If you’re into tech, you’ve probably heard a million times about how 2020’s tumultuous events accelerated development in many types of technology, particularly videoconferencing.
As the world slowly returns to a semblance of normalcy, 2020’s developments will continue to be influential in those of 2021. All that physical distancing/quarantining showed us how much of a difference quality internet connections, cloud computing, and augmented reality can really make to virtually connect us, even in a pandemic-free world. Let’s just say that even when in-person events are back again, many of us will still want to stay home, even if there’s free food.
Hopefully by the end of 2021, you’ll be staying home because you want to, not because you have to. And by then, the year’s innovations will bring the party to you.
Here’s some technology trends that’ll be rising this year:
1. Edge computing
If you read our last blog post on positive things that happened in tech in 2020, we emphasized the rise of cloud computing as one of the big ones. Migrating to a cloud infrastructure has undoubtedly helped many big and small companies more securely work from home.
While the benefits of cloud computing are still going on strong, they’re unfortunately not without some cons, particularly latency. That’s where edge computing steps in to save the day: by processing the data around the “edge” of the network rather than sending it to a central location, the distance the data has to travel is reduced, thus reducing latency. This results in faster internet speeds and improved network performance overall.
2021 is likely to see a rise in edge computing taking place in small data center marketplaces, allowing for more geographical distribution to better be in close proximity to the users. The fact that many companies will still be working from home sans pandemic only exacerbates this need to suit that geographically scattered workforce. The rise of 5G will also give edge computing a boost with private networks built by organizations.
2. 5G is advancing
5G technology won’t just power edge computing, but also our phones as it rises to the mainstream. Our coverage and mobile internet speeds are going to get a noticeable boost, as 5G boasts 10x+ the speed of its predecessors. It won’t just be powering our last-minute Google searches for “healthy recipes that actually taste good” during grocery shopping sessions, but also telemedicine, video conferencing, augmented reality, virtual reality, and much more.
Pretty soon the amount of Zoom guests texting you “hey I’m still coming, it’s loading now” will dwindle down. We’re leaving latency behind in 2020.
3. Augmented reality (AR)
The power of the aforementioned 5G is undoubtedly being harnessed to fuel advancements in augmented and virtual reality. The pandemic was a catalyst: for example, many brands resorted to augmented reality for virtual try-ons. Just head on over to IKEA’s mobile app and you can preview how their tables will look in your living room before you put in the sweat and tears to assemble it yourself.
An IBM report found that 41% of customers were interested in virtual fitting rooms. According to Shopify, interactions with AR content led to a 94% increase in conversion rates. That’s definitely enough ROI for you to invest in some AR for your brand!
AR is also powering mobile indoor navigation systems, which means you’ll have other options to navigate around a huge mall or hotel without remembering where you walked by a physical directory and map. Deciding where to eat will now be much easier as AR will give you a better idea of a restaurant’s ambiance rather than relying on Yelp reviews and a few photos. Light detection technology (lidar) is bringing this to mobile.
Other applications of AR we’ll see a lot of work on this year are automotive heads-up displays and a pair of glasses by Facebook. Yes, you read that right: Facebook is releasing AR glasses this year. That'll make it easier to live up to those early 2000s spy flicks.
4. Virtual reality
Losing yourself in a virtual world won’t just be a sci-fi flick trope anymore. The pandemic has prevented us from going to crowded parties and other fun events outside of video conferencing and VR headsets. At least on VR, you can pretend you’re walking around rather than slouch on the couch. With how unsatisfying reality has been, it’s no surprise that worldwide spending on AR/VR is expected to quadruple in the next three years.
5. Artificial intelligence
AI helped us regain some control over the chaos of 2020 by helping us synthesize the vast amounts of data on the pandemic, contributing to rapid vaccine development. Autonomous driving technology matured and is farther down the journey towards navigating complex roads and accounting for most issues likely to arise with no human operator necessary.
Natural language processing became more finely honed to detect not only words, but also emotions. That’s how Grammarly can now tell when your email sounds rather angry and why some chatbots actually sound like real people. It’s expected that in 2021, we’ll see AI systems becoming more lifelike with more seamless, informative user experiences.
So what’s next?
We can’t know every single detail of what’ll happen in 2021, but the state of our economy and behavior strongly points to all the above shining in the spotlight. As these technological developments become more commonplace, adopting at least some of them becomes more essential to business transformation and scaling than ever before.
At SM Innovations, we’re always encouraging our engineers and designers to stay on top of the latest developments so we’re always on track to deliver results that’ll keep you as modernized as you can be. Even in a post-pandemic world, we’ll help you digitally bring your business to your customers. So hit us up with your digital transformation ideas and where you'd like to virtually travel to!