Last Updated: January 4, 2021
Was 2020 the most notable year in terms of technological breakthroughs and headline-worthy innovations?
It was the Covid year.
Still, a lot has happened that was pushed back from the headlines thanks to the virus.
This seems like a big claim, but let’s acknowledge the facts — the past year brought us discoveries, usually reserved for science fiction books. These included subatomic particles, AI that can smell diseases, and the first gene-edited babies. Virtual reality and artificial intelligence continue to be among the fastest-growing markets, almost doubling their net worth in the last 12 months. One thing seems certain:
Technology is going to continue changing our lives.
Time to look into the future — what are the new technology trends of 2021?
How will they change our lives for the better?
Which sectors will benefit the most from this rapid progress?
How will these innovations affect us in the long term? And most importantly…
Is there a limit to how much technology can develop?
Here’s the TechJury take on the future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI will be a godsend for the cybersecurity industry. With data leaks happening all the time, AI will resolve several of the biggest pain points for cybersecurity experts.
After all, AI is all about automation, and machine learning is a crucial part of this process. It allows machines to observe us and learn from our behavior. The latest computer technologies can detect patterns in hacker attacks and provide predictive analysis for breaches before they occur.
Artificial intelligence is by no means a modern or unique concept. AI research has been going on for over 60 years, and a lot of big companies are already using it in their everyday operations. Still, AI continues to be a tough nut to crack so it’s still expensive to develop. The biggest challenge of 2021 will be to make this tech publicly affordable.
One question remains unanswered:
Is the technology industry the one to reap the most rewards from the adoption of AI?
Not by a long shot.
Medicare has been investing in AI for quite some time, and with some great results to show for it. Science experiments in fields like neuro-linguistic programming, biotechnology, and neural networks are not only invaluable for the evolution of humanity but are also progressively expanding the job market.
Transport and logistics have a lot to gain from artificial intelligence as well.
Another trend worth mentioning is the increased interoperability available between the set of neural networks supporting artificial intelligence. Developers are facing difficulties when it comes down to choosing the right framework for their AI systems. With this in mind, an AI model that is trained within a specific framework often ends up lacking support when attempting to transition to another network. That’s why developers are attempting to increase interoperability between the systems. This will likely lead to more capable AI systems.
So, where is technology headed in terms of its adoption? Researchers believe that during 2021, more businesses will consider implementing AI-based systems, especially for marketing purposes such as customer support, retention, and engagement. This trend is certainly interesting since customer engagement sounds like a job well-suited for humans. However, AI implementation in this case will likely save a lot of man-hours, while also reducing waiting times for customers requiring additional information.
Other areas of AI adoption in business include general tech-related processes, research efforts, development, and security. AI in 2021 will play a crucial role in scheduling, predictive maintenance, and maximizing energy efficiency. But that’s not the best part:
In the process of development and optimization, this trend in technology will create a wealth of new jobs.
Machine learning developers and programmers rank among the top emerging job positions garnering over 2000 active and well-paid listings on LinkedIn. While this automation will inevitably lead to job cuts in the manual labor sectors, it is also expected to create over 50 million new positions before 2030.
When someone mentions “blockchain“, the first association that springs to mind is usually “bitcoin.” That’s not too surprising as the financial and banking sectors were the first to experience blockchain technology in action. The thing is, blockchain is far more than just bitcoin.
While it does power bitcoin, it is primarily the trending does so through a decentralized network of ever-growing computer records called ledgers. Each ledger contains just a fraction of the data so even if someone gains unauthorized access, they will not be able to piece anything meaningful together.
Another sector that is patiently observing the development of blockchain tech is cybersecurity. It is a perfect example of how blockchain can expand far beyond the field of finance. We live in a highly digitalized world where alarming news of data breaches surface every day. This is why blockchain can emerge as one of the hottest technology trends when it comes to protecting your privacy.
Blockchain benefits come in many shapes and forms — the food industry will be able to benefit from more transparency and stronger client-vendor relationships, while the voting process could evolve and diminish the risks of rigging.
In short, blockchain offers a pool of untapped potential and 2021 will undoubtedly be another step toward realizing it.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Another technology that has been around for years, but is yet to develop fully is the internet of things (IoT).
Imagine this scenario — you are on your way to hold a presentation in front of your whole department when you are suddenly stuck in a traffic jam that seems to go for miles.
Nothing to worry about.
New technologies will help your phone detect the delay and send information to your work computer. It will find the best time to reschedule the meeting and send notifications to your colleagues, so they don’t just sit and wait to no avail. In the meantime, your car will adapt to the current traffic situation and optimize your fuel consumption.
Sounds like a scene from a sci-fi movie but IoT is very capable of that and more.
We have already explored the new technology trends of 2021 in IoT, so be sure to check out this article for more information.
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality
Virtual reality had a bumpy start when it was first introduced in the 50s. The last decades have seen some significant improvements in terms of quality and usefulness in different sectors. Still, the technology remains relatively expensive for mass consumption.
While the market has grown somewhat, most people use VR sets out of pure curiosity, rather than actual utility or entertainment. At this moment, the adoption rates for VR are still fairly limited for both businesses and individual users.
Is VR heading in the right direction? The newest tech trends show that the AR market will surpass $130 billion by 2021, whereas the VR market will bring revenues as large as $75 billion in 2021.
These massive numbers correspond to several technological advancements for both AR and VR. AR’s secret weapon is mobile integration. Implementing AR apps on smartphones and tablets will make the technology more accessible since no headset will be needed. So far, several AR tools are available on mobile app stores, and app development is quickly ramping up. Critics all agree that Pokémon Go represents the most successful AR app effort so far. Even so, the tech was relatively limited back when the game was released. By studying the technology trends of 2021, we can expect more immersive AR-based games and apps.
When it comes down to virtual reality, we quickly notice that the trend isn’t living up to its hype. Some people believe that the reason behind the lack of popularity is the inferior quality of the headsets and software initially released. However, some of the headsets like the Oculus Rift are an affordable and reliable solution for gaming.
The public probably has greater expectations, which developers are failing to fulfill so far. However, all tech improves with time, and the latest technology trends of 2021 promise better solutions. As such, the first step towards VR integration in our daily lives is better content sync. With this in mind, current market VR headsets lack the ability to allow users to fully immerse themselves within the experience. While the hardware is available, so far, it has been used in specialized fields only.
With time, we should quickly see smarter integration of AR in our daily lives. Researchers also see big potential for AR in business – especially in industries such as manufacturing or advertising. AR-based ads will look pretty cool. Or extremely annoying.
In the near future simulation software will not only benefit the army and other government organizations. It will extend its influence to areas like architecture, entertainment, and education.
Already, both commercial headsets and software are being improved. The latest technological trends predict that the next 1-2 years will bring headsets offering higher-quality displays, more sensors, Wi-Fi capabilities and more.
Australians have already found a creative use for this tech. FLAIM Systems, a local company specialized in training solutions, has developed an app that combines IoT and VR in the process of training firefighters.
We have smartphones in our pockets, use smart wearables, talk to our smart speakers, and rely on smart home security systems.
What’s the next logical step?
Introducing smart spaces!
Smart spaces are one of the latest tech trends that is deeply intertwined with the growth of IoT. The number of devices connected to the IoT network will pass the 30 billion mark in less than two years, which creates exciting opportunities for fully digitalized home and work areas.
Sociological studies predicted that by the end of 2020 more than 1 billion people will have left their fixed desks behind. This means at least 13% of the world population will be looking to benefit from spaces, which can be customized according to their specific needs.
Dare we dream about smart cities next?
Any list of emerging tech trends will not be complete without the latest innovations in mobile.
This year all eyes are on 5G.
The new generation standard in mobile communications promises increased speeds and low latency. That is excellent news, considering we are doing much more on our phones than ever before.
To put things into perspective, 5G networks are under serious development for over a decade. Now, providers are beta-testing their networks, and predictions estimate that 5G will start rolling out in several cities this year. Technology trends of 2021 predict that a full launch will soon follow.
5G will offer much faster and more reliable internet connections to smartphones and other devices. Average download speeds sit at approximately 1GB/s and the overall network bandwidth is vastly increased.
Currently, the worldwide average internet speed is only 10MB/s, so 5G can potentially offer a connection that is 100 times faster.
Things get even better though. Tests show that 5G networks can support multiple connections at 10GB/s, whereas some networks have already offered speeds over 500GB/s. The future technology timeline will ensure that there is no longer a concern over internet connection speeds.
However, the 5G adoption trend won’t only bring faster downloads, and smoother streaming because 5G and IoT can do wonders together. The massive bandwidth makes it an excellent choice for connecting internet of things devices or supporting advanced tech such as autonomous vehicles, or smart cities.
Autonomous vehicles that “communicate” with each other on the road, remote-controlled heavy machinery, telemedicine — we are looking at some revolutionary changes in the near future. AT&T and Verizon are already prepared to roll out this upcoming technology, and they expect to reach nationwide coverage by the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022.
You may be asking yourself where 5G will be available first. Well, progress is actively being made in the United States, South Korea, Japan, China, and a few European countries.
The latest technology trends in information technology predict that as 5G rolled out in 2020, smartphone providers will also have to upgrade their devices, in order to support the new infrastructure. As such, 5G will likely be offered by default. Some experts have mentioned a transition period, where devices will roll out with 4.5G capabilities (LTE-A). Regardless, most smartphone manufacturers are already testing 5G-enabled devices.
Major car manufacturers were relatively quick to recognize the importance of “clean” energy and are already dipping their toes in the electric car market. Sales in the US almost tripled in the last year, and the number of electric vehicles is expected to jump from 3 million to 25 million in the next decade. We should all look to contribute to a greener future, so the big question is:
Will the new technology trends of 2021 be the beginning of the end for the combustion engine? Seems that way, doesn’t it?
Lately, the number of electric vehicles has soared. Companies like Tesla are leading the way, yet numerous other car manufacturers are selling a significant amount of EVs. This is quite understandable, given the wide variety of benefits offered by electric vehicles. These include zero emissions, government incentives, lower costs for fill-ups, and instant torque. Despite these advantages, the percentage of EVs compared to combustion-based cars is still low.
So, where is EV technology going?
Several trends will pave the way for worldwide EV adoption. In the next two years, we can expect two major developments: better EVs, and better infrastructure. So far, the EV market has mostly focused on sedans and small cars. The next few years will bring forward more options for car buyers, as manufacturers are ramping up production.
The range represents another issue that the EV market is dealing with. In this case, Tesla wins by far, and the competition looks too far away. Consumers are in need of higher ranges if EVs are to replace traditional combustion cars.
As a result, battery tech sees extensive R&D, creating new innovation potential. By 2050, future technology will likely facilitate a world where EVs are the norm.
In terms of actual purchase prices for EVs, 2021 will not bring a huge decrease. Yet, consumers can expect a gradual price decline, which is also essential for worldwide adoption. With luck, government incentives will continue.
Last but not least, recharging stations are still few and far between – especially when compared to the number of gas stations. However, more and more charging points are popping up throughout the world. As market demand grows, the infrastructure will surely improve.
A Renaissance for self-driving cars also seems to be around the corner. Future technology trends indicate an increased interest and developmental effort. Waymo, a subsidiary of Google, rolled out its autonomous test vehicles just two years ago. Today they already own the first commercial driverless taxi service. The US legislation is duly adapting to this situation and already defining additional clauses in their traffic laws for self-driving cars.
In a word, the automotive industry is looking at a cleaner, safer, and smarter future.
Healthcare and AI formed an unbreakable bond years ago. Tech industry trends and investments in technology helped a lot in moving us out from the dark ages, notably by eliminating diseases that had plagued humanity since the dawn of time.
There is still a long way to go, though.
In the near future, Big Pharma companies will be employing AI-driven technologies to optimize the drug delivery process, which will improve the interaction between clients and drug providers. We will be able to get personalized information straight from medical specialists, and they will, in turn, benefit from our immediate feedback.
The healthcare industry is directly influenced by many digital technology trends. Just last year the FDA approved companies like IDx (who researches in autonomous eye disease detection), Viz.AI (diagnostics for life-threatening diseases), and Imagen (AI application in medical image analysis).
Maybe considerably longer life expectancy is another thing to make the transition from sci-fi books to reality.
Digital Ethics & Privacy
While this trend doesn’t pertain directly to technology or software developments, it is most likely one of the most important and relevant tech topics to keep an eye on. In short, digital ethics represents the study concerning the impact of technology on society, responsible for finding the right approach towards integrating tech in our daily lives. It mostly focuses on the ethical aspects associated with current and future tech, alongside the digital technology trends of 2021.
The most relevant example of digital ethics concerns self-driving cars. As such, in the face of imminent impact, should an autonomous car attempt to save the passenger by hitting a pedestrian? Or should it cause a crash that may be fatal for the ‘driver’, thus saving the pedestrian? Additionally, who’s legally liable in case of an accident?
These are questions that digital ethics attempt to answer.
Digital ethics are also concerned with artificial intelligence. Once developers create neural networks capable of general intelligence, AI machines will have quite a bit of power. In this case, it is important to determine the extent of their intelligence, and solutions to a variety of challenges that an AI may encounter. Perhaps, future technology inventions will implement digital ethics at their core.
Privacy is also a growing concern. How can you ensure freedom of speech, alongside privacy in a world where surveillance can be triggered at the push of a button? So far, numerous companies collect private data for advertisement purposes, but is this ethical?
How can we protect private data contained on our devices?
Who makes sure that the right to privacy isn’t abused by tech companies and governments?
Unfortunately, we don’t have pertinent answers to these questions yet. This only shows how relevant digital ethics and privacy are for society as a whole.
Big data shapes up to be the common denominator between all upcoming technologies. The Web is already packing massive amounts of data. How we deal with it might determine the whole course of humanity, sooo… no pressure or anything.
There is no way to know whether all the new technology trends of 2021 will take off and cause an immediate impact. One thing is for sure though:
The hopes that technology will be a silver bullet are higher than ever!