After 2020’s earth shattering year, we’ve seen a realignment of tech trends. Some trends, that were on the rise but still immature in 2019, have been catapulted to the top of the CIO agenda. Meanwhile others have faded into the background (although not altogether disappeared) as more pressing matters took priority. 2021 sets out a very different landscape to the one predicted in 2020. It’s also important to note that these tech trends collide with wider changes happening in the workforce, which you can read about in our Tech Through Adversity series. Here’s our top five trends for the year ahead.
5G and improved connectivity
Already poised as a high-growth trend in early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic placed new pressure on the importance of 5G and connectivity in a world gone remote. 5G’s low latency and optimal connectivity means rapid, frictionless networks. With more people relying on technology to keep them connected – from keeping in contact with loved ones to online shopping – as well as mass homeworking, the value of 5G in today’s world cannot be underestimated. But 5G is also so much more than that. A lot of the emerging technology we see today (including the trends we discuss here) are reliant on high-speed networks. Hyperautomation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, digital twin technology, RPA and augmented reality/virtual reality, are all examples of where speed is of the essence. As our use cases for tech become more sophisticated, from automated workforces to mapping condition changes on power grids or using big data and machine learning to predict environmental changes, we’ll be increasingly reliant on 5G to boost our efficiency.
AI has been given a reboot in the Covid-19 era. In recent years, organisations have picked up AI to support with service personalisation, strategic decision-making and organisational efficiency. But now both operational models and consumer behaviour have changed. In 2021, businesses will reshape their operations to support complex modelling and empower AI to make its own decisions – and not just as a tool to support human-decision making – as well as to understand new customer preferences. To facilitate this, many businesses will improve their engineering capability, including applying DevOps principles across data modelling (DataOps) and machine learning (MLOps) to improve speed and scale AI.
It’s also important to highlight that AI has found fresh energy within digital health tech, which is itself fast-growing. Examples include mapping NHS capacity to cope, monitoring and predicting changes in transmission rates, and using self-learning algorithms to spot connections, developments and anomalies in contact tracing data.
Cloud-based technology thrived under lockdown, as businesses went remote. 2021 will see even more organisations harness cloud technology to drive digital transformation and improve scalability, flexibility and reliability. In recent years, we’ve seen a move towards distributed cloud and hybrid cloud environments, and this is likely to continue as businesses look to breathe agility into their infrastructure and improve resilience to disruption, while leveraging cost savings and expertise. Responding to the pandemic, technology architectures are becoming more composable and fluid. As a result, growth in cloud will also reignite trends in serverless, edge computing and containerisation, as well as adding fuel to the fire of cybersecurity as a key interest point this year.
Cybercrime became more insidious last year, with hackers targeting healthcare organisations and research centres, as well as remote business infrastructure and vulnerable individuals. As a result, Cybersecurity Ventures now expects global cybercrime costs to grow by 15% over the next five years. This imminent threat, as well as a definitive move towards cloud-based environments and home working, will see cybersecurity soar to the top of the business strategy agenda in 2021. In fact, a recent PwC survey found that 96% of executives have shifted their cybersecurity strategy due to Covid-19, with 55% planning to increase their cybersecurity budgets and 51% adding full-time cyber staff – despite 64% also saying that they expect business revenue to decline. Areas of growth in cybersecurity spending include next-generation Identity and Access Management, messaging security, network security and mobile device security. 2021 will also see both investment and rationalisation of cybersecurity, as companies review their existing practices against new technology they want to implement and optimise spending while mitigating risk.
Robotics, RPA and drones
RPA and drone technology are still relatively new in terms of adoption, but 2021 might be the year where we start to see hypothetical use cases put into more mainstream practice. Amongst the most likely applications are greater workforce automation, especially in industries like manufacturing, logistics, operations, and facilities management, where workers need to be physically present (e.g. in a warehouse), but work can also be easily automated. We can expect RPA and drone technology to filter into many other industries too though, including data processing, engineering, healthcare and monitoring the environment. For example, drone technology can be used in construction and civil engineering to create aerial surveys and monitor the conditions of a site, such as bridge, to improve safety. Or it could be used to deliver healthcare supplies to the vulnerable, while robotic assistants provide on-demand care. A more well-known example of robotics is driverless cars, which are quickly scaling up, with leaders including Waymo, Cruise, Lyft and AutoX piloting their models last year.
It might seem bold to make predictions about 2021 when 2020 was so chaotic and unforeseeable. These tech trends mirror that turbulence – they’ve given new depths to emerging trends, cast light on new ones and eclipsed others. We can only imagine these trends going from strength to strength as businesses adapt to the new climate, and to the unknown.
What do you think will be the most influential tech trends of 2021? And how are you preparing for them? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know your latest initiatives and how we can help you find the talent to take you there.