Happy 2020! That number alone sounds pretty futuristic – I’m sure if our child selves were asked what 2020 will be like, many of us would have conjured up images of flying cars, robot helpers, and food replacement pills. Well, we’re not quite there with the flying cars, (although the recent CES show did see Uber unveil its ‘air taxi’ design), robot helpers are more along the lines of carpet vacuuming discs than android companions, and thank God, it looks like we’ll all be enjoying burgers and fries for many years to come. However, the lack of sci-fi tropes, in reality, is not to say that 2020 isn’t a visionary, forward-thinking time; almost every week I read about a technological application that I can’t quite believe is possible. The print industry is no exception; technology is moving fast, and innovation is abundant. I’ve outlined three tech trends, applying to the print industry and beyond, that I’ll be keeping an eye on as we move into a brand-new decade.
Another Industrial Revolution? Aren’t we still getting to grips with the last one? If Industry 4.0 sparked panic around robots taking all our jobs, we can breathe a sigh of relief – Industry 5.0 will be centered on a more harmonious relationship between humans and machines. This concept couldn’t be better suited to an industry like print, which unites world-class engineering and manufacturing with extraordinary creativity, artistry, and design. The fact is, there are certain areas of manufacturing that machines are better at, and there are certain skills that just can’t be managed without the input of a human brain. Industry 5.0 will usher in a shift from ‘which processes can we automate’ to ‘which processes should we automate’ and refocus the value that humans add to manufacturing. As personalized products remain a leading trend in print, Industry 5.0 will see personalization touch every aspect of our lives – think personalized health tech designed around your exact medical requirements.
Extended reality (XR), covering augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality, is still on the rise as we enter the new decade, and will continue to be a hugely valuable experiential tool for brands. Going forward, it will go way beyond a marketing device and become increasingly essential to areas such as education and training, navigation, and workplace, productivity. Where print is concerned, there are already so many ways in which augmented reality is being used in innovative and engaging ways, and it’s certainly something that engages the younger generation; during recent conversations I had with Graphic Communications students at a Project Peacock Print Fair, they spoke enthusiastically about print’s intersection with digital and the exciting ways in which print is evolving. Soon we’ll see the coupling of print and AR as standard on our shelves, in our classrooms, and on our streets.
Technology and Sustainability
Sustainability is more important than ever to businesses and consumers, and happily, the print industry continues to implement environmentally-friendly measures. There is a myriad of ways that technological advancements can aid sustainability goals, for example: Internet of Things (IoT) enabled equipment and devices allows you to utilise sensor data to gain full visibility into your supply chain, improving inventory and determining optimisation opportunities for increased operational efficiency and sustainability. IoT data also means we can more easily detect when a machine part is showing signs of deterioration, and when it needs replacing additive manufacturing allows for the efficient production of lightweight, on-demand and bespoke replacement parts, further boosting sustainability and reducing costs by saving on warehousing and transportation.
As for my own 2020 plans, I’m very much looking forward to attending as many events as I can and talking to as many of those ‘in the know’ as possible to learn about future tech’s impact on the print industry, and the wider world. Wishing all of you a happy, tech-savvy new year!
NEXT STOP: Project Voice! I’ll be finding out what’s new in artificial intelligence and voice tech from the leading event in the space – stay tuned for my next blog for the lowdown.
Karis Copp is a UK-based writer, journalist and communications expert. With a background as an editor and public relations specialist in the print industry, she now works on a freelance basis covering events, writing on industry news and trends, and working with businesses to help them tell their stories and connect with their customers. Follow her on Twitter @KarisCoppWrites.