What the New Year May Bring Us – Top 5 Technology Trends for 2021
As we look out at the technology world, we can see things are changing fast.
In the past year we witnessed as several technologies (some new, others already in use) became more and more popular, in response to the pandemic crisis we are still facing. Some of them were so widely adopted worldwide that users experienced crashing systems due to the heavy use. Well-known examples are communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, both of which had problems like slowness or downtimes.
When we talk about technology trends for 2021, we’re not necessarily talking about innovation – in fact, some of the trends we’ll be exploring in this article have been under development for years now. However, part may have risen to prominence in the past months (and we predict they should continue to in the future), while others have found new, alternative applications.
As far as really new technologies go, 5G is definitely one to look out for. The broadband, high-speed connections these networks provide will help make significant advancements in areas such as wearable smart (health) tech, IoT and machine-to-machine communication.
So what are the hottest technological trends for 2021? Let’s have a look.
1. Automation, automation, automation
Imagine your job consisted solely of copying data from a PDF to an Excel sheet. Sounds boring and pointless, right? Truth is, this is the type of repetitive task that can easily be performed by a machine, freeing people for more qualified jobs.
Manufacturing has long been using robot automation to streamline the production process. Can you imagine a car factory without robots nowadays? Exactly. However, in the past years more and more sectors have started to realize the benefits of using this innovation. One example of this is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a hot topic in business these days – the use of bots or virtual assistants, with applications in Finance, Customer Care, e-commerce and many others.
Interest in this technology will only continue to grow, accompanied by a natural, worldwide change in the job market needs. Does this mean “robots will take our jobs”? No. Automation helps optimize processes, giving people room to learn and dedicate themselves to more skilled tasks – such as proper maintaining these machines or developing this type of software.
2. Up in the Cloud
Imagine a company that has ten software programs running to keep things going on during the day. Because at night they don’t need to be up as no one is using them, there are just two or three processes running during this period to gather some data for reports. These run in a local server inside a specific room prepared for it, requiring two professionals on call to maintain uptime at a minimum of 98%. Sounds expensive, right?
Now let’s think of a scenario where we have no local server inside the company, no dedicated room for it, no professionals working locally to keep the server up and things running properly. Instead, we have a contract with a Cloud company like AWS, Azure or Google Cloud, that says they ensure an uptime of 99.8% and we can configure our Cloud servers to a wide and heavier use during the day or peak periods, and a lighter use during off-times. These providers also offer additional services such as tools for reporting, software engineering, business intelligence or workspaces for data analysis, some of which are free for customers.
This is Cloud Computing: as smarter way to use resources, money, people, space and time.
2020 was an important year for Cloud Computing, with several companies migrating from on-premises (local) servers to the Cloud – and 2021 should be even better, with Gartner predicting worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services to grow 18.4%. And why shouldn’t they? It’s cheaper, easier to maintain and has more tools for administrating all costs and possible configurations they might need.
3. Smarter algorithms: Machine Learning and AI
Contrary to popular belief, the basis for AI and Machine Learning isn’t really new. It actually dates back to the 1950s, when IBM started studies about Neural Networks in the Dartmouth Project. Some of these tools have been used for decades to perform jobs like fraud recognition in banks, forecast revenues, stock management and costumer profiling. However, it has gained momentum in the past years as companies realize its potential for data processing. A KPMG report indicates worldwide investment in AI / Machine Learning to top $200 billion by 2025.
Imagine a company that sells car parts and that has been having problems with some of them passing through quality control check with a few scratches and small cracks that sometimes technicians can’t see or just fail to look at properly. This is a job for Image Recognition, a discipline within the AI umbrella.
In the previous example, a software can check video footage of the parts in real time, write an algorithm to perform imagine recognition to look for problems and then return a command to the machine controlling the factory flow to separate this potentially problematic parts for human review. Great isn’t it? This is something that is already being done in the industry to reduce failures in quality control – and it’s simply one example of what this powerful AI / Machine Learning field can do.
Did you know that when you use your credit card, a Machine Learning algorithm might be checking if it’s a fraud? This is done by comparing patterns in your shopping data. For example: you always buy products from companies located in the EU, mostly during daytime, not expending more than 500€ and never buying anything aside from food, clothes and house goods. Suddenly there’s a purchase of a 1500€ guitar and tools for music in the US at 3AM. This is way too far from your shopping pattern and might indicate a fraud and the purchase would probably be blocked until the bank can confirm you were the one doing it. This is AI / Machine Learning protecting your money!
4. Have you ever asked your watch to call someone? Here’s IoT
Picture this scenario: you are about to get home and it’s -5°C outside. While stopped in a traffic light, you ask your watch to set the temperature in your house to 22°C and to have a pizza sent home by the time you arrive, since it’s also dinnertime.
Sounds nice, right? All that is possible, thanks to IoT or the Internet of Things. And if now we have smart TVs, watches, mobile phones, homes and fridges, soon we’ll also have cars, glasses or even clothes! Can you imagine your jeans telling you you’re walking in a way that can hurt your knee?
The true potential of IoT is closely linked to the roll-out of 5G networks, the last (but not least important) trend on our list.
5. Welcome to 5G
In the past years we’ve witnessed higher speed, connectivity and bandwidth with each new generation of broadband network technology. 5G promises a new set of possibilities with it, with a new powerful type of connection, enabling advancements in AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), better quality streaming of videos, and gaming becoming the new normal – in fact, major companies such as NVidia and Google are eager to explore the possibilities of the new-generation network in the gaming sector.
An then there’s the automotive sector. 5G will allow us to have smart cars connected, and perhaps in a distant future all traffic will be basically cars “talking” with each other and taking us wherever we want to go.
It seems that the following years will make us better and faster connected, with smarter programs and tools. I’m looking forward to seeing it, aren’t you?
Data Specialist at ALTER SOLUTIONS