Forbes Councils Member
The Fourth Industrial Revolution was supposed to unfold gradually and slowly, yet the pandemic catalyzed it. Businesses that were simply exploring the value of digitalization realized that it would be impossible to move further ignoring the benefits of AI, XR and IoT, among other technologies. Some trends that appeared during Covid will disappear, but I believe many of them are here to stay. So which tech trends will become our new reality?
1. Collaboration tools will be integrated with business applications.
Communication and interaction between team members and teams will be united within one system so that users won’t need to go between several messengers, mailboxes and business tools to perform work. Any enterprise resource planning system, a client’s relationship management system or an accounting system will be equipped with messengers and сalendar apps for effortless interaction. IT giants noticed this trend after the start of the pandemic and made their moves: Microsoft is integrating Teams into business apps and Salesforce acquired Slack. The trend will be growing and changing but it won’t disappear.
2. E-commerce will be more immersive.
The number of users visiting e-commerce websites skyrocketed in 2020. It won’t be too bold to say that people have finally got used to buying online. We’ve come to see online shopping as something natural, more comfortable and even more effective compared to in-person shopping. Yet, the tastes of buyers are also changing: They want to try goods and services before spending money on them.
The trend of “trying before you buy” is all-encompassing: hotel rooms, new shoes and even cars (or their 3D models to be precise) can be experienced and studied in detail with the help of telepresence, augmented and virtual realities. Retailers want to provide customers with a real immersive experience and let them choose carefully with the help of apps that help to see and try goods before the purchase. Thus, immersive e-commerce is here to stay too.
3. AI will support employees, not replace them.
For a long time, the world expected that AI would eventually substitute a human being in the workplace. Yet it’s getting clear that AI, as a technological phenomenon, is taking another course: augmentation of a human being at work instead of substitution.
Machine learning, object character recognition, deep learning, big data, computer vision and natural language processing are the technologies we unite under the term “AI.” And these technologies are already taking on the more repetitive tasks and routine work of employees.
Adding AI technology to daily business analysis operations will provide employees with priceless insights without diminishing a human role in the process of decision making. For instance, financial institutions can use unsupervised deep learning for anomaly detection in travel expenses or any other fraudulent activities. Employees can feel confident because decisions will be validated and supported by more accurate research and data.
4. The connectivity of devices continues.
With a rapidly declining price for IoT sensors, the development of edge computing, along with the advent of 5G, has made sensors accessible for any industry.
For example, monitoring the condition of equipment at a construction site can be conducted easier thanks to the accessibility of IoT. The keyword here is remote — there is no need to be close to the object of monitoring to receive full, accurate information about it.
5. Cloud services will continue to dominate.
Cloud services have become the prerequisite of any IT development, and all the skepticism toward the cloud has disappeared. Flexibility and scalability are the two most obvious reasons for the popularity of cloud services. Small businesses, as well as enterprises, realized that betting on the cloud is also incredibly cost-effective compared to any on-premise approach to data storage.
With a dispersed workforce, it is easy to expand the business and adapt it to any infrastructure challenges using the cloud.
6. Video analytics will become a part of RPA.
Robotic process automation (RPA) includes many different technologies and approaches, but in this list of trends for 2021, I would like to emphasize video analytics as a part of RPA.
Using the power of computer vision and machine learning businesses can automate thousands of ineffective and repetitive processes simply because they all have data from cameras. For example, using video analytics, employees can find an object in a product catalog containing thousands or millions of similar objects or detect counterfeit goods. Any task that required superhuman concentration, experience and attention can now be performed with the help of video analytics. That is the real step toward a full-scale RPA.
7. Data security will become a top priority.
Personal data protection will be gaining paramount importance because the amount of data companies accumulate is growing exponentially. The sensitivity of personal data will only rise. I believe we can expect people’s personal data to be enriched with health data.
More than that, the security perimeter of any business will be broadened seriously because of the increase in remote employees working out of their home offices. Companies will have to take care of security far beyond the physical walls of the offices. Additionally, all the data that is fed to AI algorithms will need to be carefully secured at all the stages of AI processes.
8. Big changes will develop in retail.
2020 made buying online as natural as we could only imagine, but this was just the first step of the whole transformation of retail. Soon retailers will be able to get maximum information about their customers using the Internet of Behaviors technology and computer vision to offer personalized services.
Traditional stores with consultants and cashiers could be totally replaced by a contactless sales mode, and, more than that, manufacturers will be able to get rid of intermediaries — the stores — in the end, by implementing a direct to direct-to-customer (D2C) model. Subscriptions to certain goods will be as habitual as video streaming service subscriptions thanks to the cloud.
More possibilities for collaboration and communication, as well as the interconnectedness of the devices, are some of the benefits that will carry over into the post-Covid world.