It might seem strange to be predicting anything for 2021. Especially because the year 2020 has been so unpredictable. But, despite the numerous challenges we've faced this year, we've seen how successfully and efficiently technology can advance in order to meet our needs. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst that sped up technological developments that had been in the pipeline for years. And now, we're looking to the future. Keeping in mind all the innovations that have taken place and projecting further developments for our future. According to industry experts like Forbes and Analytics Insight, these are the tech trends to watch in 2021...
Top 5 tech trends of 2021
Ethical Artificial Intelligence
AI was a major tech trend in 2020, as machine learning algorithms stepped in to help us analyse and understand the vast volume of information we were dealing with as a result of COVID-19. Data collection has been critical in 2020, specifically in the healthcare industry, as experts all over the world work to understand the novel coronavirus. In 2021, expect to see AI and machine learning become better informed and more advanced.
Along with more sophisticated AI technology comes the question of ethical AI. Previously, AI firms paid little attention to their ethical impact and were simply focused on getting data and information to their customers. Now, we're likely to see a shift towards responsible practices when it comes to data ethics and data handling systems. The technology has been finessed, and now needs to be implemented responsibly and with awareness.
Robotics and drones
Another major development in the face of the 2020 pandemic. This year, robotics companies pushed the boundaries of tech development to provide solutions for issues like self-isolation and virus hotspots. In places where infection rates were on the rise, but people still needed basic services and products, robots and drones could perform delivery services and even facilitate medical consultations.
In 2021, we can expect robotics and drones to become even more advanced and possibly more commonplace. In vacant offices and buildings that still need to be maintained, robotics could provide cleaning and security services. They could help in assisted-living centres or even offer companionship to those living alone or recovering from an illness. In order for this technology to be effective, solutions like AI and digital process automation need to be incorporated. This year, technology will become increasingly interlinked.
Access to 5G
Basic connectivity is the foundation of all these technological developments. And it doesn't just mean faster download speeds and more live streamed videos. Each generation of internet brought with it advancements in what was possible. And, the implementation of 5G will see a range of innovative changes take place in 2021.
With 5G, complex technologies like virtual reality and machine learning become more viable. And will no longer need to be dependent on a specific location. Tools such as IoT will become more commonplace in organisations thanks to the fast and reliable internet connection. Unfortunately, as 5G becomes more mainstream, solutions like fibre and cable networks may be considered redundant. Expect many updates and replacements in 2021.
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Despite the looming threat of a drop in Tesla stock value, vehicle automation as a technology is still seriously on the rise. Companies such as BMW and Audi are trying to get in on the self-drive game, while others like Waymo and Tesla are leading the charge. With the perception that public transport poses a greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, the use of self-drive cars and taxis does seem like the safer option. But this kind of technology is still in its early stages. The only thing we know is that it's expected to become a focus point in 2021 technological development. Expect further advancement in things like self-drive delivery trucks and logistics vehicles, and maybe one day you'll order yourself an Uber and there'll be no one behind the wheel.
Extended reality (XR)
We know about things like virtual reality (VR). And, this year, we started hearing about the new tech developments in augmented reality (AR). But what is extended reality? And how will it play a role as a tech trend of 2021?
Simply put, virtual reality is when glasses are worn and computer-generated images take over the user's field of vision. Your reality is, therefore, replaced with an alternative virtual one. Augmented reality is when what is seen through the glasses is superimposed onto what is already there - in a sense supplementing the literal reality. And, extended reality is when both of the above technologies are used together to provide a solution. Author and tech advisor Bernard Marr gives virtual eye tests as an example of how extended reality could be used in the future. Imagine, as an optician, being able to carry out an eye test entirely in VR, with a clear image of the patient's eyes. Then, using AR, the patient can try on various frames to see which glasses look best on them. All without the doctor or patient having to leave their home. Marr suggests this tech trend will take off in 2021 as more and more people conduct more tasks from home. The XR technology could be influential in fields of education, healthcare and training.