The Top Five Strategic Technology Trends for 2021: The Year of Digitalism
We have witnessed many changes in the year 2020. Facing the pandemic was difficult, but what is more problematic are the consequences of the chaos that ensued. It includes staying and working from home, remote coordination, relying on apps and tools for meetings, and businesses struggling for market share, among others.
Businesses are striving to adapt according to changing conditions. Companies need to form and reform dynamically. The world and processes in our systems change over time, but 2020 brought about such a change very rapidly. The trends in this article will help enterprises in bringing internal changes for the future.
Internet of Behaviors (IoB)
The Internet of Behaviors (IoB) refers to taking the maximum advantage of data to alter behaviors. Organizations can do it by combining data from the physical and the digital worlds to influence behaviors and actions through feedback loops.
Businesses can use computer vision to determine if employees are complying with SOPs. They can use speakers to inform them if they do not comply with protocols. Companies can analyze this data and use it to influence how they behave at work.
Over time, organizations will improve the data they collect and learn how to combine data from different sources and use it to their advantage. Soon, IoB will affect how companies interact with their employees.
Businesses can use IoB in many different aspects. They can combine and process data collected from government agencies, the public sector, location tracking, facial recognition, and social media. This trend is growing because the technology that analyzes this data has become sophisticated at highlighting vital insights.
Depending on the outcomes and goals of businesses using IoB, it has some societal and ethical implications. For example, insurance companies use wearable devices to monitor the physical activities of their customers. These devices can also monitor grocery purchases. Privacy laws vary from one region to another, which will impact the scale and adoption of this trend.
Digitalism will Expand Even More
Due to digitalism, the future will be a struggle between businesses and governments to collect as much data as possible and the people trying to protect their privacy and data. Digitalism will lead the world to a future where data will be the most crucial resource for everyone.
We can be certain that we are moving in this direction because governments and businesses have become more data-hungry than ever. To top it up, super-fast computers, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence continuously harvest data to gain a competitive edge.
Digitalism will expand much more rapidly as businesses and countries embrace the advantages of digital technologies in 2021. The pandemic has led many organizations to employ more technologies. This has increased the employee output by a significant amount.
No one could have predicted that employees can give a much higher output with the use of technology. It also means that organizations will perform much better with fewer employees than they could have before the crisis. One example of this that we will see in 2021 is the concept of lights out manufacturing or dark factories. Businesses can employ technology and use minimal human interaction to keep on manufacturing in factories.
Before a company can transform digitally, it needs to become digital. We will see many companies turning towards digital solutions in 2021. Digital employees will rise rapidly, but side by side, algorithmic management will also come to the forefront of businesses.
Artificial intelligence will allow companies to automate important decision-making as well. Before 2021, organizations used digital technologies to gain a few advantages, but now, they will use them much more seriously.
We cannot stop digitalism, but we can guide its direction. We need to combine the advantages of digital technology with security regulations and strict privacy to stop governments and businesses from misusing digital tools and breaching people's privacy. One thing we can be sure of is that the future of work is digital. In 2021, we will witness how it takes over our lives and businesses.
Neural Networks and Quantum Computing
Research has reached a new milestone in Neural Networks, which is likely to advance much further in 2021. George Washington University researchers discovered that it is possible to use light particles, called photons, to perform computations instead of electricity. It is called a Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), and its processing capacity is about 100 times faster than that of a CPU.
For artificial intelligence, this is a breakthrough. It is not bound by the speed of electricity anymore because now it can process information at the speed of light using photons. The process of finding solutions to complex problems will speed up exponentially as soon as neural networks can compute at the speed of light. We will be able to see new solutions and create applications to existing problems using neural networks very soon.
It will be even better if we can use neural networks in quantum computers. It is challenging to combine the two technologies, but it will be worth the time and energy once we achieve it. Expect to see significant advances in this field this year because developments in this area are accelerating.
In December of 2020, China claimed that it had built a quantum computer that is about ten billion times faster than Google's Sycamore. It uses 53 qubits and can do calculations in 200 seconds, which a supercomputer will take almost 10,000 years to complete. Jiuzhang, China's quantum computer, took only a few minutes to complete a calculation that a supercomputer would do in two billion years. Jiuzhang manipulates photons instead of qubits to achieve this result.
It will take at least another five to ten years before such a computer comes within the grasp of businesses and startup companies, but the developments in this field are promising. The real fun will begin when quantum computers converge with neural networks to process information using photons at the speed of light.
Decentralised Finance (DeFi)
Decentralised Finance (DeFi) is a relatively new form of finance that does not rely on centralised financial intermediaries such as brokerages, exchanges, and banks. It is trending as several applications of DeFi have emerged over the past year.
Instead of banks, smart contracts are recorded on blockchain networks to ensure trust and transparency among the parties involved. The applications of DeFi transform financial processes and products into transparent protocols. At the beginning of 2020, crypto collateral in the DeFi economy amounted to USD 1 billion, and by the end of the year, it had grown to USD 15 billion.
DeFi runs on immutable code stored on a blockchain. Its applications are faster, affordable, and more efficient than the current financial products. It is equipped to change the global economy, and in 2021, we can expect it to grow significantly.
Cloud manages and collects more data than ever before because more companies are now moving to cloud-based storage. This calls for a rise in the need for digital security and intelligence. Organizations must take data security very seriously. It is clear, considering that even the largest security companies can get hacked. If a data breach occurs, the loss will be much larger than we can imagine.
Confidential computing is a relatively new approach that will take flight in 2021. It is challenging to develop a safer cloud environment, which is why IBM began working on something like this almost ten years ago. A version of their confidential computing arrived in 2018, and they expect it to be ready for mass adoption in 2021. It is a merger of analytics and security and should become a standard to secure data on a deep technical level.
Current cloud providers provide operational assurance only. Confidential computing, on the other hand, also offers technical assurance. The data owner has a key, which can unlock the encrypted data. No one without that key can see what the data is without encryption. It is easy to encrypt data stored in one place, but the game-changer will be encrypting the data in transit.
Confidential computing has the ability to do this, which means that even the cloud providers will not be able to access the stored data or the data passing through their network. There have been instances of data breaches in the past, and they will continue to grow in the future. Businesses can lose about five trillion USD to cybercrime by 2024, so they need to take measures to prevent any data loss.
Businesses should keep track of these strategic technology trends in 2021 to ensure long-term stability as they will change the way organizations conduct their daily operations and observe their employees. They will help change employee and customer behavior, provide faster computer processing, a decentralised financial system, and provide better data security.
The pandemic has accelerated the multi-decade process of business digitalization, and 2021 is the year in which businesses are actually beginning to adopt this new way of operating. So, 2021 can be referred to as the year of digitalism.