Technology trends for 2021 to watch closely
It is plain to see that most of the world turned upside down in 2020. Some of the projected technology trends for this year have changed and others have significantly spread over time. In the end, it turned out that no one was ready to face the change the size of the pandemic. Neither big nor small businesses, hospitals, governments or we – people.
Technology trends that will lead the way
People all over the world, basically regardless of age and demographic group, absorb digital services and integrate them into their lives. They do it faster and more often than ever before. The growth of on-demand services, the strengthening of the e-commerce market, online education, digital entertainment, games and e-sports are just a few of them.
All this has also led to changes in the trends and directions of business development. So what will the technology trends for 2021 look like? Which of this year’s trends will still remain in vogue? What awaits us in the fields of modern technologies that are so close to my heart?
Let’s take a peek into the near future.
How pandemic forced a massive remote work experiment
Let’s start with remote work which a great number of us were faced with during the lockdown and are still working from home now.
In many companies where it used to be unthinkable that a team could work remotely, this suddenly became a daily routine. Of course, while companies in the high-tech industries have undergone this evolution more quickly, for the more “old-fashioned” ones it has proved to be a much bigger problem. For many, however, this change has been positive.
Remote work and dispersed teams
It turned out that dispersed teams span boundaries (like virtual teams or cross-functional teams) and can continue to stay in touch with each other, and work equally or more efficiently. At the same time, employee satisfaction and involvement have increased. People started returning to small hometowns where they could still work for their companies.
Dispersed teams and digital nomading are suddenly at your fingertips. Not only employees – companies have also benefited from this. Previously operating only in the local market, companies discovered that geography is one of the biggest limitations of growth and innovation.
Advantages of remote work
Thanks to changes in companies’ structures and form of work, they can attract specialists from every corner of the country or the world, and (thanks, of course, to the appropriate culture of the organization in which they will come to work) they will still be able to be part of the teams. For a knowledge-based economy, going to work is a state of being rather than an end in itself (very interesting essay about it: Roadmap Update: Remote Work).
Remote work data
When we look at the Buffer and AngelList data, as many as 98% of people say they would like to work remotely (at least part of the time) for the rest of their careers, and 97% of them would recommend working remotely to other people. People indicate the following as the biggest benefits of working outside the office:
- 32% – flexible working time and schedule,
- 26% – possibility of working from anywhere,
- 21% – no need for commuting,
- 11% – opportunity to spend time with family,
- 7% – possibility of working from home.
Negative effects of remote work
Of course, there are also negative effects of and feelings related to working outside the office. The biggest challenge and problem was principally the communication and sense of loneliness – 20% each. On the other hand, 18% were unable to get out of the work mode while 12% felt unable to focus on work.
It turns out that people who do not recommend remote work are part of mixed teams. They rotate between teams working from home online and those that are still in offices. Equally interesting, remote workers are happiest when they spend more than 76% of their time working remotely.
Will remote job die? The future of remote work
What’s next then? Forrester points out that after the pandemic, some employees will gradually return to work in their offices. Nevertheless, remote work will increase at least 300% compared to the pre-Covid-19 state. With so many people working remotely, companies will have to rethink how to run their businesses. Not only in terms of technology, but also leadership, change management, employee health or career paths.
Read, how we managed remote work at Inwedo:
Time to switch to long term remote work
Companies will focus their efforts on, strangely enough, automating the assistance they provide to remote employees to increase efficiency. Assuming that one in four information processing workers receives assistance from robots or artificial intelligence, HR leaders will focus on tools related to analysis of potential employees and broadly understood well-being.
In addition, in September, ETR surveyed around 1,200 IT directors from around the world from various sectors. They survey showed that policymakers expect the number of permanent remote workers to double and reach 34.4% of their employees in 2021. Previously, on average 16.4% of their employees worked remotely, and this increase is the result of positive productivity growth trends.
Operations from anywhere
Remote work has also put technology trends first. Operations from anywhere are essentially TOP5 in Gartner’s forecasts, and these in a sense allow to access the company and business where customers, employers and business partners operate in remote environments.
The simplest example is fully digital electronic banking – from opening an account to running and executing operations. All this without any physical interaction on the customer-company line. This does not mean, of course, that physical places will disappear from our maps and communities. However, where a contact space is created, it should always be digitally improved.
Technology trends for 2021 vs. artificial intelligence industry
Behind the scenes, in reports and on the Internet, 2021 is said to be the year where AI market will take the center spot of the entire ecosystem of technological development. As you know, the pandemic (in general) has contributed to radical changes in our environment, including in the field of modern technologies. Interestingly, it has also entered where scientists are trying to deliver justice to the virus, that is, research laboratories.
Researchers and epidemiologists expect further breakthroughs in 2021 or 2022 when they will start using artificial intelligence to increase their ability to identify, predict and control deadly virus outbreaks.
Of course, it is important to take into account that in 2021 this trend will depend not only on technological progress, but also on the state of global politics and legislators.
Artificial intelligence in 2021 vs. business
What is the situation in business? We are principally talking about the use of AI in full automatic detection, prevention, decision-making and performance forecasting. With more accurate analysis and big data processing ability, predictive analytics used by AI will work to prevent serious business losses. AI will streamline business processes (as such) and, as experts claim, ensure their hyperautomation.
Cybersecurity vs. artificial intelligence
In addition to the aforementioned issues, AI will have a significant impact on cybersecurity. It will be effectively used in the face of modern crimes committed on the Internet. It is worth noting that according to research conducted on SIA members, security megatrends in 2021 do not only concern artificial intelligence, but also:
- cybersecurity in the context of physical security,
- predictive data analysis,
- IoT of Everything,
- cloud computing,
- non-contact solutions,
- facial recognition,
- smart spaces,
- emphasis on data privacy (which I am very interested in at the moment, and I will probably write about it soon).
Trends in artificial intelligence vs. advertising and marketing
In the advertising, marketing and entertainment industry in general, AI (Artificial Intelligence) will be able to detect the behavioral transformation of the user and deliver a more personal experience, as well as better and increasingly immersive experiences in computer games. In addition, AI-powered chatbots will continue to grow to offer.
Research indicates that about 50% of companies plan to spend more on chatbots than mobile apps in 2021.
Given that chatbots can reduce operational costs by up to 30%, it is understandable that so many companies are investing in AI automation solutions in these types of areas.
Mobile vs. AI market
According to Alliedmarketresearch, AI-enabled chips are expected to become the standard for all smartphones. Of course, I do not believe that this will happen in 2021, but this trend is quite evident. According to the above-mentioned service, AI-enabled chips will generate revenue growth of $91,185 million in 2025, from $6,638 million in 2018. AI-enabled chips are designed to provide well-defined tasks that require AI to work. These, among others, are:
- object detection,
- facial recognition,
- natural language processing,
- and computer vision.
Use of Artificial Intelligence
In addition, AI is used and will continue to be used in:
- autonomous systems,
- machine learning,
- deep learning,
- neural networks,
- pattern recognition,
- natural language processing,
- real-time emotion analysis,
- virtual companions,
- real-time translation,
- games using mind control,
- next-generation cloud robotics,
- autonomous robots,
- virtual and biotic assistants,
- neuromorphic calculations.
Artificial intelligence vs. ethics
I believe that in all this rush we tend to forget what trust, transparency, ethics and honesty are in AI. We take it too literally as a tool in itself, and we don’t stop to think about the moral consequences of its dry, undisputable decisions. I am convinced that in the coming years, many companies will consciously choose to work with partners that commit to data ethics policies and those that reflect the values of the company as well as the values of their customers.
It is interesting and noteworthy that Rolls-Royce, for example, has already developed its own “AI Ethics Framework” to ensure that decisions made by AI in critical and non-critical applications comply with ethical and moral principles.
This trend is very timely and has already emerged in previous years, but has evolved strongly since – precisely, from the broadly understood automation to hyperautomation. Although many companies have no idea how to use it and, for the time being, it remains in the realm of dreams and further plans. Hyperautomation is a trend from which there is no turning back, and the only question we should ask ourselves is: how will we use this potential?
Garner defines hyperautomation as a combination of IT tools enriched with AI mechanisms. In terms of their use in business, they are intended for strengthening the potential of the company’s employees (in theory, although practical use can be much more complex and ambiguous).
Hyperautomation solutions vs. the market
According to Deloitte, the market for automated technologies, such as robotics process automation (RPA), is growing at a rate of 20% per year and is likely to reach $5 billion by 2024.
There is a huge demand in the markets to automate repetitive manual processes and tasks performed by employees.
You can also see an increase in the number of companies and startups that offer automation products or services. For a while, robotic process automation has been the main technology branch on which companies focused.
There has been a shift from single-task-based automation to process-based automation. Automation at the level of the entire business ecosystem is also noticeable.
Testing automation in 2021
The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated investment in all forms of automation, forcing companies to quickly patch the errors it has caused. In some cases, process automation in companies has triggered huge image losses. That is why in 2021 up to 30% of organizations will increase their focus on quality by better planning and testing automation solutions before implementing it into production or making it available to employees (source).
Automation technology vs. security
According to WatchGuard researchers, in 2021, broadly understood automation will play a major role in shaping both cyber attacks and defense operations against them.
As the public continues to struggle with the impact of COVID-19, it is likely that automated spear phishing attacks will be at the forefront in technology trends for 2021, preying on pandemic, politics and global and local economic concerns.
Additional automated attacks may target services that do not have multi-factor authentication (MFA) enabled and VPN networks (due to remote work of employees). In addition, such attacks are facilitated by the fact that billions of data such as usernames and passwords can be found on the Darknet. Reports that any service without MFA enabled is likely to be compromised in 2021 may be quite unsettling.
Hyper automation tools
The main tools that companies use when implementing hyperautomation include:
- RPA/RDA tools,
- process mining tools,
- tools for smart business process management,
- optical-character-recognition (OCR) tools,
- tools for automating conversations and relations with customers, e.g. chatbots,
- Low-Code tools.
Since “low-code” was brought on, I would like to follow up on it and stress the importance of not only the trend itself, but also technology.
Low-code is meant to symbolize a visual approach to software development. It is intended to automate almost every stage of the application’s life, enabling the rapid delivery of a variety of solutions. These platforms provide not only code or scripts, but also integration systems. This allows companies to prototype, build and scale applications without developing complex infrastructures.
The lack of qualified programmers combined with increased business needs has made such frameworks very popular. Today, they are mainly used for the design and implementation of databases, user interfaces, process design and automation. Their principal goal is to reduce the time required for manual coding.
The future of low-code vs. technology trends for 2021
If I were to speak from my own perspective, for the past months, I have been getting offers or information about this growing technology branch every single week. The first debate I conducted on this topic was in 2018. I predicted then that sooner or later in the no-code and low-code market there will be good and strong players who will help implement automation for non-technical employees.
Techrepublic podcast which I had the opportunity to hear stated that 75% of software companies would use low-code platforms. It should be noted here that we are talking strictly about companies and not about their employees/programmers (so it might as well be only one person in this company).
By 2024, low-code application development will account for more than 65% of software development activities.
Interestingly, 66% of users of low-code development platforms are professional programmers from the IT department of the company in which they work. This is mainly because low-code platforms offer not only dedicated IDE and tools, but also the ability to expand the applications created with these platforms with custom code. Thanks to that, some simple and repeatable things will take just a couple of clicks.
61% of organizations have or plan to have active low-code initiatives so that business users can quickly build their applications. No-code, on the other hand, is intended to enable them to create basic productivity applications.
Low-code development will not replace qualified programmers
The essence of low-code is to reduce the demand for traditional programmers. Thanks to this, basically with minimal or zero coding training, a brilliant person will be able to create new functionalities in the software. They will help accelerate the overall digital transformation initiatives launched in the company. Of course, I’m not (at the moment) talking about creating complex business and IT processes. These, at least now, need the support of a qualified engineer. I mean relatively simple, repeatable and easy to implement solutions. This will give some companies that will use low-code platforms in their organizations the opportunity to innovate faster, and skilled staff or programmers will be able to spend time deploying more complex IT systems.
The Internet of Things is the future
Many enterprises are experimenting with IoT and IIoT deployments. However, they mistakenly focus only on the collection of data that they later use for the current AMP generation. Meanwhile, IoT and IIoT offer much greater possibilities and can help develop the most popular spaces. Just in the industry, they allow to:
- measure data not only in real time, but also collect them in the long term,
- analyze and control what is happening in the plant on the production line, but also outside it,
- be used in logistics and customer homes, which gives potentially unlimited data source for:
- and implementation of continuous improvements.
- improve production quality and data forecasting in production facilities,
- implement operational excellence programs,
- maintain production continuity,
- or improve processes,
- improve customer service and customer support,
- better forecast sales (e.g. the plant knows which program in the washing machine is used most often and thus can make even better products).
However, the IoT market is not limited only to industry, so the enormity of the possibilities offered by IoT is virtually inexhaustible.
IoT market in 2021
Global Internet of Things (IoT) spending has been significantly affected by the pandemic’s economic impact. Nevertheless, it is expected to return to double-digit growth in both the medium and long term. A new update to the International Data Corporation (IDC Worldwide Internet of Things Spending Guide) shows that IoT spending grew by 8.2% each year to reach $742 billion in 2020. To compare, the November 2019 forecast was 14.9%.
IDC expects global IoT spending to return to double-digit growth rates as early as in 2021 and reach its estimated annual growth rate of 11.3% between 2020 and 2024.
How many IoT devices are there in the world?
According to Security Today, 35 billion IoT devices will be installed worldwide by 2021, which marks an increase of 4 billion compared to 2020.
By 2030, the number will reach 125 billion devices, according to Martech Advisor. By converting this into customers/users, it turns out that each of them will have an average of 5 interconnected devices.
The most astonishing and worrying thing is that by 2022 Google Home will have the largest market share of IoT devices – 48%.
Given the amount of data analyzed and processed by Google and the huge interference with our privacy, as well as the growing trend of the Internet of Behaviors (more about it further on), this entails a number of different dangers.
IoT in medicine i.e. IoMT
Healthcare, insurance and education market are expected to generate the industry’s biggest gains in IoT-related spending, with growth rates of 14.5%, 12.3% and 11.9%, respectively. The Deloitte report says that more than 500,000 medical technologies are currently available. Stationary equipment used in medicine and diagnostics (the horror!), implantable devices and external wearables (such as wristbands and inhalers) provide the ability to collect, analyze and transmit data about our health. Preliminary forecasts say the IoMT market will be worth $142.25 billion by 2026.
Internet of Behavior (IoB)
Tracking locations, facial recognition, performing operations on big data and combining these data with related people’s behavioral incidents is a frightening vision of the future for some (and El Dorado for others).
Organizations will start using our (mostly private) data collected by them to influence our behavior, provide us with information (closing us in a bubble or creating an alternative reality) and influence emerging trends.
Monitoring behavioral incidents
All kinds of organizations, both governmental and private, use technology to monitor these incidents to enhance or decrease the level of our experiences. They do this to be able to directly influence these and other behaviors of monitored people.
Responsible online behaviour
Gartner calls the remnants of our daily lives on the Internet and the traces we generate behind us “digital dust”. The simplest and most trivial example is that a fitness band can monitor how many times a week we exercise, how we eat, what heart rate we have and then send these data to the insurer. The same thing will happen to our cars when these are connected to the Internet. This is already happening with our phones that collect huge amounts of data. Companies will and already have information about us, our tastes, political preferences, attitudes to religion and often even our correspondence with other people (and thus our emotions). On this basis, they will analyze even more data.
Internet of Behavior (IoB) forecasts
To top it all, Gartner predicts that by the end of 2025, more than half of the world’s people will be covered by a private commercial or government Internet of Behavior program.
While the IoB is technically possible, there will be extensive ethical and societal debates about the different approaches employed to affect behavior.
IoB is a threat to our privacy
Sounds scary? Well, that’s because it is. You probably heard a saying that if you throw a frog into boiling water, it will jump out of it right away. However, if you put it in cold water and heat it up steadily, then the frog will simply get boiled before it knows it. That’s what’s happening with our privacy right now.
Remember that if something is free, you are the product.
The growing importance of privacy
Privacy isn’t just about strangers not having access to our love letters, intimate photos or shopping lists we make online. It’s also about the kind of society we want to live in and how big companies will be able to influence the world around us. See: Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal and Google Data Collection.
The amount of information that every now and then circulates in public space – leaks of our private data and information about us, or the unfair practices of large corporations – is surprisingly considerable. Fortunately, we also see an increase in awareness of what is happening to our data.
More and more people are aware of what our information can be used for, what can be done with it, and that it’s not always just about serving us personalized ads. Influencing decisions, worldviews or trends based on the collected information about users is happening here and now. Since only Amazon, Google and Facebook in Sweden itself need half the power of a nuclear power plant (source), it is easy to imagine the number of operations that take place on these platforms and what data volumes they must be processing. One of the trends for 2021 will surely be the increase in the importance of broadly understood privacy.
Endless privacy lawsuits
In November 2020 alone, the European Commission launched antitrust proceedings against Amazon for the use of confidential data obtained by the company, and the French Autorité de la Concurrence (ADLC) launched proceedings against Apple for privacy violations by iOS14. I recommend that you read the BigTech committee hearings.
Privacy vs. legal regulations in 2021
Large corporations that cannot do without analytics and insight into their employee data will be tempted to carry out more surveillance over those working remotely. Reckless actions of these companies can lead to very bad end results. It seems that the number of regulatory and legal actions regarding our privacy will grow significantly. These activities are projected to increase by a whole 100%.
According to Zdnet, only in the US, 73% of consumers say they are more concerned with their online privacy than a few years ago, and in the EU, one in five consumers believes that companies do not care about the privacy of their customers and users at all.
It can therefore be concluded that, for these and more reasons, searching for terms in DuckDuckGo (a search engine that does not track the actions of its users) has increased by 50% over the years. DuckDuckGo received a total of $13 million in funding, and reported annual revenue with 24 million searches amounted to approximately $25 million.
In an interview, Burke, an analyst at Gartner, said that by 2025, 50% of large organizations will start using privacy-enhancing calculations. They will protect the processed data in such a way as to maintain their confidentiality or privacy and, at the same time, process them in untrusted (in which we are afraid that the data will leak) environments.
According to the current knowledge, they will use decentralized data processing and analysis through the application of machine learning. In addition, a cryptographic method in the form of homomorphic encryption will be used, which will allow third parties to process data shared with them and return the encrypted result to the owner without providing any knowledge of the data or the results of the calculations. This approach does not, of course, result from concern, but mainly from the growing importance of personal data protection itself and legal regulations.
Because of dispersed teams and remote work, many of an organization’s resources are outside the traditional (physical) boundaries of enterprise and security. This increases the risks associated with the theft of these data or attacks on employees. According to Experian, only
- 45% of companies provide mandatory cybersecurity training,
- 82% of companies allowed employees to use their own equipment,
- of which as many as 72% did not have any solutions installed to protect the system.
Not surprisingly, 25% of organizations in 2020 incurred unexpected costs related to cybersecurity breaches.
In addition, Cybersecurity Ventures’ predictions that companies will be victims of a ransomware attack every 11 seconds in 2021 (not that it was better before), compared to every 14 seconds in 2019, do not inspire optimism.
Working remotely and using a VPN also come with considerable risk. Some organizations, quickly moving to remote work and implementing solutions that allow their employees outside access to the company, could do so with minimal security concerns.
This gives way for cybercriminals to easily exploit unencrypted VPNs. Even the “perfect” configuration is vulnerable to attacks, as shown by the example of the July attack on Twitter. Attackers used stolen employee VPN credentials to gain access to known users’ accounts to promote fraud.
With 400 million companies and consumers worldwide using VPN (according to GlobalWebIndex), it is highly likely that VPNs will continue to be the source of cybercriminal attacks.
Cars connected to the Internet
The number of vehicles connected to the Internet is gradually increasing.
According to data, by 2022, 125 million cars are expected to have a built-in connectivity module.
What we can expect in 2021 is an increase in attacks on the latest generation of Internet-connected vehicles. Attacks on self-driving vehicles are also highly likely to rise.
Health care is also at risk
Due to the fight against the global pandemic, health care has given up the purchase of many different measures in favor of the fight for the health and life of patients. Only the absolutely necessary items were purchased.
Nevertheless, telemedicine, i.e. contact with a doctor over the phone or Internet, has become the new normal for us. Still, the money spent on security in this area was negligible. This has resulted in hospitals, laboratories and healthcare facilities becoming highly vulnerable. Especially in the case of the aforementioned ransomware attacks which can interfere with the ability to provide care to patients.
Cyber security awareness
For example, in early 2020, hackers shut down the computer systems of the University Hospital of Düsseldorf. They did it precisely with ransomware, which ultimately cost the life of one patient who couldn’t get help.
Given that cyber-attacks can have such disastrous consequences and that many healthcare facilities do not have adequate cybersecurity control measures, criminals are in the best position to introduce malware or get the facility to pay a ransom. As healthcare providers are tasked with caring for the health and life of their patients, attackers can continue to attack them in the face of financial pressure.
What approach to technology trends is comforting?
Industries involved in modern technologies are doing pretty well. Spending on computerization in companies continues to grow. Businesses are undergoing a digital transformation and are rapidly absorbing what previously would have taken them years to complete.