The pandemic has played a significant role in influencing technology trends for 2021 to the point it has affected lifestyle. It has forced companies to think about solutions for social distancing, which has resulted in an accelerated adoption of digital technologies that facilitate online interaction. A key focus for businesses has been to use new technology to create more seamless operations. Here are some of the key tech trends to watch for in 2021.
Artificial Intelligence in Marketing
One of the most important emerging technology trends is the use of AI in marketing as well as machine learning. A recent study by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) revealed a 51 percent adoption rate of AI and machine learning among chief information officers. The survey found similar results for the adoption of the cloud and 5G technologies.
Digital marketers are increasingly moving toward building customer profiles with customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. Tracking customer history has led to retailers developing more personalized relationships with customers.
A sales agent, for example, can review the customer’s purchasing history to understand their needs. Ultimately, CRM platforms can help companies prioritize efforts on warm leads and loyal customers rather than chasing leads unlikely to convert.
The combination of mobile devices and AI has manifested a transformative ecosystem leading retailers to engage more frequently with consumers through smartphones. AI software can determine and communicate specific deals personalized for each individual shopper.
Predictive and Personalized Medicine
One of the key reasons that the healthcare industry has dramatically improved during the pandemic is the rapid adoption of the telehealth solution. Patients no longer have to sit in crowded waiting rooms where they can be exposed to COVID-19, as hospitals are scheduling online or phone conversations with patients to replace in-person visits. In October 2020 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a 154% increase in telehealth visits the last week of March 2020 compared with the previous year’s same period.
The development of wearable wireless technology is helping doctors remotely analyze patient data, diagnose conditions, and issue treatment instructions. Wearables and smartphones allow doctors and patients to remain in direct communication with each other at all times.
Instead of showing up to a hospital waiting room, patients are now told to wait in their cars to be notified when the physician is ready to see them. Another example of telehealth is the use of chatbots for patients to communicate with a virtual assistant to get quick answers about health conditions and solutions.
Businesses have not only had to distance themselves from coronavirus exposure, they must also block threats of computer viruses. Cybercriminals have grown more tech-savvy over the years and are constantly finding new ways to penetrate business networks to steal confidential financial data.
The pressure has been put on IT experts to improve security layers for business infrastructure. Passwords are no longer sufficient protection against hackers, as many companies now mandate employees use multi-factor authentication to access accounts. That often means answering a security question or entering a PIN number after entering the password.
The escalation in cybercrime has been countered by businesses setting stricter IT policies on how their networks are used by employees. Companies are using 24/7 monitoring software that detects and blocks unwanted visitors on their networks.
They are also using encryption and firewall solutions to supplement antivirus software. It’s becoming more common for businesses to train employees on spotting phishing scams in emails that spread malware.
Continued Remote Work and Reliance on Video Conferencing
Videoconferencing has become a growing trend among businesses during the pandemic with the rising popularity of the Zoom platform. Videoconferencing simulates an in-person meeting as far as getting all staff members on the same page. Additionally, it’s useful for product demonstrations and sales training sessions.
The reason the video is an effective business tool is that it can speed up learning curves, as workers can absorb new information faster by watching videos compared with reading text.
Remote access has led to more flexible work schedules, productive collaboration, and a way to cut operational costs. Allowing workers to use their own devices is leading to enormous savings for companies on hardware, software, and maintenance costs. It opens the door for team collaboration on projects without workers spending their own money on transportation. Work at home strategies has proven to be so efficient that this employment model is likely to survive in the post-pandemic world.
Self-driving vehicles are moving from science fiction to the physical world at a steady pace. They are mainly used for industrial applications at the moment but are evolving to support the transportation industry and supply chains. Last-mile delivery hubs are now being equipped with automated machines that sort and distribute packaging. Autonomous vehicles can be operated remotely through an internet connection. They are currently useful for hauling big equipment alongside conventional industrial vehicles.
Delivery by autonomous drones is now on the horizon and being tested in some markets. The future of drone delivery will reduce traffic congestion in major cities and give businesses options for processing orders on time. The drone package delivery market is in its infancy but is expected to surpass $6 billion by 2026. Meanwhile, the expansion of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is increasingly more visible in warehouses, where space is controlled. AVs are particularly useful for transporting hazardous materials.
Artificial intelligence is at the core of many new technologies this decade. It’s the solution to many business and social problems involving agility, accuracy, and efficiency. While we’re still far away from a robot-centric society, AI is paving the way for “smart cities,” in which local infrastructure is well integrated with Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Strategically-placed IoT sensors collect data and transmit it to a centralized database that interfaces with machine learning (ML) technology trends.
The ML software scans millions of data points in a matter of seconds to evaluate a system problem and provides recommended solutions based on historical data. Utility companies can use these technology trends to predict power inefficiencies and program automatic solutions when dropouts occur. When the main power has shortages in transmission, for example, the AI-based system knows to switch to an alternative energy source.
The common thread through each of these tech trends is the increasing value of data for streamlining operations and improving quality of life. AI-programs can sort through massive data and pick out the most relevant factors affecting a given operational scenario. One of the most important uses of AI-driven technology is to detect system vulnerabilities. Some AI systems have built-in self-correcting functions.
The use of machine learning software can analyze comprehensive patient medical records as well as broader medical knowledge to deliver instant recommendations for treatment. Predictive medicine has accelerated the pace of diagnosing and resolving medical issues.
Other industries are quickly embracing these technology trends to streamline operations. Utilities, transportation companies, and retailers have been early adopters of fast-developing tech trends such as AI, 5G, IoT. Ultimately, these technological changes are altering lifestyles and behaviors toward more sustainable directions.