Digital transformation is undoubtedly one of the hottest topics that deserve the most attention around the world. 2020 and the global pandemic we are currently experiencing have certainly changed the course and development of this topic in every part of the world: while on the one hand there has been a benefit dictated by the need to accelerate its implementation, on the other hand there has been a shift towards more urgent needs. How and to what extent the pandemic will modify the “natural” path of digitalization growth, only time will tell. In the meantime, Forbes magazine, through Daniel Newman, has estimated a forecast of the top 10 trends on this topic.
1 – 5G will take center stage
Today, companies can’t afford to be disconnected, and 5G deployments have become a vital part of the solution. As we collectively continue to work and run school from our homes, the value of 5G will become increasingly mainstream in 2021. Although the pandemic initially halted work on new 5G network deployments earlier this year, those efforts have resumed, and large markets like China are already on track to meet their 2020 deployment targets. Meanwhile, every major handset manufacturer in the world – from Samsung and Apple to Xiaomi and Motorola – is already releasing 5G phones in virtually every price range.
2 – Customer Data Platforms increasingly a major player
Fragmented data from multiple sources can be notoriously difficult to organize, which is obviously not ideal for companies that rely on timely, well-curated data to operate optimally. IBM estimates that so-called “bad data” already costs U.S. companies about $3 trillion a year, so addressing this challenge has become a priority for organizations of all sizes. CDPs help solve this problem by collecting data from all available sources, organizing it, labeling it and making it usable for anyone who needs to access it.
3 – Hybrid cloud is taking over
Enterprises are increasingly moving toward hybrid cloud infrastructure. Over the past year, there has been a major investment in hybrid by large public cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, Google, IBM and Oracle. Addressing the challenges of exponential data growth while also being proactive on issues such as privacy, security and compliance. The modernized approach to hybrid cloud is expanding from traditional IT to support industrial applications as well. The widespread and sudden outages caused by the coronavirus highlighted the value of having the most agile and adaptable cloud infrastructure possible, to enable faster change during times of uncertainty and disruption as we faced in 2020.
4 – Cybersecurity
With the pandemic, cybersecurity has once again become very relevant. Hackers have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to expand their attack campaigns against businesses around the world. A 238% increase in attacks on banks and a 600% increase in attacks on cloud servers was observed from January to April 2020 alone. With fewer employees working onsite on the same secure network, it’s imperative that companies shore up their networks and update their cybersecurity strategies, and expand them to home networks and mobile devices working from home. AI and Machine Learning will be important in this context, as we will see the continued increase in attempts at nefarious activities requiring more sophisticated tools.
5 – Privacy and confidential computing catch on
Another approach to strengthen cybersecurity, particularly when addressing communications and data privacy, is confidential computing. The idea of confidential computing is to encrypt the entire computing process, not just data, creating additional layers of security around sensitive information. Google, Microsoft, IBM, Alibaba and VMware are helping to develop new protocols and best practices through the Confidential Computing Consortium. The technology is still in a state of relative infancy, but we should start to see confidential computing slide into the mainstream in 2021.
6 – “Headless tech” disrupts industries and reshapes commerce
“Headless tech” means that companies are now able to separate their front-end presentation layer from their back-end data functionality to create personalized shopping experiences. This can be as simple as telling your Amazon Alexa to restock your favorite coffee or being able to make instant purchases from social media. So why is this so important? In short, people are doing much more of this type of commerce.
7 – Work from home as normality
Even as economies slowly reopen and employees are finally allowed to return to work, companies will continue to be tasked with protecting employees from possible outbreaks. Many large tech companies like Google and Facebook have already extended their work-from-home policies through or for parts of 2021. Smaller companies are also keeping this newfound flexibility as an operational option. Part of what has made this possible has been the rapid deployment and development of smart work-from-home technologies. Now that companies have better equipped employees with tools and technologies to be more productive despite physical distance, we will see residuals of this for the next few years at least, and perhaps beyond, as this trend already had pre-2020 momentum. Another unintended consequence of this will be population migration. As more and more people work from home and are enabled to do so on an ongoing basis, we will likely see migration away from large cities to more cost of living friendly locations.
8 – Artificial Intelligence Increasingly Used
In order to create a faster solution in an effort to stop the increasing spread of Covid-19, companies, governments and other agencies found themselves having to work together. Data, AI and machine learning were the tools they naturally turned to. The work that was started in 2020 will continue in 2021, and will likely expand to a wide range of pressing opportunities that these types of groups are now uniquely equipped to address, such as solving global and market problems faster, better and at scale. The proliferation of AI will impact our lives from how we shop for groceries, to what we eat, how we hire and what we do for entertainment. It will be powered by masses of data using powerful computing capabilities.
9 – Device form factors get interesting again
Customers want devices that are lighter, smaller, more connected than before, but also versatile. Instead of carrying multiple devices, users are increasingly interested in hybrid devices like the Microsoft Surface Duo and Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 that can double as phones or tablets, and can fold and unfold as needed. The year 2021 will see the return of foldable smartphones, only these will be able to provide the same high quality and connectivity as non-folding phones. In addition to fitting more comfortably in a pocket, the idea is also to allow phone form factors to unfold into small tablets when a user needs a larger screen, and then fold into a smaller form factor for storage or basic phone use.
10 – The quantum
Quantum computing has been at the forefront of pandemic efforts to manage the spread of the disease, as well as the development of therapies and possible vaccines. We’ll likely see more use cases in other industries as people realize the power quantum computing has to offer: the ability to easily query, monitor, analyze and act on data at scale, from any source, at any time.