Last year, AI became a proven technology in the video conferencing industry. Chatbots, dynamic assistants and cybersecurity were all areas where AI improved the meeting experience, helping workers become not only more productive but increasingly more secure and targeted in their output. AI will continue to evolve and improve in this space — AI is a given, not a prediction. January predictions are supposed to excite the imagination of the industry and not just tease the release dates of roadmap items already in production. With that in mind, here are the six predictions I expect to see in tech over the next 12 months.

Four Lifesize video conferencing cameras at the top of screen followed by large text that says 2020 Predictions

1. Video Spreads Far Beyond Work Conferencing

Over the course of 2020, we’ll see the use of video extend far beyond the traditional workplace conference into various fields such as telemedicine, architecture and government. Telemedicine is the natural evolution of healthcare in the digital age, and we’ll see enterprise-grade cloud video play a critical role in improving its affordability and accessibility. For the architectural field, the richness and quality of video now allows for frequent collaboration and sharing of blueprints between professionals and the clients they serve. As for the public sector, video capabilities bring us one step (or maybe just an inch) closer to queuing up remotely for the DMV.

2. Our Distributed Workforce’s Reliance on Video Will Skyrocket

The much-discussed skills shortage is leaving companies no choice but to look beyond corporate headquarters or even their local backyards for talent. By opening up more remote roles or even entirely distributed teams, companies have access to a much wider talent pool. There are also financial incentives to remote work: In 2018, there was an estimated $5 billion in cost savings for U.S. companies with employees who worked remotely — and that’s just counting part-time workers.

As the workforce becomes more distributed, video will play an even larger role in keeping teams connected. As a result of hiring patterns and the continued desire for levels of personal interaction that a phone call just doesn’t allow, video will be woven into the fabric of every business communication strategy over the course of the next year.

3. Appliances Will Enjoy a Revival

Appliances are cool again — no, really! 

As the traditional conference room continues to dramatically change (see: the huddle room boom), we’ll witness the pendulum swinging back toward self-contained video conferencing appliances. Hardware plus software will be the most powerful duo in the video conferencing sphere over the next year, and vendor roadmap investments will prove it. The market bifurcation between room system approaches — appliances versus room kits — will become less pronounced, and the appliance model will make gains again thanks to increased ease of use as well as lower installation and ownership costs. 

4. WebRTC Will Reign Supreme 

WebRTC (web real-time communications) enables workers to connect over audio and video without having to download software or plug-ins. However, depending on the browser, running a full-featured version of a WebRTC app hasn’t been the smoothest experience through 2019. 

Thankfully, with news of Microsoft Edge being rebuilt to run on Chromium in 2020, WebRTC implementations will be significantly more seamless and consistent, and many more WebRTC applications will begin running natively in browsers, be it Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge. As a result, CTOs and CIOs won’t have to invest so much time and resources into managing development and deployment processes.

5. 5G Fuels Workplace Flexibility and Mobility 

In 2020, we’ll see 5G, the fifth generation of cellular networks, proliferate and revolutionize mobile high-speed connections. As a result, employees will feel more empowered to work from their mobile devices, and we’ll behold the much-hyped mobile work experience effectively blending with the consumer mobile experience.

As the demand for workplace flexibility and BYOD decisions continues to skyrocket, driven by millennials and Gen Z, 5G will play an integral part in employees’ ditching clunky laptops and bulky devices in favor of their phones for work on the go. The ability to communicate and collaborate across locations and time zones without being chained to a desk or laptop will inevitably lead to greater workplace mobility and (dare I say) enjoyment.

6. Tech Talent and Companies Will (Gradually) Move Away from Silicon Valley

While San Jose and San Francisco are still among the metro areas with the most tech job postings, a shift is occurring before our eyes — and 2020 will be the year more workers and companies move from the Bay Area. Greater economic opportunity, lower cost of living and rising remote and flexible work models will lure talent and companies to cities across the U.S. and pave the way for a new tech hub — or perhaps multiple hubs.