4 technology trends to watch in the coming year
Few things evolve faster than technology. As a result, no article about where technology may go in the future can cover all possibilities or be complete. But businesses wrestling with strategy questions may find value in reviewing the following four topics.
AI as a Service
Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) allows individuals and companies to use the Artificial Intelligence (AI) services of a third party. It lowers the barrier for experimenting with AI, which is commonly understood as using computers to replicate human intelligence, including the ability to learn from experiences and adapt to new information. Just a few years ago, doing anything with AI required enormous computing power and very specialized software. Now however AIaaS providers use the cloud to deliver solutions in ways not previously possible. In addition, creative software developers have made AI engines much easier to use.
Now that AIaaS has put AI more within reach economically, what will companies do with it? Having the tools at hand where computers can analyze an organization’s data in a matter of seconds is one thing. Knowing how to use the tool is something else. So initially, it might be a good idea to have a person comfortable with technology involved with information entry into the AIaaS tool, even though the interfaces generally do not require AI knowledge. But long term, deriving substantial business value from AI requires complex algorithms, models, and skilled individuals who can interpret the data correctly.
Blockchain as a data privacy tool
Data privacy concerns were already high before companies around the globe shifted to work-from-home strategies thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount of sensitive, financial and private information transmitted online every hour increased exponentially as a result. Web hacking and phishing attacks have increased, creating additional risks for both companies and workers. But might a distributed workforce lend itself to a distributed approach to data privacy involving blockchain?
Increasing numbers of companies are turning to blockchain for data privacy, even though that was not its initial purpose. Blockchain is the technology that made cryptocurrency possible. Once information is written into various blocks within a blockchain, the data is immutable. Blockchains work by spreading data over many computers worldwide, so it cannot be altered or deleted. This lends itself to a distributed security approach, which eliminates the single point of failure that cybercriminals like to exploit. In blockchain, data access requires explicit permission, where two users essentially exchange digital keys. But they can only review the information; they cannot copy, change or move it. Blockchain enables storage of legal, health, payment and identify records more securely.
There is little doubt blockchain will become a significant part of the security landscape, but it is too early to say it will be the ultimate and final solution.
Mobile in the “new normal”
COVID-19 turned our extremely mobile society into a more stationary one. But our so-called mobile devices have more impact on our lives than ever before. Stay-at-home orders prompted people to look for safe and convenient ways to order and pay for necessities like groceries and medicine. Payments Journal reported 30 percent of consumers started using contactless payment methods since the pandemic started, when people began to reconsider the physical exchange of cash or using cards to pay for goods and services. In addition, the “new normal” prompted wireless carrier Verizon to report a 75 percent increase in video game traffic. People started experimenting with video calls to stay in touch with family and friends using a variety of free apps which offer a range of features and limitations.
The buzz about the fifth generation mobile network, 5G, will continue even though it will not be universally available for some time. And even then, typical users may not notice much difference. The previous jump from 3G to 4G networks was significant because it provided enough bandwidth to make mobile device video-on-demand a reality. But it is likely most smartphone users will not care about the large and fast downloads 5G promises in the way desktop or laptop users already do. 5G will help with battery life and network congestion, especially for crowded venues like concerts or sports stadiums.
Wearable technology – Nice or needed?
Wearable technology, electronic devices that can be worn or even implanted in users, continue to evolve. Imagine the T-shirt you wear that monitors your heartbeat, breathing and body temperature; a cap with built-in camera tracing your steps all day; the headband that wakes you up at your desired time; a pair of glasses that allows you to see, capture and live the world hands-free. The trend in wearable technology will be toward both boutique and mainstream products as markets are penetrated and demand grows.
As the sizes and prices of embeddable computing continues to drop, wearable technology becomes less and less noticeable. Expect to see more items like clothing and jewelry becoming smarter, including an item like a face mask, which surfaced after the coronavirus pandemic began. Many common devices will become smarter in ways users will not likely notice. Toilet seats, coffee mugs, doorknobs, chair armrests will start sensing our presence and monitoring our health.
The COVID-19 situation is only accelerating development and adoption of such items. Companies that make wearable technology are trying to figure out how their devices can help diagnose early infection along with other health concerns. These companies will need workers with a unique skill set that can be brought together: user experience designers, web designers, software developers, artists, and creative writers to tell stories.