At the moment, making any kind of prediction regarding anything at all seems a folly. 2020 has whizzed by in a blur of uncertainty and doubt. All of even our best laid plans have been cancelled or put on hold at the hands of COVID 19. No-one could have foreseen how this year has played out. As we enter the tail end of 2020, nor can we make any reasonable assessment of how 2021 will go.
One thing we can be sure of though, is that the tech of 2021 will play a crucial role in helping us adapt to the many uncertainties which lie ahead. Tech will help us transition to at home working and allow us to navigate the continuing shifts in rules surrounding where, when, how and whom we can meet.
While COVID 19 has pressed ‘pause’, ‘stop’ or even ‘rewind’ on so much, with regard to the tech trends of 2021 we can assume it will act as a catalyst for change. A ‘fast-forward’.
Our lives are becoming increasingly digital. For those in the know, many of these trends are predictable. However, it could be said that COVID 19 has been the driving force behind them arriving sooner than anticipated. They are necessary now.
Some of these major tech trends will help us to recover a sense of normality, while others will allow us to understand and adapt to the changes in how we are being asked to live.
The Top 5 Tech Trends of 2021.
Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Last year our Technology Director, Tony blogged about the tech trends of 2020. Then too, AI featured at the top of the list. During 2021, AI will be beyond value as we try to interpret and understand the world around us. It will help us to analyse the ever changing landscape – particularly with regard to our ongoing efforts to beat a virus that so far seems to be winning. The volume of data we are gathering on healthcare, rates of infection and regions of high risk is growing daily. We are also collecting vast amounts of data around the success of measures we are taking to prevent the spread of infection.
These growing numbers mean that machine learning (ML) algorithms will become more knowledgeable. They will become increasingly sophisticated in the solutions they uncover for us.
Self-learning algorithms are able to identify connections and provide insights that would go unnoticed by human analysis. Computer Vision systems can monitor the capacity of public spaces. In other areas, algorithms will spot seemingly invisible connections, links and chains. These patterns will enable us to predict demand for healthcare services and allow administrators to make strategic decisions about where, when and how resources are allocated.
For business enterprises, the challenges of the pandemic are different. They have had to understand and analyse the changes in customer behaviour. Online and digital services have boomed and it is probable that this will continue. Even after the heights of the pandemic, many aspects of human interactions will likely continue to take place online; shopping, socialising, virtual meetings, recruitment processes and leisure to name just a handful. 2021 will see the tools we use to understand and map these behavioural shifts become more sophisticated. This knowledge will empower more and more businesses. AI will allow them to fit demand around their specific budget and infrastructure.
Robotics, Drones and Vehicle Automation
The costs of using public transport across the country are astronomical. As the volume of passengers continues to decrease and fluctuate as a result of the pandemic this is only likely to get more so. As a consequence of this, the development of self-driving vehicles and initiatives around them is likely to grow at an astounding pace. Efficiency across public transport networks will be prioritised by service providers. Local and central authorities will be looking to balance human labour costs to meet customer demand.
Recent times has seen the emergence of robotics in the care and assisted living sectors. This has the potential to boom as a tech trend of 2021. Robotics will be particularly important when it comes to limiting the potential of spreading the virus to those in care homes; many of whom are most vulnerable to infection.
The human care workforce is vital to the mental wellbeing of this demographic; robotics are unlikely to replace human carers. Instead, it is expected that robotics will be used to offer new channels of communication. This will likely take the form of 24/7 in home help, as well as provide companionship at times when it may not be safe to send staff into care homes.
Outside the care sector, companies who have found that lockdown restrictions have left them with empty or unused workspaces will be looking for cost effective solutions regarding maintenance and security. In this instance too, they will likely turn to robotics. This has already led to a boom in stock prices for organisations involved in the supply of robotics.
Drones too will likely grow in use across 2021. Equipped with computer vision algorithms, they will be used to monitor footfall in public spaces and used to identify places where there may be an increased risk of viral transmission. Drones could also be used to play a crucial role in delivering medical supplies and vital treatments to help fight the effects of the virus.
The “As-a-Service” Boom
“As a service” is the provision of services which we need to live and work through cloud-based and on-demand platforms. It is also the Tech Trend of 2021 that has put many of the others in the reach of any organisation. For example, it is the reason why solutions such as AI and Robotics, are a possibility for SMEs with average sized budgets. It is thanks to cloud offerings from giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and a growing number of startups, that organisations can deploy revolutionary tech with very little budget for tools, people or equipment.
As the ongoing pandemic continues, we have seen companies like Zoom prosper at terrific rates. Zoom rely on scalable ‘as a service’ solutions. It was able to add servers with speed, while all the time extending its coverage and improve its quality of service. The fact that it was able to do this with such efficacy was due to its cloud based nature and its partnerships with its own service providers. It was able to quickly increase capacity to meet demand.
Next year and beyond, this scalability is going to become more important and will open up more possibilities for us all.
5G and improved connectivity
Since the dawn of 3G, each advance in mobile connectivity has given the internet new potential. 3G made web browsing and data driven services useful on mobile devices. In turn, as bandwidth increased, 4G led to the growth of streaming on video and music platforms. In 2021, 5G will create a new age in terms of what the internet is capable of.
The development of 5G means that services which rely on advanced technologies such as AR and VR as well as cloud based gaming platforms – Google’s Stadia or NVidia’s GeForce – for example – are now viable propositions anywhere, anytime.
5G and other high speed networks make all the other tech trends here 100% accessible. Complex ML applications which rely on real time access to Big Data sources can be conducted remotely via automation. For example, Norway is home to a Salmar, a fishery operator. This organisation uses a 5G network to feed and care for its fish. Incredibly, image recognition algorithms are used to establish which fish are under-feeding. Medicine and food are dispensed automatically to keep them healthy. Initiatives such as these will grow in importance across 2021. More and more businesses will look to enhance their workforces using automation processes.
Extended Reality (XR) – Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR / AR).
VR and AR were 2 trends that also made it onto Tony’s list last year. Next year too, these concepts look set to dominate the tech landscape. VR & AR are technology that uses glasses or headsets to project computer-generated imagery directly into the user’s field of vision. They are not one and the same though.
When the imagery is super-imposed over what the user is viewing in the real world, it is AR. When it is used to place the user inside an entirely new computer-generated environment it is VR.
During next year, we can see these ‘realities’ be extended and used in conjunction with the other tech trends discussed here. Like many of the others, XR will assist in tackling the challenges we face in the current world situation. In the main, it will involve allowing us to avoid potentially dangerous situations where there is a higher than average risk of viral transmissions. A good example of this is where vulnerable patients can avoid places, such as hospitals / medical centres that may pose a higher risk. Using XR, routine examinations, diagnosis and treatment of non-covid related conditions can be conducted remotely. One such example is eye treatments. A solution offered to opticians allows eye tests to be carried out entirely in VR. High definition cameras can give a clear vision of a patient’s eye, while AR tools can allow the customer to browse and ‘try on’ a range of glasses without leaving the safety of their home.
Additionally, as we gather more data and become increasingly aware of the conditions and the manner in which viral transmission occurs, AR tools can be used to give out real-time safety warnings. Simple steps in fighting the virus can be enhanced by using AR. When a device senses we have touched our face without washing our hands in a public space for example, it can issue us a reminder or warning. It will allow us to help save lives by stopping us spreading illness around the real world environments we move through.
2021. What lies ahead for you?
Was 2020 supposed to be your year? Were you meant to find a more fulfilling job or maybe change your career path? It could be that COVID has forced you to rethink or re-evaluate what you want from your career. Maybe you used lockdown to up skill or retrain.
It could even be that you are considering a career in one of the emerging Tech Trends of 2021. Why not treat 2021 as a fresh start. We would love to help. Our progressive and transformative clients cover a host of sectors. Whether you are a fresh grad at the start of your career or an experienced professional looking to make a change, we are confident that we can help you take the next step. Get in touch today.