The Future of IT in a New Covid-19 Reality: 5 Technology Trends

In this article we are going to outline the increasing tech trends for 2020 and look at how they can influence business and our lives. We will also review the instruments (tech skills and tools) which may be handy in adapting to these uprising trends. During the recent months, the humankind has been fighting the outbreak of COVID-19. Thus, we should keep in mind that it will inevitably make a visible impact on the development of tech trends.

Business and IT are tightly interrelated and to a decent point, each and every company is a technology company. In running day-to-day operations most organizations rely on digital technologies. Therefore, to stay competitive on the marketplace companies should integrate the emerging technologies with their business strategies and outline which technologies can be a source of business innovation. As a result of the economical crisis caused by the pandemic, the investment would be focused on reliable and well-known technologies. Supposedly, as a consequence of a lockdown, a number of employees would like to continue working remotely. It will encourage the growth of the technologies optimizing remote work. So, let’s take a closer look at tech trends of 2020, as they have a significant effect on informational technologies.

In multiple lists of technology trends for this year you’ll find Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous driving, Extended Reality, cloud computing, quantum computing, Artificial intelligence as a service (AIaaS – service for companies that are unwilling or incapable to build their own clouds and maintain their own artificial intelligence systems), personal profiling /consumer analytics, personalized and predictive medicine, blockchain technology, cybersecurity, cryptocurrency, reskilling human workforce, and 5G Network. Some of the strategic technology trends even may be divided into the following groups – People-Centric (Hyperautomation, Multiexperience, Democratization, Human Augmentation, Transparency and Traceability) and Smart Spaces trends (Empowered Edge, Distributed Cloud, Autonomous things, Practical Blockchain, AI Security) (according to Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo).

We have chosen the trends, that are the most frequent in media and are likely to shape the technology landscape in 2020, so we’re going to focus on:

1. Artificial Inteligence

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not all that new for the information technology sphere, and it’s still increasing its impact. Generally, AI refers to the usage of algorithms to solve specific tasks by studying large amounts of data to make generalizations and/or some statistic estimations. These algorithms enable a computer to “behave” just like a human brain. AI technologies are already used by 77% of consumers, daily appear new applications. According to PwC analytics, one of the leading consulting companies, by 2030 AI Products will contribute more than $15.7 trillion to the global economy. A number of technological innovations such as data processing, and face and speech recognition have become possible due to AI.

AI software is a vast area to which one can include AI platforms, chatbots, machine learning (algorithm category consisting of various libraries and frameworks) and deep learning (using artificial neuron networks), and analytics tasks for financial services. It’s expected that in 2020 more tailored applications and services for specific or specialized tasks will be offered.

Acceptance of AI chatbots by service is growing in such areas as online retail, healthcare, telecommunications, banking, financial advice, insurance, dealership and government. One of the chatbots’ specific purposes for business is automation, which also makes jobs simpler for employees (but won’t cause job shortening as it’s sometimes considered). Within AI trend can be outlined embedded AI and Machine learning as a service (AIaaS and MLaaS) sub-trends, which include such types as bots and digital assistance, cognitive computing APIs, machine learning frameworks, and fully-managed machine learning services. As-a-service platforms will be used for the creation of AI applications because of the high cost of AI-based systems. They will enable feeding in our own data and paying for the algorithms or compute resources as we use them. Among well-known AIaaS are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Cloud.

Under conditions of COVID-19 spreading all over the world, AI may contribute to the forecasting of consumers’ wishes, which became hardly predictable, and to help businesses organize effective logistics. Chatbots may provide clients’ support 24/7, one of the ‘must-have’ during the lockdown. The popularity of machine learning may grow due to the necessity of the improvement of algorithm-moderators of posts and visual content in social networks (which sometimes block reliable sources of information about coronavirus and don’t detect fakes).

AI may be included to long-lasting trends due to its efficiency, amazing speed and accuracy, less inclined to make errors in comparison with a human, as well as the ability to work 24/7 in dangerous and risky situations. It also has some threats, such as cost, restriction because of the code limits, and machine dependency.

2. Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) devices enable internet connection beyond computers and smartphones with the possibility of remotely control. They are integrated with various sensors, inbuilt technologies, and functional software. IoT devices are mostly parts of smart homes, wearable technologies, safety monitoring and waste management in smart cities. This technology will enable us to predict and treat health issues in people even before any symptoms appear. What is more, much more personalized approaches concerning prescribing medicines and applying treatments will appear ( also referred to as precision medicine).

In 2019 there were about 26 billion IoT devices and it’s estimated by that their number will increase to 30.73 billion in 2020 and to 75.44 billion in 2025. The market value is about $ 150 billion with estimated 15 IoT devices for a person in the US by 2030.

IoT also fuels edge computing, thus data storage and computation become closer to the businesses, enabling saves in bandwidth and shortage of response times.
IoT will transform the user experience profoundly, providing opportunities that weren’t possible before. Gaining this experience may be forced by the pandemic, when people are spending almost all their time at home. IoT devices, that make life quality better and daily life more comfortable can become quite trendy. Telemedicine and IoT devices helping to monitor people’s health indicators may increase their popularity.

Some of the key threats of this trend are security, absence of international compatibility standard, and possible reduction of the employment of manual tasks. At the same time, IoT provides good control and automation, saves money and time, and may provide a better quality of life.

The best examples of IoT based applications are the following: IoT sensors, data analytics, tracking and monitoring system, connected factory, smart supply chain management, smart barcode readers, smart grids, connected healthcare systems, and smart farming.

3. Cybersecurity

Together with the evolvement of new technologies and the growth of a number of devices, the amount of possible cyber threats continually increases. Usually, the main goal of cyberattacks is accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information, and extorting money from users or interrupting normal business processes. These attacks are ceaseless with growth in their frequency and sophistication. Protection of computers, networks and clouds is commonly provided by the means of next-generation firewalls, DNS filtering, malware protection, antivirus software, and email security solutions.

Cybersecurity is one of the key trends for organizations, whose business processes are based on data-driven technologies. Much more attention is being paid to privacy and data protection since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDRP) has been signed. The latest cybersecurity threats are phishing, ransomware, cryptojacking, cyber-physical attacks, state-sponsored attacks, and IoT attacks. Data breaches are the biggest cybersecurity concern, and trading personal data remains quite lucrative at the black market. According to the report of cybersecurity unit ElevenPaths of the multinational communications company Telefonica, in 2020, such main technologies as Ransomware attacks, Cloud Computing, Machine Learning, Phishing attacks, Open Banking and Mobile Malware, 5G will be related to cyberattacks.

One of the ways to provide security, especially for IoT devices is blockchain. This technology was initially launched for storage and sending the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Blockchains are distributed networks that can be used by millions of users throughout the world. Data is managed by a cluster of computers not owned by any single entity, thus data can be only added, not changed or copied. All data is secured through cryptography. During 2019 FedEx, IBM, Walmart, and Mastercard continued investment in blockchain and it is likely to start to show real-world results, encouraging its adoption.

On these days, when thousands of people are forced to work remotely, volumes of private data may become totally vulnerable or at least not protected in a proper way. This emerging issue may give another impetus to the development of this technology. Cybersecurity may also be applied in crowdfunding, governance, supply chain auditing, file storage, prediction markets, protection of intellectual property, IoT, neighborhood microgrids, and stock trading.

4. Extended Reailty

Extended Reality (XR) technologies aren’t groundbreaking at this point, but since recently they are actively adopted in entertainment to create more immersive digital experiences (Snapchat filters, Pokemon Go-style games). XR most commonly includes virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.

Virtual reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment using headsets that blend out the real world, instead of watching on a display, immersing a person in a digital 3D environment. Unlike VR, augmented reality (AR) overlays digital objects onto the real world via smartphone screens or displays, it does not create the whole artificial environments to replace real with a virtual one. Mixed reality (MR) is an extension of AR, which means users can interact with digital objects placed in the real world (think playing a holographic piano that you have placed into your room via an AR headset).

The influence of virtual and augmented reality will grow in training and simulation, as well as offering new ways to interact with customers, providing new shopping experience (especially during the lockdown, when thousands of people are shopping online). In 2020, the workplace will become smaller with the growth of virtual collaboration tools (Slack, Zoom), which began replacing the need for costly office space. AR and VR in 2020, however, will bring workers virtually into the physical space.

5. 5G Network

5G is acknowledged as the future of communication and the cutting edge for the entire mobile industry. According to a Huawei Technology vision, deployment of 5G networks will emerge between 2020 and 2030, making possible zero-distance connectivity between people and connected machines. This type of mobile internet connectivity will provide us super-fast download and upload speeds (five times faster than 4G capabilities) as well as more stable connections.

While 5G mobile data networks became available for the first time in 2019, they were mostly still expensive and limited to functioning in confined areas or major cities. It is likely 5G will have more affordable data plans and greatly improved coverage. It may become more usable even than the wired networks running into our homes and businesses. The increased bandwidth will give possibilities for growth in the area of the IoT and smart machinery enabling collection and transfer huge volumes of data. During the pandemic, when people are staying home, access to 5G mobile internet may become a vital necessity in regions with no internet connection or low coverage.

As you may have noticed, tech trends will not develop separately, but in a synergic way. Development of 5G and edge computing will provide growth of computing power and become a basement for the new-generation IoT platforms. The Integration of blockchain technology with AI, big data, IoT, and edge computing, will contribute to resolving issues concerning the online and offline mapping of data and assets. The growth of quantum computing will add vitality to AI and cloud computing. A combination of AI and IoT will result in artificial intelligence of things (AIoT). This will enable IoT devices to analyse data, make decisions and act on that data without human involvement. This combo may contribute do the development of applications for smart retail, drone traffic monitoring, smart office buildings, fleet management, autonomous driving, and autonomous delivery robots.

These were the most promising of the tech trends in our opinion. But upcoming trends demand tools for implementation, as well as human resources also need to be reskilled, and, as we have promised at the beginning of the article, we are going to look at them more closely.

The first column demonstrates technical skills whose popularity increased from 2016 to 2019 according to the Udemy research. They mostly represent AI, Cybersecurity, and Cloud computing areas. The second and third columns represent the most popular and emerging technology skills for 2020. The lists point to the high demand for expertise in Machine Learning, Cloud computing, the backend programming language, and various frontend frameworks. By looking at the common points we note, that AI and Cloud computing don’t lose their popularity. So, we can see which tool may contribute to the evolvement of tech trends this year.

Thus, seeing the appearing tech trends, which are tightly interrelated, the businesses can adjust their strategies to reality, anticipate the needs of society and suggest solutions to the upcoming problems taking into account the circumstances that we all live and work under today.