2020 was the year that changed everything. We now live in the “new normal.” There’s no going back — only moving forward. According to the IEEE, 52% of CTOs/CIOs see their biggest challenge in 2021 as recovering business operations from the effects of COVID-19 in 2020. This includes making hybrid work models permanent, reopening offices/facilities, and adjusting business operations.
The question is what technologies do we need to make the new normal work for us? The consensus is in. Industry thought leaders, such as Gartner, Forrester, IEEE, and CompTIA, surveyed CIOs, CTOs, and other IT professionals, on what the most influential technologies of 2021 will be. They are, in no particular order, 5G, IoT, AI, and the Cloud. To give you an idea of what to expect in 2021, take a look at these prognostications from industry gurus.
5G is key to the adoption and proliferation of many of the most important technologies of 2021 — and for many years to come. With 5G as the underlying foundation, the full potential of these technologies can be realized.
In 2021, Forrester predicts that to meet the demands of edge computing, companies will develop private 5G networks to fill in the gaps left by the major telecom networks. These 5G networks will enable the greater use of other top technologies, such as IoT and AI, for factory floor automation, quality assurance, remote monitoring, maintenance, surveillance, and employee/guest safety.
An IEEE study found that 52% of respondents have accelerated 5G adoption as a result of the pandemic and that 20% of respondents consider it the most important technology for 2021.
CompTIA found, that while there is a tremendous buzz surrounding 5G, more applications need to be built to support 5G to realize its full potential. Gartner did not specifically call out 5G, but the company did cite several technologies that will be affected by 5G, such as AI, Cloud, and IoT.
The IEEE reports that that 42% of respondents are accelerating the adoption of IoT technologies due to the pandemic and 14% cited IoT as the most important technology of 2021.
Rather than call out IoT as a standalone technology, CompTIA references increased IoT adoption as a strategic component in the implementation of other solutions, such as property management and business operations. The same can be said for AI technologies.
Gartner references IoT in terms of how this technology is being extended to people and is known as the Internet of Behavior (IoB). Instead of directing “things” to respond to the action of people, human behaviors will be monitored through technologies, such as facial recognition, location tracking, and big data. Gartner predicts that by 2023, IoB will touch 40% of people worldwide.
According to Forrester, 2021 will be the year that up and coming technologies, such as AI (and 5G) will take center stage in terms of real-world applications, particularly at the edge instead of in the data center.
The IEEE reports that 32% of respondents cited AI (and machine learning) as the most important technology of 2021 and that 51% have accelerated AI development and implementation.
As noted earlier, CompTIA regards AI as a component in the implementation of other strategic solutions.
Gartner forecasts that by 2023, AI will reduce physical barriers tripling the number of people with disabilities in the workforce. Gartner also predicts that an association for the oversight of AI will be established and recognizes the increasing demand for and importance of AI engineering.
Forrester predicts increased demand in cloud-like solutions for edge computing and content delivery. It also forecasts a decline in the growth of the public cloud market from 42% in 2018 to 24% in 2022.
On the other hand, the IEEE reports that 55% of surveyed CIOs and CTOs have sped up the adoption of cloud computing due to the urgency of the pandemic. This momentum is expected through 2021 and beyond.
CompTIA is crowning cloud as king for 2021 as it has gained critical importance in the execution of IT strategies over the past few years. Companies are now adopting a cloud-first strategy and leveraging the benefits of the cloud before investing in managed or on-premises solutions.
Gartner predicts that by 2025, most cloud service platforms will provide at least some distributed cloud services that begin at the point of need.
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Vigliarolo, Brandon. 5 edge computing predictions for 2021. TechRepublic. October 27, 2020;
Shein, Esther. AI, 5G, and IoT top the list of the most important technologies for 2021. TechRepublic, December 1, 2020;
Maddox, Teena. Top tech trends for 2021: Gartner predicts hyperautomation, AI and more will dominate business technology. TechRepublic. October 19, 2020;
Maddox, Teena. Gartner's top 10 strategic predictions for "resetting everything" in 2021 and beyond. TechRepublic, October 21, 2020;
Maddox, Teena. Top tech trends for 2021: Gartner predicts hyperautomation, AI and more will dominate business technology; Tech Republic, October 19, 2020;
IT Industry Outlook, 2021 Rebuilding for the Future; CompTIA, November 2020;