10 things to get excited about in 2020 and the new decade

December 18, 2019

2020 is approaching fast and a whole new decade beckons. Recent tech has been just too damn exciting and I think it will become more so in the next decade. I have set aside some time to jot down a number of things I wish to explore and share with you via this blog next year and way beyond that. I'm buzzing!

I pick out 10 (1 for each year in the decade, see what I did there?) things that will evolve so rapidly in the next few years, god knows what they will be like in 2030? Well if this post still exists at that point in time, we can look back and see...

I will delve more into all of these topics in 2020 as I explore each one in more depth, I've always fancied improving the automation of our home and perhaps investing in a solar panel or two. Maybe this will be the decade in which we switch to driving an EV as a family?

DISCLAIMER: There are predictions in this article that may or may not actually happen, so don't worry! I hope this stimulates some comments and discussion too...

1. Smartphones as main cameras, has the time come?

The quality has leapt through the roof, to become not just "good" but "very very good" plus the computational and AI possibilities open up a whole host of choices for people to edit their images on the go. Will the time come when you no longer need to download to a PC to edit?

If the fact that I reach for my iPhone 11 more than my main camera is anything to go by, maybe the answer is "yes", that time is "now"? It could just be for the sake of convenience, novelty or laziness but I don't think it is. There is something really compelling about the device that slips in your pocket and that can be quickly deployed into photography or video action without too much effort. To think that you can then review your efforts straight away, edit them from the same device and then broadcast within minutes.

As ever the real answer to the initial question is that it depends on what you are setting out to achieve and that creative freedom is key. I feel that the "path of less friction" matters, capture the moment to the best of your ability is better than not capturing the moment at all. The infamous adage of, "The best camera is the one in your pocket" is now more solid than ever.

In any case, watch this space for more blog material on this topic, it's one I am ridiculously excited about for 2020!

2. Drones open up a wealth of possibilities and some cans of wiggly worms

Smartphones have been a fast moving innovation of the past decade or so, plus they've led onto other new wonder gadgets that have sparked the imagination of many and in some cases anger of some people. None more of course than the humble quadcopter or drone (choose the name you prefer best). Drones have opened up a wealth of new filming and photography possibilities. I have myself 3 DJI drones because I was something of an early adopter when DJI released their early Phantom drones. I love my Mavic Pro and debating whether to buy the newest model or not... or wait for a few months, as these products are expensive and iterate fast.

Drones are great tech and another exciting avenue to follow but there have been problems regarding misuse and awareness of what you should not do. Sure enough criminals find them useful for all kinds of wrong reasons but innocent people do also make mistakes which can all be resolved through education. There is a lot to be learnt, discovered and improved plus people's worries and concerns need to be addressed to ensure that peace be maintained across all parties!

This November we saw the introduction of new legislation here in the UK that requires all drone pilots to register. I have done this and now got my Flyer and Operator ID. I thought the process was easy to follow and only took 20 minutes of my time. I support it because it reinforces the fact your drone is an aircraft and a high degree of responsibility is crucial in it's operation. I do however ask, "Where does my £9 a year go?" and whether this is just a gentle introduction to perhaps more rigorous legislation in the future?

That aside - I am looking forward to seeing how AI improves in 2020 because both DJI and Skydio are pioneering tech that enables drones to follow moving subjects through terrain and obstacles without crashing. YouTube is the place to go to learn more about this but where I can, I will review these concepts next year.

Personally I would very much like to obtain a CAA license to be able to undertake commercial work with drones...

3. Future of photography

I have already hinted at part of the evolution and how smartphones are having an impact but a heck of a lot is also going on in the "big camera" world too. Mirrorless cameras are gathering even more of a pace now. My Sony A7R3 has recently been superseded by the A74 (is there a R4? not sure) which takes the already amazing megapixel level of 42.3 to 60! You are looking at £3000-4000 price tags for these but if you consider specialist cameras that cost tens of thousands such as the Red Dragon which shoots 8K, that gives you an idea of where the consumer and prosumer markets are heading in the next decade. I have read about sensors which will support up to 200 mega-pixels are not all that far away. Does this mean your own personal camera will be equipped with 8K within a few years? What does this mean for TV? How much resolution do we need?

If only storage could keep up? However the latest Macbook Pro can handle it just about as SSD drives gain capacity. I for one now own an iPhone and iPad with 500GB storage each, the same amount as my 2014 MacBook Pro.

Auto focus tech on cameras such as the Sony range is now very advanced with facial recognition that helps pick out e.g. a family group, calculate the average focal distance and lock in on it. Massive leaps have been made in continuous focus too, for example tracking action such as in sport has become even more impressive and vastly more reliable too. Especially now that as photographers we are also learning new skills in videography for creation of vlogs etc etc.

4. The Gimbal

One thing that has come out of the blue this past decade has been the Gimbal and I am sure we will see them appear in many more applications from 2020 onwards. I now own more than one kind of Gimbal in the form of the DJI Phantom 2, Mavic Pro, Osmo and Osmo Pocket. Soon I plan to get the Osmo Mobile 3 for use with the iPhone 11 because I am a pro Geek!

I doubt any YouTube content now is recorded without a gimbal of some kind being involved unless of course the camera is static and mounted on a tripod. Talking of which, there are now so many fantastic channels on YouTube and they are all so slick and smooooooth and that is often thanks to this nifty little stabilisation device.


5. Home automation

I must confess this is an area that I am not all that knowledgeable about but it is an interesting one all the same. So far I have only really dabbled with Belkin plugs in our home that turn the lights on and off based on certain triggers such as sunset and sunrise, timers or even manually via an app. However there is a lot more to it than that of course. We are as a household reviewing our energy consumption and have recently switched to a better supplier and are looking at Nest or Hive as an option for controlling the heating in our house. I am reviewing the myriad of options and will blog about this in the future.

I particularly want to look at the tools available via iOS, especially Home Hub and my wife also has a similar phone to me. It would be great to both have access to these tools, such as turning the heating on as we head back home.

It's interesting how home efficiency and heating play a big role in automation. There probably are other applications that haven't yet occurred to me!

6. Electric Vehicles

This has to be the product I am most excited about and yet don't own. I have been an avid follower of The Fully Charged Show for a long time and super excited to hear that the Live event is taking place just 15 minutes away from my house in 2020. I will be buying tickets! This fabulous online show covers not just cars, vehicles and so on but also other forms of technology including ways of harnessing energy through wind, tide and many others.

I currently lease my car and have it for just over one more year, so will I switch to electric in 2021? I may well do but the pricing must come down and the infrastructure must improve. It is already pretty decent but there are areas that I would want to charge my car up in that don't have this kind of equipment yet. The good thing is, EV technology is advancing as quickly as many others because of solid investment in to it from various quarters including organisations you might have assumed would oppose it.

Car ownership in the future may dwindle in favour of car sharing where you can arrange to collect a car from a particular point and later drop it off at another with the process being as simple as parking in a reserved parking bay, locking the vehicle with an app and walking away. Zip cars already offer this as a service in London (and other cities). I am sure others will follow.

Hopefully in 2020 I will at least get to drive an EV to see what it is like.

7. Self-powered homes - Will it be possible to go off-grid or consume less from it?

We will always need a power grid but not many of you may be aware that the work the engineers behind the scenes do is nothing short of incredible because the strain on the system is immense, to the point that at times, it can't cope. So with more products being connected than ever before, some of these now being cars, how on earth will we keep the lights on, the kettles boiling and millions of computers running?

It's not a question I can answer but one I've read about at least, so therefore it comes as little surprise that we are seeking new ways of harnessing energy at the granular level and that starts at home. Sure enough homes are becoming more energy efficient with modern builds having to meet certain criteria. Our Daughter's new house for example has solar panels built into the roof because the company that built it and it's neighbours on the same development had to include them. This will not only reduce their bills but will also take just a little less from the grid and that has got to be a good thing.

So more homes in the next decade will become more energy independent.

8. Artificial Intelligence

What are the differences between AI and Machine Learning? Are they one and the same? They are indeed related, in fact Machine Learning is a subset of Artificial Intelligence. It concentrates on the ability of machines to receive a dataset, to learn for themselves and to constantly adapt algorithms as they process information. This enables them to make informed decisions based on what they "know" and we see ML in action a lot of the time because large scale corporations such as Amazon use them to make recommendations to end-users and to help estimate distribution to and between depots across the globe based on demographic data and other factors. It is easy(ish) for people to pick up and learn using programming languages such as Python and when you consider this is taught in schools these days, almost as standard, there is a future workforce on tap. I predict that and urge people who are interested in an IT career to have a look into this technology rather than any other!

This is a nice segue onto my last two items!

9. Programming in the 2020s

My background is in software engineering and not photography, however I am interested in both and at times they've converged although photography is my way of escaping from the computer and the desk. Where is programming now (or coding as we call it today)? Where will it be headed? It is hard to say but there is a pattern of sorts and that can help predict some possible paths that may be followed. In fact this is an important excercise for people like myself, to know where to go next.

Let's say you are a web or mobile developer for example. If you know both areas, you are in a unique position from a career perspective. If you know one and not the other, should you learn and work with both? Thankfully there are options (too complex to explain here) that can enable you to learn one language that can be used to power both platforms. This is a very flimsy description but I am talking in layman's terms here.

One key language today is Javascript but there are others such as Python, C#, Java, Go and PHP. All of which require a trained person to work with and to develop applications. However what if...

The Computer programmed itself? How far away from this are we? Not far off as it happens because this is another avenue where AI/ML comes into play.

Consider that most applications are driven by data and that common actions may be executed based on input, it is only a matter of time before programs can evolve and develop new capabilities themselves. I know this sounds very science fiction but I believe it will happen.

Another segue onto the final item!

10. The future of work

Will we need to work anymore once the robots take over? I think it depends on the industry you are in and if it's IT, there will still be plenty of jobs because ironically those self-writing programmes won't write themselves? I do however think the way in which we work will change significantly.

Commuting will change because of autonomous vehicles and perhaps the traffic jam will become a thing of the past? Some of us may not even need to commute and will be able to work from locations of our own choosing. Problem is for some employers they may need to revise the way they think about how to treat workers on a remote team and to trust them. Indeed we may be forced to reduce the numbers of vehicles in towns and cities due to climate change and just congestion as populations continue to grow.

Merry Christmas and Happy New year, new decade

2019 has been a great year and this will be the final blog post for it. I shall return in 2020 with more tech based content here on nicklewis.net. What about Rambling Photographer? I haven't forgotten about that one, it will spring back to life in 2020 around Spring time. I will no doubt be busy with running this blog, hopefully a YouTube vlog also but my word this stuff takes a lot of time and planning.

I shall shut up and open a bottle of Christmas Gin now.... have a great one yourselves. Merry Christmas!

I am a freelance web developer, content creator and photographer, who is on a mission to help businesses and individuals build solutions for their online world.