Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is usually credited with the bon mot, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” though a little research dates the origins of the quote to a 1716 play, The Cobbler of Preston(no doubt one of old Ben’s favorites). However there are a few other certainties in life, and one that inevitably comes with the turning of the calendar – as surely as day follows night – is the annual exercise of predicting which technology trends are likely to surge to the fore in the coming year.

While the headlines on these forecasts are often audacious, the reality frequently has a history of being more evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Identifying a trend and spinning it out into the future as a continuation is often a safer bet than stepping out to “boldly go where no one has gone before.” But in an era of breakneck technological change, what would have been on the bleeding edge in years past is actually behind traveler expectations today.

One example is virtual reality and augmented reality.  A new study of travelers in Asia Pacific finds that half of the respondents would utilize VR or AR tours of their destination to get inspiration for their vacations. The survey of 2,300 travelers in 11 Asia Pacific countries was conducted by Hilton Honors in conjunction with research and insights company ENGINE.

The research found that in the future, travelers would be more likely to consider VR and AR as sources of travel inspiration than recommendations from locals (44 percent) and word of mouth (37 percent). Additionally, travelers say virtual reality and augmented reality could help make travel more fun in the future.

Artificial intelligence also rose to the top of these travelers’ list of high tech expectations, especially among younger travelers in the APAC region. More than half of this age group (54 percent) say AI improves their travel experience, and nearly as many (49 percent) believe AI helps build knowledge. These travelers put together their leisure trips almost exclusively via digital means, enabling them to focus on actual adventures and experiences, and less on planning.

According to the research, 39 percent of those surveyed are looking to both virtual reality and artificial intelligence as key sources allowing travelers to literally step into the destination before arriving, in order to make better-informed travel decisions. Moreover, the study finds 39 percent of travelers see AI and 40 percent perceive Smart Sensors as being able to impact their overall travel experience most significantly in future.

Big Data, Big Deal
Of course, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will drive a whole new set of interconnection and data processing requirements, according to Equinix, Inc., a global interconnection and data center company. Among its top five technology trend predictions for 2020, Equinix predicts that enterprises will speed the adoption of more AI and machine learning capabilities in a wider array of uses.  

The result will require more real-time processing of large data sets from multiple sources (such as sensors, IoT, wearables, etc.). For example, an airplane with thousands of equipment sensors, an autonomous vehicle producing telematics data, or a smart hospital monitoring patients' well-being can each generate several terabytes of data a day. The result will drive a change in the architecture of data management toward distributed computing infrastructure, Equinix says, critical for emerging technologies such as 5G mobile communications.

One benefit for consumers, Equinix predicts, is greater interconnection and data processing capabilities will pave the way for new digital data marketplaces, where data providers and buyers can transact easily and securely at scale. There is also a sustainability component, as machine learning and data analytics enable companies to match the supply and demand for underused assets and products, according to Equinix.

"We are at an exciting inflection point in the history of interconnection, as the pace of digital transformation continues to accelerate,” says Justin Dustzadeh, chief technology officer at Equinix. “The ability to securely manage and process data is ushering new opportunities for organizations to create greater value to users and customers, and benefit society in new ways."

For travelers, the rise of faster, smarter technology is shifting expectations around the use of digital innovations like AR, VR and AI, and how those are being integrated into the travel experiences of the future. Over half (51 percent) of the travelers in the Hilton Honors survey say adopting more tech-related services would enhance every aspect of their travel, creating a more seamless experience in the areas of:
•Ease of rebooking missed flights and managing reservation
•Push alerts to travelers' mobile devices when needed
•And 'managing their whole trip better.'