum-based products, especially in mechanical properties and durability. We will see improvements in these properties and a wider range of applications for green materials.” – Mahati Chintapalli, Researcher, Energy Materials & Systems, Hardware Systems Lab


Ethics in AI

“In 2020 we can expect the growing awareness of ethical questions and AI to intensify. Even governments are joining in — the U.S. Defense Innovation Board issued a report warning about unintended harms from AI, and the incoming president of the European Commission identified human and ethical aspects of artificial intelligence as important topics for new legislation to be taken up by the Commission. In 2020, it will be a good year to continue our work leveraging the benefits of machine learning and artificial intelligence as we focus on minimizing the harmful downsides.” – Kyle Dent, Research Area Manager, Machine Learning & Data Science, Interaction and Analytics Lab


Increasing Use of Energy Storage on the Electrical Grid

“I think an emerging trend in 2020 and onwards will be the increasing use of energy storage on the electrical grid and a move towards a more decentralized grid. This year’s electrical shutoffs have highlighted the weaknesses of our current electrical infrastructure, and reductions in battery costs can be leveraged to add storage capacity to the grid. When paired with renewable sources like solar and wind power, grid storage will make our electrical grid more efficient, environmentally friendly and reliable.” – Sean Doris, Researcher, Printed Electronic Devices, Electronic Materials and Devices Lab 


Adoption of 5G Mobile Networks & Wireless Systems Across Industries

“We will see more emerging adoption and implementation of fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks and wireless systems across a variety of industry verticals such as automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, smart grid, entertainment and education. What’s both exciting and challenging is this technology would be used by people from developing and developed nations (the number of Internet use has now reached 5 billion). Can 5G component manufacturers, vendors, integrators, network operators and telecommunication service providers provide value and differentiated services to this massive and growing base of users while keeping a cost-effective approach? We will observe in 2020. “ – Joanne Lee, Researcher,
Microsystems Technology, Electronic Materials and Devices Lab


Advanced Solutions To Climate Change

“As the effects of climate change become more apparent, we can expect to see solutions that go beyond just reducing emissions. Pulling carbon out of the atmosphere or reflecting sunlight back to space will become important complements to transitioning to renewables and improving energy efficiency. PARC is working with climate scientists to study the feasibility of increasing the solar reflectivity of marine layer clouds by spraying seawater into the air. Although we hope we never need to use this technology, it may someday be used to offset the warming caused by greenhouse gases.” – Kate Murphy, Researcher, Advanced Manufacturing & Deposition Systems, Hardware Systems Lab


Explainable AI, Folding Screen Devices & More

“With AI penetrating almost every aspect of our lives, the need for more transparency, accountability and explainability will become a mainstream topic. Other Japanese companies, in addition to Softbank, will start making a significant impact on the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem, through investments, acquisitions, partnerships, or other. Folding screen devices will become mainstream (starting with the success of Motorola’s revamped Razr). Manufacturing companies will wake up to the power and value of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Lastly, the San Francisco 49ers will win the Super Bowl!” – Aki Ohashi, Director of Business Development


Tapping Into the Value Potential of IoT with Edge Analytics

“While the advent of 5G and other advances in low-cost communications and sensing have been making it compelling for more and more key assets and smart devices to be brought online through the IoT, there’s growing recognition of the need for efficient and secure ways to manage the massive amounts of IoT data while respecting privacy and confidentiality. With edge nodes becoming more computationally capable, recent advances in AI are poised to enable field deployment to derive actionable insights securely at the edge (rather than needing the cloud) in 2020.” – Ajay Raghavan, Strategic Execution Director, System Sciences Lab



Advancements in Hyperspectral Imaging, Quantum Computing & More

“With the advent of 5G in consumer electronics, we will experience an enormous enhancement of current capabilities. We will experience further integration of collective knowledge into personal decision making. Autonomous driving will arrive on a broad basis and personalized transportation solutions will mature. Multi-dimensional mapping of the environment (e.g., LIDAR, hyperspectral imaging) with increased resolution will create new product offerings. Finally, it can be expected that quantum computing will outperform conventional computing in selected areas.” – Thomas Wunderer, Researcher, Optoelectronic Materials & Devices, Electronic Materials and Devices Lab

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