8 Tech trends to watch in 2021
Updated: Jun 1
Technology these days evolves at such a rapid rate in order to keep pace with our vastly connected lives and quickly dwindling attention spans that it is hardly surprising tech trends are always changing year-on-year to be quicker and more powerful. However, this year has perhaps thrown a spanner in the works in one of the most clued-in professions when it comes to technology, and that is the IT sector.
The IT professional today has had to learn, unlearn and relearn in order to meet the demand of the rapid conversion to working from home. They have also had to come to realize that their role will not stay the same in the contactless world of tomorrow.
So what does this mean exactly? Well, it means that even the IT world is changing in a way we didn't anticipate to be facing so soon. This also means we could all do with keeping an eye on the tech trends of 2021.
So we have compiled a list of the top 8 tech trends to look out for in 2021.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
AI has long been the work of Science Fiction movies and the imagination, but it has also been a direction that the modern world was always going pursue and eventually, perfect. Although the perfecting stage is still a while away, AI has received a lot of buzz over the past 10 years as we edge ever closer to regular application of the technology. AI has evidently proven its versatility and accuracy in areas such as imagining, speech recognition, navigation apps, smartphone and home personal assistants, and the list goes on.
Other than that AI will be used further to analyze interactions to determine underlying connections and insights, to help predict demand for services like hospitals enabling authorities to make better decisions about resource utilization, and to detect the changing patterns of customer behaviour by analyzing data in near real-time, driving revenues and enhancing personalized experiences.
A subset of AI, Machine Learning, has also been quickly making waves in a range of industries, allowing the AI to automatically learn and improve from experiences without explicitly being programmed to do so. This means that human error can be mitigated to some degree and allow for a more seamless customer-business flow.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Robotic Process Automation shares similarities with AI and Machine Learning. It is the use of software to automate business processes such as application requests, transaction processing, dealing with data and replying to emails. It Is not necessarily a new technology as many businesses have used forms of this in the past, but the expectation is that these automated replies will become more human and these processes will become even more efficient and ensure fluidity in all business dealings.
Cloud computing has become a fairly normalised necessity in the business world, and the events of COVID-19 all but sped up the digitisation process. Although cloud computing has not become the standard for all businesses today, it is certainly not an emerging trend, and the next biggest thing is already on the horizon, edge computing. Edge computing is the newest technology trend to watch and aims to take the crown off of cloud computing as the ‘new’ way of doing things. As the quantity of data that organisations are dealing with continues to grow, cracks in cloud computing are starting to appear in some situations.
Edge computing is designed to amend some of these problems with a way to bypass the latency caused by cloud computing and get data to a data centre for processing. The naming convention comes from your business's data existing ‘on the edge’ if you will, meaning it's a shorter trip to the finish line. In other words, your data is closer to where the computing needs it to happen.
Although cloud computing has made it possible to access the data of your business from anywhere that has an internet connection, there is a delay the further you are from the data centres entry point. Edge computing can be used to process time-sensitive data in remote locations with limited or no connectivity to a centralized location. In those situations, edge computing can act like mini data centres.
The next remarkable technology trend is quantum computing, which is a form of computing that takes advantage of quantum phenomena like superposition and quantum entanglement. This amazing technology trend is also involved in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and to develop potential vaccines, thanks to its ability to easily query, monitor, analyze and act on data, regardless of the source. Another field where quantum computing is finding applications in banking and finance, to manage credit risk, for high-frequency trading and fraud detection.
Quantum computers are now a multitude times faster than regular computers and huge brands like Splunk, Honeywell, Microsoft, AWS, Google and many others are now involved in making innovations in the field of Quantum Computing. The revenues for the global quantum computing market are projected to surpass $2.5 billion by 2029. And to make a mark in this new trending technology, you need to have experience with quantum mechanics, linear algebra, probability, information theory, and machine learning.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Both virtual reality and augmented reality have seen a lot of improvements since their debut. They have been used for training, educational and entertainment purposes, providing users with an immersive or enhancive experience. Thus far, it has been a focal point for the entertainment industry, widely used in video games to improve user experience. However this trend is expected to be further implemented and developed to ensure functionality in experiences outside the world of gaming and can be used in a range of different industries, you also don't have to look very far to find it.
There have been examples of VR and AR in medical and defense industries to perform a more realistic professional simulator and they have even been used to conduct surgeries on real patients. In 2021 this technology will sink its roots further into our daily lives. There is an enormous potential where these technologies can be further used for training, entertainment, education and marketing that could literally change reality as we know it.
Marketing campaigns such as the Pepsi Max Bus Shelter, The AR Cadbury experiment, or the National Geographic Live Feed are just a taste of the potential of AR, and these campaigns are over 6 years old. With today's technology, there is no telling what could be achieved, and this will continue to develop.
Blockchain is another blast from the past that has had steady, on-going development over the past decade. What started as a technology designed for bitcoin to ensure that there was no way a person could manipulate the system, has quickly become a technology to watch in wider applications.
In its essence, blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed throughout all computers in the blockchain. Each block contains a number of transactions, and every time a new transaction occurs on the blockchain, a record of that transaction is added to every participant’s ledger. This means that if someone were to try to manipulate the data, they would have to do so in every device along the chain and become evidently clear if someone has attempted to tamper with it.
Blockchain technology can be described as data that can only be added to, not taken away from or changed. Due to the security offered by such technology, it's easy to see that the olive branch extends far beyond what the original product was designed for. Several industries have already begun implementing blockchain technologies as a secure way for all users to operate without risk. In addition, blockchains are consensus-driven, so no one entity can take control of the data.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Perhaps on a little more of a lifestyle side of things over business practicality. IoT has been an emerging technology that is slowly making its way into our lives. Many ‘Things’ these days are being created with WiFi connectivity, meaning they are connected to the internet. IoT is the future. One of the central goals of technology is to make our lives easier, and this is exactly what IoT does. You can now tell your kettle to turn on 5 minutes before you are about to arrive home or tell your blinds to close right before sunset from an app on your phone. We can lock doors remotely if we forget to do so before leaving, or preheat the oven as we walk in the door. Basically, the opportunities are endless the more this technology gets developed, and the more ‘things’ are being built with WifI connectivity. However, this is not to say that businesses cannot benefit from this technology.
The IoT can enable better safety, efficiency and decision making for businesses as data is collected and analyzed. It can enable predictive maintenance, speed up medical care, improve customer service, and offer benefits we haven’t even imagined yet. Forecasts suggest that by 2030 around 50 billion of these IoT devices will be in use around the world, creating a massive web of interconnected devices spanning everything from smartphones to kitchen appliances. Although this technology is still very much in its infancy, the potential is monumental and possibly has the most direct impact on our lives inside and outside of the office.
5G is a hotly debated product and has been one of the biggest announcements of the year. Where 3G and 4G have made streaming our Netflix’s, YouTubes and Spotify’s of the world smoother, enabled us to browse the internet, and increase bandwidths (just to name a few), 5G services are hyped up to revolutionise our world. These services will enable advanced technologies such as VR and AR, cloud-based gaming services and many more to be used in a lot more environments. It has the potential to operate in factories, HD cameras to help improve safety and traffic management, smart grid control, and smart retail.
5G services are expected to launch worldwide in 2021 with over 50 operators offering services to around 30 countries by the end of 2021.