As 2019 wrapped up, we took some time to reflect on some of the most impactful digital developments of the past decade and how they helped change our digital lives including:

  • The rise of mobile and tablet usage 
  • The importance of mobile apps
  • The explosion of social media and online gaming
  • Cloud computing
  • Domain names, brand protection and the impact of GDPR

Now that we’ve passed the New Year, it’s time to look forward. Here are our predictions for four important technological advances we expect to see take off in the next ten years and their potential impact on brand protection and security.

3D Printing: 

3D printing is revolutionizing the print-on-demand world, helping usher in a new era of instant manufacturing, cutting edge product design, and in some cases, enabling medical innovation to leapfrog ahead at light-year speeds. 3D printing allows consumers to instantly create an item, a new advance in manufacturing that has had a huge impact on the creative industry.  

It’s also opened the door for a tidal wave of piracy and copyright issues.

The convenience of designing and printing products at home has made it even easier for consumers to create their own designs based on trademarked content. And with the relative newness of the 3D printing industry, legal professionals are suddenly grappling with cases that cover everything ranging from copyright, trademarks, and IP.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has revolutionized the way we access the internet and covers everything from infrastructure, computing power, servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and even entire business applications. While we covered it in our look back, the significance and impact of future cloud computing technological advances justified a spot on our look forward as well.

We expect that the reliance on cloud-based services will only continue to grow.  Not only is it convenient, but utilizing cloud storage is also economical and eco-friendly.  Unfortunately, there’s a darker side to all this innovation. While cloud security has improved, cloud computing hosts are still vulnerable to hacking and scammers are stealing  user credentials of cloud-based apps in targeted phishing attacks. In instances where sensitive or regulated data stored on the cloud is breached and released, companies have faced serious financial and reputational damage. 

And as companies seek to streamline app development and delivery relying on code in cloud-based repositories they are open to vulnerability via hacker-sourced libraries containing malware. 

AI, VR, and Deep Fakes

As social and broadcast media continue to embrace the integration of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, we predict the results are going to only become more refined.  We expect interfaces like Alexa, Siri and Cortana to become even more lifelike. We also expect to see machine learning and natural language processing to continue to evolve as well.  

Unfortunately, as the lines between what is real and what is digital blur, we also anticipate a rise in inauthentic and frighteningly convincing media content.  

Deepfake, or the use of technology to create media that makes it appear a person is doing or saying something they never did is already a cause for concern. Because we tend to trust what we can see with our own eyes, the potential for bad actors to create deepfakes in a bid to manipulate and exploit public opinion is going to be a major issue in the coming years. While there is already technology being created to help detect deepfakes, the question of how to deal with them is still open.  Although it might be possible to fight deepfakes by leveraging copyrights, trademarks, section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress, the courts will also have to take into consideration free speech under the First Amendment, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the fair use doctrine in copyright law.

Augmented Reality Integrations

Another trend we expect to see is the more rapid adoption of Augmented Reality, or AR, especially when it comes to shopping and commerce.  A handful of online retailers already use AR, allowing consumers to virtually visit showrooms and view products. Over 100 million users utilized AR technology when shopping online in 2019 alone. We anticipate those numbers will only grow as more and more retailers start integrating AR into their e-commerce platforms. 

AR is showing up in other applications beyond shopping.  Light AR tech already exists as a safety and convenience feature in some new cars, alerting drivers via heads-up displays to important information like speed, gas levels, directions, and more.  Some manufacturers are also utilizing AR to aid workers in prototyping and assembling products.

While most AR applications are positive, there is always a concern they can also be utilized for more nefarious purposes.  Hacks of this technology can be used to mislead consumers, interrupt transportation and supply chains, and could potentially introduce risks or sabotage to manufacturing processes.

Risks for Brands

The above innovations have expanded the digital footprint of consumers and companies exponentially but have also exposed them to an expanded risk surface, forcing brands to evolve their online brand protection and security strategies. 

  • Brands need to remain vigilant across traditional digital channels: domains, websites, apps, social, marketplaces, and ads will continue to be a problem into the next decade and beyond.
  • Mobile commerce and gaming will continue to gain popularity, leading to increases in abuse on mobile platforms.
  • Branded-keyword click-through rates will continue to be effective, meaning brands will need to remain vigilant as growth in abuse in online advertising will continue to be a problem.
  • The critical role of cloud-based computing will mean potential attacks on these platforms will cause problems, both for the users/companies using them and the platforms themselves. Attacks will increase in both frequency and sophistication.
  • Social media usage growth continues, and as more people increasingly rely on social media and mobile commerce, brands can expect to see more abuse in these channels.
  • Introduction of AR apps to mobile devices will create opportunities for new forms of abuse including location hacking.
  • Accessibility of stolen data and the emergence of cloud-based Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning solutions will create opportunities for more abusive behavior as malicious actors employ these technologies to target and fool more users in a much more convincing manner.
  • Abuse will likely occur in voice apps and the data that those apps rely upon.

The future for brands in the digital space is exciting as advances continue to open up new ways to conduct business online. However, brands must remain vigilant to stay ahead of bad actors. Vigilance will not only help to ensure the safety of your customers and fans but will help to protect the integrity and reputation of your brand, too. 

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