It’s always fun to think about the future and wonder if next year will be the year when we start to see everything we’ve dreamed of coming true. Unfortunately, 2020 has seen more nightmares than dreams, mostly because of the global coronavirus pandemic. But if you want a more optimistic perspective: Because everyone is going through this together, we now have a shared experience that might help us move closer together in the future.
My predictions for 2021 are focused primarily on positive technology developments that are still to come in the new year and beyond.
After better healthcare and education, nothing will change the world for the better like more reliable and faster connectivity. Millions of miles of fiber optic cable have been laid worldwide, but this has mostly helped people in larger cities. With top providers like HughesNet and Viasat — and future providers OneWeb, Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper — investing so much money, the competition will help increase availability, lower cost and eliminate data caps.
Data security has been an issue for decades or even longer. Now that we are all connected and everything is online, cybercriminals worldwide are trying to break into everything you own. More system workloads have moved online, and vast numbers of people work from remote locations. Nearly everything we buy is connected to the internet. From doorbells to refrigerators to spam emails, criminals will continue to look for the weakest link to steal your data.
Now that the fear of using cloud-based SaaS solutions has mostly subsided, I believe we will see all enterprise systems move to a SaaS model. Most understand that you immediately realize better functionality and security. When using SaaS applications, your systems and data are more secure, and integration with other SaaS-based enterprise systems is more straightforward.
Since I ran a cloud hosting provider back in 2012, I’ve said that cloud hosting will become a commodity. In 2021, I think we will see most pricing models move to consumption rather than prepurchased monthly hosting charges. Consumption-based billing will be better for businesses and their customers as compute, storage, memory and network resources are seamlessly added and removed as needs dynamically change.
When I entered the workforce in the early 1990s and purchased my first BlackBerry, Motorola flip phone and IBM laptop, I started the maddening battery management journey. While chips have continued to evolve to provide more compute and power efficiency at a reduced price, battery technology has been at a standstill. Even though we’ve seen amazing innovation on the scientific front, no one has brought commercially viable battery technology to the market — but that will change in 2021. The potential market is enormous, and there are endless areas to innovate. From longer-lasting batteries to shorter and even wireless charging capabilities to more eco-friendly components, we will see some significant developments come to market.
As we know, quantum computing has made great strides over the past several years. In 2021, I believe we will see the continued evolution of quantum computing and a considerable leap in the capability to program our new computing engines. With more innovation around quantum computer coding languages and better integration to our more traditional high-performance computing systems, we will see more practical problems solved with quantum computing.
As a result of Covid-19 and shopping from home, there is nothing that you cannot get delivered straight to your door. To continue to provide just-in-time delivery to the home, companies like Amazon, Google, UPS and FedEx are working hard to have the fastest and cheapest delivery service. To make this happen, we could start to see a rapid increase in drone deliveries next year. From rural homes to city rooftops, drone delivery will begin to become a part of life.
AI in Performance Management
Everyone agrees that the rapid evolution of AI is here. With the changing of all working relations and everyone working from remote locations, we will see an increase in AI-based performance management tools, which will help us be more efficient. Like sleeping apps that help track your different sleep levels, AI-based performance management tools will help everyone become more focused and productive workers, enabling them to do more in less time.
We have seen material costs decrease, cheaper installation methods and more efficient use of silicon solar cells. Even though we will not see giant leaps in solar technology in 2021, I believe we will see global efforts to reduce taxes, fees and other barriers that will facilitate the adoption of solar technology, further reducing solar prices.
As with an increase in cybersecurity threats, we will see advanced deepfakes used with malicious intent. We all enjoy the advanced innovation around CGI (computer-generated imagery). Still, now that computers are faster and more powerful and CGI systems can run at minimal costs, we will start to see deepfake content used to spread false information. We’ve all received fraudulent emails asking for login credentials. The year 2021 will bring deepfake phone calls and video messages, taking cyber risks to an entirely new level. We will also see the use of more advanced anti-fraud detection in our daily digital communication. At least we do not yet have to worry about a Skynet T-5000 impersonating us!
As with all innovation, “We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short term but underestimate what we can achieve in the long term,” as the adage goes. We can use innovation to help raise the quality of living for generations to come. Like Thomas Edison said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” Most of us are looking forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror and are excited to see what 2021 has in store for us as we all work together to accomplish everything we are capable of.