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Strategy | 4 min read

3 Bold Tech Predictions for 2021

Peter Niebler
Written by Peter Niebler

We’ve finally left 2020 behind and are entering a new year. Where, as a world, will we go in 2021? Where is the world of technology going? What are the next disruptive technologies that will impact not only the business world but our lives in general? I’ve spent the past year keeping an eye on tech changes and doing some trend spotting. Now I’d like to share my macro-level predictions with you.

Bold Prediction #1: Work Freedom Technologies Will Dominate in 2021

I can hear you groaning as you think “C’mon, Paul. Everyone can spot that we’re going to be on Teams and Zoom a lot in 2021.” But this prediction is about more than that. It encompasses the concept of work freedom and its impact on businesses.

Work freedom is the ability to work from anywhere and still be productive using technology as the primary lever to achieve that.

35% of America’s workforce is working from home compared to just 2% in 2019. That’s a fundamental shift. In many cases, people just picked up their computers from their desks, took them home and then worked with their IT departments to figure out how to massage that technology to work in a remote situation. That may have gotten us through 2020, but a better long-term strategy is needed.

The Rise of Re-Platforming

Work freedom in 2021 means no longer using the tech we have and calling it good enough. Thinking will shift towards how to optimize your work environment. We used to make our existing systems work remotely, but there’s going to be a new wave of digital transformation that will involve what we call re-platforming.

Re-platforming involves making serious business and process changes to adopt more cloud, SaaS and PaaS approaches. People will re-think how their businesses use technology for remote work and move away from tools that are holding them back.

Rapid Development of Collaboration Tools

Another aspect of work freedom in 2021 is the rapid development of Teams and Zoom. These technologies are not done innovating. For example, in FY 2021, Teams is projected to be able to support up to 1,000 users in the same Teams meeting. Work freedom needs continued collaboration, and these tools are going to be critical to making that happen.

New Work Policies

In addition, we’re going to need work policies that are wrapped around digital work ethics and behaviors. Many of today’s collaboration tools offer detailed analytics about how workers are using them. This data can show business leaders whether employees are transitioning well to a work-from-home situation. It can also help prevent burnout by revealing if workers are always online and maybe need to think about their work-life balance.

Changes to the Office

Finally, work freedom will definitely impact what the office looks like in 2021. I think the office of future is going to include collaboration suites that allow onsite and remote workers to connect easily. Companies will also need to attract people back to the office by providing flexible work options and a safe on-site environment. Workspaces will also probably condense as not every single employee will come back to the office. Instead of adding more space, the emphasis will be on the better use of the existing office space.

Bold Prediction #2: IoB Will Accelerate Faster Despite Serious Privacy Concerns

IoB is a new area and may be a new acronym to some. It stands for Internet of Beings or Internet of Behavior. The IoB collects the “digital dust” of people’s lives from a variety of sources. Public and private organizations can then use this information to influence behavior.

It goes hand-in-hand with the Internet of Things (IoT). Your smart watch, your FitBit, or other IoT devices are constantly gathering data about you. IoB analyzes all that data to figure out the patterns of people’s lives.

Say you download an app. You’re not paying with a dollar, you’re paying with your data. You make payments using your private information all day long. IoB is just the evolution and expansion of Big Data around IoT devices and around your own behaviors. It’s creating this massive new market that will only continue to grow.

Businesses can experience powerful benefits from IoB:

  • Analyze customer buying habits across platforms
  • Study previously unobtainable data about how customers interact with devices and products
  • Gain deeper insights into where a customer is in the buying journey
  • Provide real-time point-of-sale notifications and target ads
  • Quickly resolve issues to close sales and keep customers happy

But as with any technology, there’s a dark side to it. IoB can recognize whether or not a person is wearing a mask. That means facial recognition. It’s very easy to create and use facial recognition tools that can find your face among your digital dust. With governments already using this technology, there are concerns that the information could be compromised. Could the wrong people use it to track people’s movements? These are some of the challenges that come with IoB.

Bold Prediction #3: 2021 Will See the Rise of Distributed Cloud

Let me start by giving a quick example of how distributed cloud (aka edge computing) works. Say you’re gathering video surveillance data and want to process it for facial recognition. Taking that whole video and sending it all the way back to a data center doesn’t make a lot of sense.

With distributed cloud or edge computing, we can actually take the fabric that is cloud and bring it anywhere – whether it be a server or the computation of image analysis. It allows you to keep the majority of your critical data center inside of public cloud architecture and then have a small onsite device that just runs your localized computer.

A Perfect Storm of Opportunity

As I'm trend spotting, I look for a group of converging technologies that are making another technology accelerate or grow. I think this is the year for distributed cloud because there’s a convergence of key things going on in our world.

We’re seeing a confluence of 5G, of hyperconverged and software-defined data centers, the rise of public cloud, the rise and impact of IoT devices generating massive amounts of data and the need for data analysis. Rather than sending it all back to public clouds, you can do it at the edge via distributed cloud.

Why will 2021 be a major growth year?

  • The technology is ready
  • Rise of 5G
  • Rise of IoT and IoB
  • Small office outposts
  • Self-healing

All these technologies are happening to come together to the point that we’re going to start to see distributed cloud products really expand.

So What Should You Do About All This?

Whether you think these trends are interesting, concerning, or inspiring, consider partnering with an organization like Elevity that is ahead of what’s next.

We can help you:

  • Create a roadmap to where your business needs to be
  • Fill the gaps in your network and cybersecurity
  • Guide you through your digital transformation
  • Keep you up-to-speed on tech trends
  • Continue to reevaluate where your business is as you look into 2021 and beyond

Take the next step and request a Needs Assessment from one of our network experts.

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