If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that technology and innovation are critical for business. For most organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the gaps in their digital capabilities. They were confronted with new challenges in customer experience, marketing, work collaboration, among others. As businesses continue to pursue digital transformation initiatives to overcome these challenges, there will be a heightened demand for specific technological capabilities in 2021.
In this article, we’ll reveal what these capabilities are and the key trends that will drive technology investments this year.
The pandemic gave rise to a centralized focus on people and technology amidst workplace evolution in organizations. Most firms had to shift their conferences, summits, and client interactions to digital. Collaboration platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts have been key in this transition. To adapt to the new normal, businesses will need to focus on the future of work that enables operational flexibility and scalability. Remote working has emerged as one of the top technology trends to look forward to in 2021.
A Gartner survey revealed that over 74% of CFOs plan to permanently shift employees to remote work post-COVID-19. Some businesses have spent the last year investing in technology that enables virtual collaboration. They will undergo a seamless transition from office spaces to Work-From-Anywhere. For instance, global IT leader TCS is already planning to shift 75% of its workforce to a work-from-anywhere setting by 2025.
In 2021, communication technologies, intelligent networks, cybersecurity, and remote-friendly work policies will be critical to driving this digital transformation.
5G deployments decelerated in many parts of the globe last year due to the lag in regulatory timelines, spectrum issuance and auctioning, and technological developments amidst COVID-19. While COVID has hampered the progression of 5G to some extent, it certainly has not halted it.
5G will emerge as one of the most important technology trends for 2021. The technology focus will be on improving business productivity through faster data transmission and more reliable connectivity. The global 5G services market size is expected to reach 46.6 billion USD in 2021.
The fundamental drivers of 5G are enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communication, and the ultra-reliable low-latency rate. These will be central to innovation in telecom, healthcare, automotive, and other industries. In fact, Huawei expects 5G to generate an extra 1.5 trillion USD by 2030 across manufacturing, energy, and transportation sectors.
Telecom leaders like Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Nokia, and Reliance Jio are expecting successful launches of their 5G-enabled applications in 2021. Chief Strategy Officer of Nokia, Gabriela Styf Sjoman suggests that emerging areas of innovation (blockchain, AR, VR, AI, and robotics) will develop rapidly. This is because 5G makes high speed, live streaming data a reliable reality.
AIOps—artificial intelligence for IT operations helps businesses to improve the efficiency of IT functions. These functions include performance monitoring, event correlation and analysis, IT service management, and automation. AIOps is an important technology trend in 2021 as it can quickly detect and prevent threats to devices and critical data.
For instance, Siemens USA has implemented AIOps and a specialized security system across their workplace. This is to immediately secure and monitor 95% of its 400,000 PCs, laptops, mobile devices, and other systems to remain current with threats and indicators of compromise. Thus, with the shift to the remote work environment, AIOps will play an increasingly crucial role as it improves collaboration, increases digital transformation success, and boosts security.
As organizations continue to adopt remote working, the pace of cloud adoption has accelerated. Most businesses are moving towards the hybrid cloud model as it helps them to attend to their distinct cloud infrastructural needs such as privacy, security and compliance, and exponential data growth.
According to Markets And Markets, the hybrid cloud market will grow to 97.6 billion USD by 2023, at 17% CAGR. The leading cloud providers that will focus on the hybrid cloud as a key technology trend for 2021 are Amazon Web Services(AWS), Google Cloud, Azure, Oracle, and IBM.
For instance, IBM has already announced a growth strategy to accelerate its open hybrid cloud platform and AI capabilities representing a $1 trillion market opportunity. Therefore, the need for more computational power and rapid adoption of hybrid cloud will open new avenues for hybrid cloud vendors in 2021.
Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG)
COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst that prioritized meaningful action on many fronts. 79% of technology companies agree that the ability to shift to a clean technology economy will determine their growth. In fact, organizations that possess the adaptive capacity in response to environmental and social risks will be able to position themselves better to compete and thrive.
According to a study conducted by the US-based analytics platform Invisage, large tech firms scoring highly based on ESG factors outperform those that score poorly. Global tech leaders are publicly engaging on the issues of sustainability, climate change, and economic inequality. Microsoft operates as a carbon-neutral business, and Google is operating on 100% renewable energy since 2018.
Beyond increasing carbon emissions, technology companies will focus on key issues such as biodiversity crisis, mental health, social and racial inequality, and ESG data disclosure in 2021.
Companies have been leveraging automation technologies to ease operations, magnify performance, and become more productive. In 2021, there will be a rise in the implementation of hyper-automation – a more sophisticated version of automation. This technology takes care of operations holistically, from discovering, analyzing, designing, and automating processes to measuring, monitoring, and reassess outputs.
Hyper-automation focuses on the application of robotic process automation (RPA) bots to automate rule-based business processes that drive higher cost-reduction and value addition. This technology trend for 2021 will also help businesses to tap into the insights, analytics, and processing power of AI. The technology can help create various use cases that would not have opened up by using RPA solutions alone.
The global hyper-automation market size will reach 22.84 billion USD by 2027 at a CAGR of 18.2% according to Emergen Research.
The potential to process and use large volumes of data in real-time made edge computing one of the hottest IT trends even before the COVID-19 crisis. The world’s population began to rely heavily on digital for remote work, video streaming, and online shopping amidst the pandemic. This rapid shift in traffic patterns exposed several weaknesses in the network infrastructure.
Edge computing can preserve bandwidth and increase efficiency. This is because it can process time-sensitive data in remote locations with limited or no connectivity to a centralized location. Moving forward, there will be an increased use of IoT devices, 5G adoption at scale, and a growth in demand for AI-driven tools. This will push edge computing industry to reach 250 million USD by 2024, as projected by IDC.
Meanwhile, Global Data suggests that in 2024, manufacturing, BFSI, energy, information technology, and consumer goods are the key industries that will direct half of their spendings towards edge computing technology. Thus, businesses are more likely to invest in such technology trends in 2021. The goal will be to reduce latency, support personalized content delivery, and increase data security.
Internet of Behaviors (IOB)
Over the past five years, the number of IoT devices has doubled. These devices can collect valuable data about users’ behavior, interests, and preferences. Businesses can utilize this data to create better consumer experiences. However, the collected data needs to be analyzed thoroughly to gather actionable insights. Internet of Behaviors (IoB) can analyze such user data in terms of behavioral psychology.
IoB combines existing technologies such as facial recognition, location tracking, social media listening, and big data with associated behavioral events such as device usage and/or purchases. In addition, IoB will help brands to track user activities and learn more about their behavior. However, to reap the benefits of IoB ethically, businesses will need to be well equipped with data governance best practices. They must ensure data security to combat cyber-crimes like phishing.
Meanwhile, Gartner predicts that the individual activities of 40% of the global population (3 billion people) will be tracked digitally to influence their behavior by 2023.
In 2021 and beyond, businesses can expect to gravitate towards technology trends that make them more resilient and agile. The boundary between the physical and virtual worlds is rapidly vanishing. These emerging technology trends for 2021 will focus on reimagining the future of work, creating people-centric experiences, and gearing up for strategic transformation. Thus, in the bid to revitalize and bounce back with improved technological capabilities, businesses need to partner with allies that can help them respond to rapidly shifting market demands timely and effectively.
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