When people come back to their workplaces after lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they're bound to notice quite a few differences.
In some offices:
- sensors tags are used to determine whether employees wash their hands regularly,
- computer vision solutions are applied to determine whether everyone is complying with the social distancing protocols,
- organizations collect more behavioral data to understand how people behave at work and direct their behaviors so that they comply with local regulations.
Similarly, COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive transformation in consumer behaviors. Due to the social distancing measures, digital technologies have come to the forefront of organizations across practically every sector. The use of data analytics solutions, the Internet of Things, and many other digital technologies is now predicted to rise.
So, what's in store for the tech industry in 2021? Read on to discover the key trends shaping the future of technology.
Technology trends for 2021 - our prediction
- Internet of Behavior
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Robotics, vehicle automation, and drones
- Enhanced connectivity and 5G
- Extended Reality, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality
- Privacy-enhancing solutions
- Distributed cloud computing
1. Internet of Behavior
Gartner's report on the top strategic technology trends 2021 placed the Internet of Behavior as one of the key trends enabling organizations to become more flexible in the post-COVID-19 state of the world.
The Internet of Behavior means using data to influence behaviors.
An example of IoB is a telematics system that monitors driving behaviors like sudden braking or aggressive turns. Companies can use this data to improve the performance and safety of their drivers.
The socioeconomic challenges of 2020 demand a new level of plasticity from companies that need to transform in line with the key social and economic trends. People are still at the center of all business, and they need digitized processes to work in environments under lockdown.
Location independence is another critical part of the Internet of Behavior trend because COVID-19 has shown us that it's important where employees, customers, and suppliers physically exist.
Finally, the pandemic taught us that the world out there is volatile. This is why organizations of all sizes need to be prepared to pivot at the right moment and adapt to any kind of circumstances.
2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is clearly one of the strongest technology trends at the moment. And the pandemic generated a new level of acceptance for AI-powered tools among the public.
Experts predict that in 2021, artificial intelligence will become an even more valuable tool helping us to interpret the world around us.
Healthcare data collected during the pandemic, such as infection and transmission rates or geographic distribution, will set governments for success when applying measures to prevent the spread of infection.
Machine learning algorithms are going to receive even more data to train on. They will become more sophisticated. Governments will apply computer vision systems that monitor the capacity of public areas.
AI algorithms will analyze interactions unveiled via contact tracing solutions, identify connections, and generate insights that would otherwise go unnoticed from the manual human analysis. AI is going to help us to predict the demand for services from hospitals and healthcare providers.
All in all, AI is here to help organizations make smarter decisions about how to organize their supply chains, where to reach customers, and when to deploy resources.
Businesses will be tasked with understanding the rapidly changing patterns of human behaviors. More and more of these behaviors will be happening online - from virtual working environments and recruitment to socializing and shopping.
In 2021, we're going to see a blossoming of tools that allow analyzing these behavioral shifts. They will become not only more sophisticated but also widespread, fitting the budgets and infrastructure requirements of an increasing number of organizations.
3. Robotics, vehicle automation, and drones
The pandemic revealed to us that the volume of passengers using public transport can fluctuate from week to week depending on local conditions and regulations. That's why initiatives around self-driving vehicles are now increasing their speed.
Driving efficiency across the public transportation networks is going to become a priority for many service providers and government authorities. By reducing human labor costs, they will be able to better balance the uncertainty around customer demand.
What about robotics? This is another area that is going to become increasingly important - in particular, in the context of healthcare. For example, robotic assistance could be used to assist those members of the society who are most vulnerable. But instead of replacing human interaction with caregivers, they would offer channels of communication like access to 24/7 in-home help, providing companionship, and simply entertaining people.
Drones could be used to deliver medicine and when equipped with computer vision algorithms, monitor traffic congestion in public areas to identify locations with an increased risk of viral transmission.
4. Enhanced connectivity and 5G
Faster and more reliable internet connection doesn't only increase the load time. Every successive advance in mobile connectivity from 3G unlocked brand-new use cases for the mobile internet.
- 3G allowed users to easily browse the web and made data-driven services possible on mobile devices.
- 4G opened the door to video and music streaming platforms as the bandwidth increased.
You can only imagine what 5G will do in terms of what's possible on mobile devices.
5G means that advanced technologies such as Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality will become more achievable on mobile devices connected to the internet. Cloud-based gaming platforms are another viable proposition coming from this trend.
High-speed networks like 5G will make all the other trends we discussed here available anywhere and at any time, on the go. For example, a worker will be able to use complex machine learning applications relying on real-time access to Big Data sources in the field.
For example, the Norwegian fishery Salmar is using a 5G network to automate the care and feeding of the fish. Image recognition algorithms detect which fish might be under- or over-fed and automatically dispense food and medicine required to keep them healthy.
In 2021, businesses will be looking to increase automation across their workforce, and innovations like 5G and high-speed networks will become essential.
5. Extended Reality, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality
The term Extended Reality covers technologies that use glasses or headsets to project virtual imagery directly into the field of vision. When virtual imagery superimposed over the real world, we're talking about Augmented Reality. And when it's used to place the user into an entirely virtual environment, it's Virtual Reality.
In 2021, we can expect to see these innovations together with other trends we discussed here to help us handle the challenges posed by the pandemic. For example, the healthcare industry will employ AR applications to train medical students, perform medical examinations, and offer diagnoses remotely.
Opticians will be able to allow it to perform examinations via telemedicine by using a high-definition camera that offers a clear image of the patient's eye. And the customer will choose from a wide range of glasses, using the AR application to see what they would look like on their face without having to leave home.
Education is another sector likely to increase its use of VR and AR solutions. This will reduce the need for students to congregate in crowded classroom conditions, especially during the time of lockdown restrictions.
6. Privacy-enhancing solutions
Another technology Gartner mentioned in the report is privacy-enhancing computation. This trend consists of three different technologies that aim to protect data while it's being used:
- the first one offers a trusted environment where sensitive data can be processed or analyzed,
- the second performs the processing in a decentralized manner,
- the third encrypts data and algorithms before the processing takes place.
This trend will enable organizations to collaborate on research data securely across various regions - and even with their competitors, without sacrificing data privacy and confidentiality.
This approach emerges from the increased need to share data while maintaining top security and privacy.
7. Distributed cloud computing
Distributed cloud refers to a trend where cloud services are distributed to different physical locations. However, the operation, evolution, and governance remain under the responsibility of the public cloud provider.
By allowing organizations to locate cloud services physically nearby, cloud providers will allow low-latency options, accommodate data localization laws, and reduce data costs.
This is also the reason why multi-cloud is becoming such a strong trend. In both scenarios, organizations get to benefit from the public cloud without dealing with the complexity and costs that come with managing their own private clouds just to achieve compliance or lower fees.
Automation is going to be one of the key focus areas around the world in 2021. And when we take it to the next level, we can start talking about hyperautomation.
What exactly does hyperautomation mean? It's an idea that literally anything that can be automated in an organization should be automated.
Hyperautomation will be driven by organizations that still have legacy business processes running that aren't streamlined. These processes create expenses and issues that are costly to resolve.
Today, many companies out there support their processes by a patchwork of technologies that might not be optimized, well-connected, or efficient. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic showed that accelerating digital business processes requires automation. Companies that don't develop this type of business agility will be left behind in the future. That's why automation is set to become so important in the near future.
Cybersecurity mesh is a concept that is going to influence cybersecurity practices in 2021. It refers to a distributed architectural approach to building a scalable, flexible, and reliable cybersecurity control. According to Gartner, cybersecurity mesh is going to be one of the leading technology trends in 2021.
Organizations often keep many assets outside of the traditional security parameter.
Thanks to cybersecurity mesh, security parameters can be defined around the identity of a thing or person. This helps to create a more modular and responsive security approach.
Essentially, it's about centralizing policy orchestration and distributing policy enforcement. Perimeter protection then becomes less important; the security approach of the "walled city" can evolve to match the current needs.
Tech trends forecast for 2021 - conclusion
2021 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the tech industry. The COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on our societies, economies, and ways we use technology to manage our lives. Organizations are going to become increasingly interested in digital transformation initiatives. It's simple - this year showed us that failure to digitize might mean failure to survive. That is why the next year is going to become so exciting.
If you want to prepare your business for the future, get in touch with us. Our experts help organizations across various industry verticals to harness the power of technology and bring their businesses into the future successfully.