I.T. Trends 2021 & Forecasts - What's in Store for You?

Digitalisation - Publications By: Dr. Harald Dreher - Mar 8, 2021

Benefit from 3 decades of experience in IT strategy, digitalisation, ERP consulting and process optimisation...

 

I.T. Trends to look out for in 2021

 

 

8 I.T. Trends & Forecasts for 2021

The Covid 19 pandemic has shown that it can be very difficult to make forecasts at the moment because things change at short notice. Nevertheless, there are trends that should be observed

Despite all the restrictions and limitations, there is one thing that cannot be overlooked: Companies that have been able to quickly adapt business processes in the context of digitalisation have had advantages. They come out of this pandemic with fewer bruises, or even stronger, the change currently being experienced is strongly technology-driven in many areas. This will continue to consolidate and likely even intensify.

This article on I.T. trends 2021 has been written to give you, as an entrepreneur or business leader, something to think about. Properly assessing trends and taking action can help you continuously improve your competitiveness.

Starting point: 
In a period of about 60 years, the computing power of computers now in use has increased by a factor of about 1 trillion. This is described, among other things, by Moore's Law, according to which the processing speed of processors (or computers in general) doubles every 18 months and thus becomes exponential. In the meantime, according to calculations, about 37 cycles have passed since the definition of this law, so that the curve is now rising very sharply. In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore defined this prediction, based purely on empirical evidence, that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 1.5 years. Experts assume that this exponential growth could come to an end around 2025 because necessary smaller structures on chips could no longer be produced.

What does this mean in numbers?
Simply a tenfold increase in a period of 5 years and a hundredfold in 10 years. Therefore, it is hardly possible to relate the current technological progress to the results of the last 10 years. Technological developments have simply picked up speed too much because they have increased in velocity (slope of the function), similar to the exponential growth curves of the Covid 19 progressions.


Trends and Errors

There have always been errors in forecasting. Technologies that were too early and have yet to develop, or technologies that simply disappeared again, whilst others have not grown as quickly as predicted - for example, artificial intelligence applications, nevertheless, these applications in particular seem to be experiencing a growth spurt. Applications are increasing daily increasingly linking machines and people.


Who is driving such trends?

Overall, many analysts believe that I.T. trends are responsible for pushing and reshaping changes in the economy. The use of technology in the home office (remote work) - also caused by Covid 19 - can serve as an example. How quickly and usually without major technical glitches could workplaces be moved remotely or to the home office. Bottlenecks in the procurement of laptops with webcams and high-quality equipment with microphones and loudspeakers, as well as camera systems for web conferences, could be observed for some time. The prices for these goods - supported by intelligent price algorithms - rose adventurously in some cases. If they were available. 

It also became clear, however, that the possibility of working remotely has increased the demands on I.T. security and the challenges to cyber security. Attacks on I.T. systems in medium-sized companies have increased significantly, but do not reach the publicity of cyber attacks on prominent global companies.
Examples include the shutdown of the Funke Mediengruppe, whose computers were encrypted, or the attack on the innermost source codes of Microsoft, whose computer networks cannot be accessed so easily. As a hint and reminder, it should be clear, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises, that a malicious programme does not distinguish between small and large in its search for a weak spot. Nor does a malicious programme take into account the attitude that there is no really important information in the company that someone might be interested in.
The distinction is only: protected and safe for that algorithm or a surmountable obstacle and thus a gateway for malware. Can you imagine what it must be like when you don't get any information when you turn on your computer in the morning, but instead get a request to pay a ransom so that the computers are (hopefully) unlocked again?

 

Digitisation

Digitisation and the associated digital transformation will change the customer experience dramatically. Companies that understand how to align business processes with their customers will be among the winners. For all the fears that jobs will be lost in the process, there is also the certainty that new, different jobs will be created elsewhere. One of the challenges for companies will be to train their employees. Of course, this also applies to the willingness of employees to take on this challenge of further training themselves.

Necessity is the mother of invention: the Covid 19 crisis has forced companies to accelerate their digital transformation, in some cases dramatically. Companies that quickly develop digital capabilities to strengthen their resilience and equip themselves with modern I.T. for the post-pandemic era will be in a better starting position than their static competitors. In doing so, it is important to keep up with the fast-moving trends and technologies and also keep an eye on the most important trends.

In order to observe and evaluate the most important trends, Dreher-Consulting has talked to many medium-sized entrepreneurs and start-ups over the past months.
In our search for the most important trends, we identified these 8 trends that are already having a major impact on a wide range of industries today.


Trend No. 1: Internet of Behavior (IoB)

What is meant by this: this idea is that data is used to show and also change behaviour. With the increase and use of technologies in daily life, more and more digital traces are being created. These are collected, evaluated and are available for feedback.

This is already being used in vehicles today to obtain information via telematics data on how many gearshift cycles, what acceleration values are generated and to obtain conclusions for driving behaviour through sudden, sharp braking. This data is available to the vehicle manufacturer for warranty claims, to the insurer for pricing and to an expert for evaluation in the event of an accident. 
Because this IoB data can be collected, combined and evaluated from many different sources, these applications are of interest to government and public agencies. Applications of facial recognition together with increasingly powerful algorithms have increased the trend to use these techniques wherever. Therefore, the questions that have been raised, some of which have not yet been definitively answered, such as who owns the data generated when driving a car, the driver or the car manufacturer or...? must definitely be regulated and only used within the legally permitted framework.
A practical example of this is the newly developed Corona warning app, which ensures data protection. However, there are voices that a (temporary) suspension of data protection could increase the effectiveness and evaluation possibilities of the Corona app.


Trend No. 2: Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)

A trend that is still growing. In the meantime, functionalities have imperceptibly entered everyday life today that could only be seen and read about in science fiction films or books a few years ago. It is not at all likely that this momentum towards the use of artificial intelligence will slow down. With the first AI applications having been developed in academia as early as the late 1950s, enough time has passed that developments are slowly moving into an exponential climb.


Many, everyday applications, from facial recognition to unlocking mobile phones, speech recognition from devices like Alexa, which are even able to identify individual voices, are based on AI algorithms.
Industrial pattern recognition, for example checking for faults in patterns when printing bed linen, the evaluation of e-mails and the possible suggestions for (standard) answers, as well as AI used in CRM systems, are now part of everyday life. CRM systems are already able to collect information from different sources about the associated company on the basis of the URL of an e-mail and automatically enter it in the right place in the ERP system.
Applications where humans need several hours, e.g. reading long texts or contracts, AI solutions are able to display the important points of a contract or document within a very short time.

 

What are the challenges of using AI?

First of all, AI solutions are expensive. When it comes to investing in the development, installation, testing and operation of AI technologies, the most well-funded companies and industries are likely to have an advantage. Smaller companies have to join forces or wait until the prices for the technology come down.


Trend No. 3: I.T. Security / Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a long-strained topic that is actually not a trend but has always been around. However, I.T. security has always been more or less present in waves.
At the moment, however, new cyber threats are being discovered every day. Reports about cyber attacks are also taking up more and more space in the press and the relevant media.

The only barrier that can stand between companies and attacks from the net are technical measures that enable cyber security. More and more, however, people are becoming aware that I.T. security is also related to the level of training of employees.
It may be interesting to note at first glance that large, international companies can be the focus of attacks. In fact, however, it is the medium-sized and smaller companies that are exposed to a much greater risk.
There are studies by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) which state that up to 2/3 of successful attacks took place in companies with less than 1000 employees.

In the meantime, some positive steps have been taken on the security side to protect companies. The problem is, however, that in many cases it can quickly take half a year before a data breach is discovered. At the moment, this has also been observed in attacks that took place at Microsoft.

The problem is that in this long period of time, there is the possibility for malware to compromise an entire I.T. network. This means that there is a chance of completely shutting down a system in one fell swoop and also infecting business partners. It should not be underestimated that anyone who has any form of external email contact is exposed to the most common form of cyber threat through email phishing.

Technologies that have been developed in the meantime, such as deepfake protection, are so complex that they can usually only be used by specialists or data forensic experts. (Deepfake refers to the faking or altering of video or audio content using AI in real time).

A study by RiskSense shows that open source projects experienced a twofold increase in security vulnerabilities from 2018 to 2019 alone.

This increase in vulnerabilities and delay in closing them provide attackers with a major gateway into an organisation. The study focused on open source applications that are commonly used but receive little public attention, including Jenkins, MongoDB, Elasticsearch, Chef, GitLab, Spark and Puppert. Linux and Wordpress or Drupal applications were not included because these applications provide vulnerability closures at short intervals.

With the increasing use of cloud solutions, the use of homomorphic encryption is becoming more and more a must in an organisation's I.T. and cybersecurity activity. There are several aspects of the problems of encryption to consider.

Sensitive data, such as financial data, as well as personal data must be encrypted in the stored state (data at rest). This data must also be encrypted in transit (data in transit).
Modern encryption algorithms can only be broken with extreme effort. The problem with encryption, however, is that encrypted data is decrypted again at some point when it has to be worked with. The weak point lies in the decryption of the data, which is a point of attack for hacking. The homomorphic methods (advanced cryptographic methods) that have been developed in the meantime can greatly reduce or even eliminate the risk.


Most threats occur on these springs:

    • Pishing: (e.g. obtaining personal data such as passwords, credit card information, etc.)
    • Ransomware (use of malware to prevent and block the use of computers and databases
    • Cryptojacking (still rarely used malware that infiltrates mobile devices and computers, using their resources to mine or mine online money - cryptocurrencies)
    • IoT Attacks (all devices that are connected in some way to an address on the internet are vulnerable to attack. These include sensors, cameras, smart watches and more).

These are areas of action that will cost money. I.T. security is not free, but there is no alternative to it. I.T. and cyber security are increasingly becoming fields of action for specialists who have to support corporate I.T.

The efforts of entrepreneurs to give their employees the possibility to work remotely or in the home office simultaneously multiplies the number of attack possibilities from the outside. In most cases, the security installations, the instructions given to the employees and also the use of VPN solutions (a closed logistical network in whose connections data from outside is protected) were not at the highest security level. In parallel, every router at home that is connected to a company can, in the worst case, give access to a complete company network.

It is important that the responsible CEO and CIO realise that when they say digitisation, they must also always say I.T. security. Those who forego this could otherwise negligently put their company's earnings and the company itself at risk.


Trend No. 4: 5G Networks

The next big thing will be mobile internet connectivity, the 5G network. Nearly 10 years of development has resulted in a technically stable network that is just waiting to be realised. It offers transmission speeds that are unprecedented and far surpass the previous 4G standard. The transmission rate is also faster than any broadband network that is currently available (in large parts), since a transmission rate in gigabytes per second can be assumed.

This capability will completely revolutionise technology and the use of smart devices. 5G will ensure that applications that previously had to be done on computers can now be done in small smart devices. This will make it possible to realise applications that require complex calculations and a large data stream. This includes more and more autonomous vehicles - (it doesn't always have to be cars, but also industrial trucks and autonomous logistics).
Network coverage is currently not yet sufficient to satisfy all requirements. Using and setting up your own 5G networks on your own company premises will trigger a surge in automation. Communication with machines to control plants, for preventive maintenance and much more will become possible in almost real time with a data volume that was previously unimaginable.


What Can we Expect in the Future with 5G?

By 2024, 40% of the globe will be covered by 5G networks. This will cover 25% of global mobile data traffic. In the process, a 5G network can serve millions of devices per square kilometre. The improvement over the previous 4G networks is great, as this network can only support several thousand devices.
These 5G applications will enable companies to offer completely new services and customer processes if you engage with them.


Trend No. 5: Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality immerses the user in an artificial environment. This creates the feeling of being in another reality by stimulating his senses (hearing and seeing). The basic features of VR originated in the gaming scene, where Facebook with Oculus and PlayStation with its VR are the market leaders.

More and more, however, applications are developing away from the gaming scene. Museums and theme parks are now using this technology for entertainment and education.

Virtual reality is now widely used for training, qualification and simulation. Areas of application are aviation, machine operation, medical technology for surgery. In the meantime, these techniques are also being used for training in the naval sector.
Wherever the cost of training is extremely expensive due to the use of real equipment, this VR technology is a good choice. The cost per flight hour in a VR simulator is low compared to a training flight on a real Airbus, no matter which model is flown.

VR applications are still gaining momentum

One stumbling block is the current (clunky) devices such as VR goggles. Good hardware is usually still very expensive, and users are often tied to a specific location. When simple stand-alone headsets and glasses are used, the graphic experience is usually not yet at the necessary level. However, all this will change very quickly and will be cost-effective and, in many cases, location-independent.
Applications in building construction are only just emerging, as not very many planners and construction companies are yet providing the necessary data within the framework of BIM initiatives (Building Information Modelling) to really be able to walk around in a building. However, big steps forward are currently taking place here.

Applications in mechanical engineering (the digital twin) are already further advanced. The reason for this is also the longer experience horizon of CAD developers with 3D skills and simulations. Machine behaviour, stability calculations and the operation of the digital twin can be tested before the first part of a machine is produced. Applications for the maintenance of entire plants anywhere in the world can be monitored simultaneously in the service centre, thus directly supporting the service employee on site.


Trend No. 6: Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality is usually confused with virtual reality. They are similar in certain respects, but still fundamentally different at the core. AR extends a real view with digital images.

It is usually an application (APP) that works on a smartphone with a built-in camera. A digital image is superimposed on a real image taken by the camera. At present, the applications are still such that it is recognisable when an artificial image is superimposed on reality. In part, this is intentional and necessary to guide the user. The origin of this technology also comes from the gaming scene, Snapchat or Pokemon Go were first movers of these applications.

In consumer use, one of the best-known augmented reality applications is the app from IKEA, where users can record their home with their mobile phone camera and add their furniture from a library. This makes it possible to virtually design a home without having to order this furniture first, but still get an idea of how the home can be designed through the furnishings.

AR is now also used in advanced navigation systems in vehicles. This makes it possible to to fade real-time views into the route and display the road. Even motorbike helmet manufacturers are now experimenting with AR applications to project displays onto the visor of the helmet that are important to the rider, including: speed, danger messages or a map of the road. There are no limits to the ideas.
In the medical field, applications are used to provide surgeons with information in 3D to support them during difficult operations.


Trend No. 7: Chatbots

In our view, the ancestor of chatbots was the telephone system with announcement text.
If you want this, press 1, if you want that, press 2. Who doesn't know these (annoying) announcements? In the meantime, these announcement services have had successors. Chatbots that pop up on many websites like annoying and intrusive speech bubbles.

Nevertheless, due to the constant improvement of machine learning, chatbots have become extremely popular. Their use has also gained in simplicity. Combined with Natural Language Processing (NLP), responsive and better conversational agents could be created. Thus, chatbots are on their way to becoming the most popular SMB (server message block) technology trends.

 

What is the Job of a Chatbot?

A chatbot is actually a program whose main task is to simulate a conversation with a human. The applications of chatbots is no longer new, but already at an advanced stage. It has reached market maturity. There are now voices demanding labelling when a user is in a communication with a machine and not talking to a real human.
That is how perfected some algorithms are. The growth prospects for the use of chatbots are predicted to be excellent.

Through the application of AI elements, chatbots today are also becoming more and more AI-controlled and thus more human-like in their applications. Therefore, they are preferred especially in initial communication or in customer service. The use of voice control via loudspeaker and microphone creates a voice experience for the user in order to provide him with an answer to his questions, possibly without human intervention. The goal of using chatbots is to reduce the human effort in the initial contact. The main use of chatbots is currently seen in customer service.


What are the Challenges of Using Chatbots?

The development of chatbots is directly related to the capabilities of natural language control. The interpretation of text entered into a bot is naturally part of this development and can still set limits to an application today.

Inadequate responses, misinterpretations or incorrect answers can frustrate users or limit their use.

The development of chatbots with complex capabilities is not free. But the predicted developments for the use of chatbots point to a positive future. It is assumed that in a short time about 80% of all customer service requests will be handled by chatbots.

In surveys, it was found that the use of chatbots had a 24/7 effect on:

approx. 60% of the respondents allow 24/7 service

approx. 55% find an immediate answer by a bot positive

approx. 50% find a chatbot more practical than a website for solving problems.


Trend No. 8: BlockChain

In the true sense of the word, the blockchain is just a string of data to which something can only ever be added without the previous blocks being changed.

The security attributed to the blockchain arises from the fact that previous data cannot be changed. This is the central hook of the blockchain.
Blockchain technology can be used in the context of IoT device security. In the financial industry, blockchains are used to secure transactions. When buying real estate, they can be used to save costs and provide transparency.

The connection between blockchain and cryptocurrencies is obvious. The best-known cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Ripple, Tether and Euthereum.
In the meantime, even the European Central Bank (ECB) is considering whether it makes sense to launch the generation of its own cryptocurrency. Initial tests are to run until mid-2021, after which the ECB will decide on a digital euro project.

A positive decision by the ECB would certainly give this trend a push. Currently, we at Dreher Consulting are attentive observers on the topic of blockchain and will certainly address this topic again at Trend 2022.

 

The I.T. Landscape is Subject to Constant Change

The technology trends for 2021 and beyond have carried the momentum of the last few years. With the forced digital transformation, in tow of the Covid 19 issue, companies were ready to look at digital business processes.

It is important to note that digitising an analogue process is not digitisation.
Digitisation and digital transformation go hand in hand with customer orientation and customer-centric processes that may not yet exist or existing customer processes can be improved. From this, new value-adding processes can be generated and competitiveness improved.

Regardless of this, there will still be enough voices urging restraint or who see no need for change in the current business model. Some technologies are also not yet in a stable, mature stage. Nevertheless, a lot of potential is seen in these techniques. According to our analysis, these definitely include applications of 5G network technology, virtual reality and the use of AI elements and chatbots.

We can definitely draw the conclusion that the train of I.T. trends is unstoppable. Check for yourself and your company which trends are important for increasing your market share and take advantage of the opportunities to implement them.
It would be a pity if you, of all people, were not on the train and would soon regret it.

If you have any questions about the individual trends or would like to share comments from your experience, please let me know or simply contact me. I look forward to your comments.

 

 

Für Fragen oder Anregungen nutzen Sie den Kontaktbutton und sprechen Sie direkt mit mir. Book an obligation free 30-minute consultation now
Kontaktieren
We hope you find this publication useful. If you have any further questions on this topic, we look forward to hearing from you." - Dr Harald Dreher