It is important for companies to keep track of IT developments that can affect their businesses. Here are four trends to watch in 2020.

The IT world changes often. While it would be impossible to keep abreast of every change that occurs, knowing about and keeping track of important IT developments is important. This information can help companies seize opportunities and avoid mistakes.

Here are four developments that businesses should watch in 2020:

Smaller Businesses Will Increasingly Turn to AI as a Service

Artificial intelligence (AI) can help companies increase productivity, reduce costs, improve responsiveness, and much more. However, smaller businesses typically do not have the resources or expertise to develop AI-based solutions on their own.

Fortunately, a growing number of cloud service providers will offer AI-based business solutions as services.  “During 2020, we will see wider adoption and a growing pool of providers that are likely to start offering more tailored applications and services for specific or specialized tasks,” predicts AI author and futurist Bernard Marr. “This will mean no company will have any excuses left not to use AI.”

The Forbes Business Council foresees that AI as a Service (AIaaS) will be particularly beneficial for cybersecurity. Adversarial machine learning has been found to be effective at detecting breaches, but the cost of setting up this type of solution is high. As an AIaaS offering, smaller companies will be able to afford taking advantage of it.

More Consumers Will Join the Fight to Protect Their Data and Their Privacy

After another year of numerous data breaches and controversial data practices being uncovered, consumers are joining together in a chorus of “We aren’t going to take it anymore.” Instead of shrugging their shoulders and resigning to the thought that there is nothing they can do, consumers are taking a more active role in protecting their personal data and their privacy.

One action that more consumers will take is to fight for their data privacy rights in court. Forrester predicts that privacy class-action lawsuits will increase by 300% in 2020. Plus, consumers will begin to push harder for data privacy regulations as well as take advantage of new tools being offered that can stop their personal data from being collected.

Some marketers will get onboard as well. “In 2020, we predict that some marketers will get ahead of the curve by curbing their reliance on third-party data,” stated Forrester. “Marketers will move away from laborious and often unwanted personalization efforts. Instead, they’ll seek to authentically connect with customers through targeted experiences.”

Companies Will Be Able to Take Advantage of 5G Sooner Rather Than Later

Last year, Gartner expected that public 5G networks would not be capable enough to meet the needs of companies by 2025 because the wireless carriers would initially concentrate on providing 5G services to consumers. While the carriers have been concentrating 5G coverage for consumers, they have not forgotten about businesses. For example, Verizon worked with Newport News Shipbuilding to set up the first 5G shipyard. The carrier also worked with organizations to set up 5G service in 16 football stadiums and 5 indoor arenas.

“2020 is likely to be the year when 5G really starts to fly, with more affordable data plans as well as greatly improved coverage, meaning that everyone can join in the fun,” foresees Marr. So, businesses might want to explore how they could benefit from 5G and start making plans accordingly.

Securing IoT Devices Will Tie Up Companies’ IT Resources

Nowadays companies often connect unconventional devices such as thermostats, lights, sensors, and security cameras to the Internet. These items are referred to as Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

In 2019, there were more than 25 billion IoT devices — and that number is expected to triple by 2025.

This proliferation of IoT devices means that companies will have more devices and software they need to protect. Half the battle will be trying to find all the devices that have been connected to the web, according to Marr. “Tech teams may well find themselves spending less time at their desks and more time up ladders and poking around and playing find-the-unsecured-device than they are used to.”

One area where the tech teams will need to look is at the edge of their networks. Gartner predicts that there could be more than 20 times as many smart devices at the edge of the network than in conventional IT roles by 2023.