In a span of 59 years, our computing power has improved one trillion times. Space, military, and industrial research contributed to paradigm shifts. Meanwhile, unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic forced selective adoption at scale. The cycle flows at divergent paths. As a result, IT trends are getting harder to keep up with.
This article covers the latest information technology trends in 2021 and 2022, including the Internet of Things, virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. It will take into account the effects of the pandemic and how organizations responded to it.
Top IT Trends Table of Contents
Laying down the groundworks
According to Moore’s Law, the processing speed of computers doubles every 18 months. More than that, computing power served as the core engine that spawned modern industries, from telecommunications, mobile phones, manufacturing, internet, services industry, and the whole Industry 4.0 package—artificial intelligence, machine learning, 5G, IoT, bots, and RPA, among others (TWI Global).
Source: IDC, Statista 2020
Combining for a global market value of $5 trillion by 2021, these industries account for the bulk of the world’s economic output (Statista, 2020). Months before 2020, leaders of these industries were looking to present their report portfolios and their visions for the future ahead.
Then the pandemic struck, creating a whirlwind affair of lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing rules, and strict sanitation guidelines.
While industries coped with the pandemic with varying degrees of success, the agreed solution is to speed up digital transformation, which encompasses all the core information technologies. How’s that supposed to shape up?
To answer that, we’ve updated our IT trends and predictions to give you a clear picture of how the whole pandemic will impact these industries in the short and long term.
1. Accelerated Digital Transformation
It’s not that industries were ignoring digital transformation before the pandemic. However, they were deploying it at their own pace. In many cases, it meant prioritizing specific processes and functions.
When lockdowns sent workers to their homes, organizations were forced to shape up quickly or shut down. The ones that chose the former had to plunge ahead, installing Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and others to facilitate communications and manage work at home.
Perhaps nothing better encapsulates the onrush of digital transformation activities during the pandemic than what happened at Zoom during the episode.
At the end of December 2019, the maximum number of daily meeting participants on its platforms, both free and paid, stood at around 10 million. At around April, that number had swelled to 300 million (Engadget, 2020). The massive explosion of users created substantial logistical problems for the company. It is not every day that we can hear a company bemoan the sudden deluge of customers, but Zoom gave us that opportunity for posterity. In the end, it did manage well to handle the upsurge in clients.
It paid off quite handsomely too. In 2019 when Zoom went public, it traded at $68 around January. Around February 2021, it was trading at $361 for a gain of 531%.
While it’s still an open question how Zoom’s fate will pan out post-pandemic, there is no strong reason to assume that it is not ready for the opening of the global economy.
In order to keep up with the pandemic, organizations had to shift funds from other initiatives and invest those in crucial digitalization campaigns. The result is that even with the pandemic, direct digital transformation (DX) is on target to reach $6.8 trillion by 2023, at a healthy CAGR of 15.5% from 2020 to 2023 (IDC, 2020). Finally, IDC predicts that 70% of all organizations will have accelerated use of digital technologies in areas of business resiliency, employee productivity, and customer engagement.
Accelerated digital transformation highlights:
- The IT industry is poised to accelerate digital transformation.
- The focus of digital transformation will be in areas of business resiliency, employee productivity, and customer engagement.
- In many ways, Zoom exemplified digital transformation during the pandemic
- Despite the pandemic, digital transformation showed strong performance as companies focused funds on digital transformation initiatives.
2. Ubiquitous Artificial Intelligence
Straight from the pandemic and into 2030, artificial intelligence is projected to contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy, representing 26% of global GDP for the same period (World Economic Forum, 2020). How is a projection of value contribution so massive?
The answer is that from the first AI program in the 1950s, it has since found application in every facet of human activity and industry, from consumer to industrial hardware and software. People are exposed to artificial intelligence on a daily basis, a testament to its wide range of applications.
It’s present in home appliances, on phones, in hospitals, agriculture, military, government, and the list goes on. AI has also become the basis for tons of technological innovations such as face recognition, data processing, speech recognition, etc. Furthermore, the technology can also be used for business front such as AI-powered customer service.
However, as many benefits as it brings, there’s still a lot of controversies revolving around the field. Robots uprising is perhaps the most popular concern regarding the advancement of AI technologies.
But there are more pressing issues than that such as the dissolution of many jobs. To address this concern, the World Economic Forum introduced two landmark studies on the effect of AI on jobs. The first one saw a positive gain, while the second one that accounted for the pandemic showed more of the same: across 26 countries in 2025, 85 million jobs will be displaced while 97 million new jobs will be created (World Economic Forum, 2020).
In particular, automation will create new jobs and welcome various existing professions into its space. These include developers, testers, programmers, tech specialists, etc. A degree of retraining might be required for some people but it’s better than completely displacing them.
What are the advantages of AI?
- Efficient. AI-powered machines and applications are capable of processing data at an amazing speed and accuracy. Thus, a task that would require an expert to do in a few hours can be done within seconds. And the result would be just as accurate, if not better.
- Less prone to errors. Human error is one of the most commonplace types of errors and AI solutions don’t suffer from such. They don’t experience lapses in focus, fatigue, stress, and other issues that would lead to simple mistakes. They don’t have emotions too so everything they do is based on logic.
- Able to work 24/7. Machines don’t get exhausted and thus, require no rest. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of AI over humans when doing a job. As long as they’re given proper maintenance, they’re good to go for hours straight.
- Can be deployed in risky situations. The human body is fragile, compared to a machine at least. There is a lot of work that is both dangerous and complex. A simple machine won’t know what to do and a person’s survival would be at risk when deployed. The solution: an AI-powered machine made of hardy materials capable of a complex operation.
What are AI’s challenges?
- Expensive. Between the cost of installation, operation, repair, and maintenance, AI technology isn’t exactly the cheapest solution to implement. Those well-funded industries will do fine. The smaller businesses, however, will have to wait for the prices to go significantly down.
- Machine dependency. AI is making our lives easier and thus, our dependency on machine assistance is ever-growing. This will have repercussions over time. Whether it’s our intelligence, our physical fitness, or mental capacity, AI is sure to whittle some of them away.
- Restricted. Sure, AI applications are intelligent, but they are still bound by the parameters of their codes. They don’t have the imagination or creativity of a person and they don’t grow with experience. They’re capable of storing loads of data and can process at light speed. However, in the face of something new, they’re most likely to commit errors or breakdown.
- Job loss. There is no shortage of repetitive and monotonous jobs out there that could be automated. This means displacement for millions of people. If not for the high implementation cost, perhaps a lot of workers today are out of jobs.
Most Popular Artificial Intelligence Software
- Apache PredictionIO. An open-source machine learning software that supports data unification, data infrastructure management, engine variants evaluation and tuning, and real-time queries response. Learn more about it in our Apache PredictionIO review.
- TensorFlow. A symbolic math library for machine learning operations equipped with Jupyter Notebooks, Facets, the TensorBoard, a Debugger, and Transfer Learning. See what else it has to offer in our in-depth TensorFlor review.
- IBM SPSS. A platform offering predictive intelligence to help users gain actionable insights from complex business data. See how its features like predictive models development, and SEM hypothesis testing works in our IBM SPSS review.
- OpenCV. A free-to-use, open-source machine learning and computer vision platform. Read more about its features like multiple interfaces, programming functions library, and community forums here in this OpenCV review.
- sci-kit learn. A free machine learning platform that can help predict consumer behavior. Learn how its features such as dimensionality reduction, regression, and model selection can help you make better predictive analyses in our sci-kit learn review page.
3. Internet of Things
Internet of Things is growing at a ridiculous rate, as evident in this IoT Statistics compilation. As of 2019 alone, there were about 26 billion IoT devices installed around the world.
The pandemic did wipe off around 8.2% of the 14.9% growth forecast that IDC did around November 2019. In specific terms, that translates to $742 billion 2020 global IoT revenue adjusted for the effects of the pandemic (IDC, 2020). However, IDC estimates that global IoT spending will be back on track for a double-digit growth rate in 2021, to mount a CAGR of 11.3% over the 2020 to 2024 forecast period.
Much like AI, IoT is found practically anywhere in the modern world. By 2020, each person had an average of four connected devices and by 2030, we’d have 15 devices each. Thus, it’s no surprise that IoT is the rage among huge businesses.
So far, IoT devices are mostly seen in smart homes in the form of connected lights, smart fridges, etc. Wearable technologies such as smart glass and activity trackers are also very popular applications of IoT technology. Furthermore, traffic and waste management, urban safety monitoring, and water distribution are some of IoT technologies present in smart cities.
Security is the primary concern regarding this field. IoT users will have to face the threat of hacks, data breaches, information leakage, and so on. The problem is that most IoT devices aren’t equipped with security features right out of the box. So to make this technology continually enjoyable, extra steps toward security must be taken.
Source: IDC, 2020
Who are the top IoT companies?
- R-Style Lab
- Magneto IT Solutions
- Eastern Peak
Cybersecurity is old news that never went out of trend, and it is doubted it ever will. New types of cyber threats are being discovered every day. The only things standing between our data and malicious activities are IT security software, antivirus, and other cybersecurity defenses. So long as the internet is used, threats are imminent and, thus the cybersecurity industry will always continue to thrive.
Big businesses might be the ones bracing the most for cyber-attacks but in reality, smaller businesses are at greater risk. That’s because according to Verizon, 61% of data breaches are targeted towards companies with less than a thousand employees. However, the threat doesn’t stop with businesses since practically anyone is exposed to them. Cyber threats come in so many forms and the most common among them is email phishing. So to summarize, everyone who connects to a network is at risk.
While cybersecurity has been a work in progress for decades now, it can still improve a lot. For instance, the average time it takes for a data breach to be detected is half a year. That’s a really long window and it could certainly benefit people and businesses if it gets considerably shorter.
Today new technological advancements in cybersecurity are emerging. For instance, technologies to fight deepfakes and open source vulnerabilities are being developed. There are also advancements in blockchain security, homomorphic encryption, and zero-knowledge proofs.
What are the latest cybersecurity threats?
- Cyber-Physical Attacks
- State-Sponsored Attacks
- IoT Attacks
5. Alternatives to Cloud Computing
Cloud computing was first perceived as a major breakthrough and became the trend. Until it was implemented and it became the norm. While the cloud still means someone else’s computer, it does entail a plethora of benefits. These include reliability, enhanced disaster recovery, cost reduction, and collaboration to name a few. In fact, cloud adoption is a must for small businesses.
However, there are new technologies today in development that might just overthrow the reign of cloud computing. Some address the drawbacks of cloud computing like ongoing costs, security issues, and reliance on the internet. While some simply provide a better way of doing things.
The first in our list of alternatives is edge computing. It’s the practice of bringing data and computation closer to the location where it’s needed. This helps save data bandwidth, increase the response time, and is most useful for IoT devices. Instead of sending data all the way to clouds or data centers, it is processed closer. This helps analyze data in almost real-time.
The next one is fog computing. It’s built to bypass the issue with cloud computing not able to process huge amounts of data in time. With fog computing, every function—storage, analysis, processing—are moved to the edge of the network. This is great for managing data floods in a networked environment.
Another one is named Project Solid, which is an initiative brought by the inventor of the web itself, Tim Berners-Lee. This method provides users with complete control over their data by placing them into a container. The services would then allow users to access the data when signing in. But, they lose it when the user signs out. In essence, it means that you bring your data with you.
Source: Check Point and Cybersecurity Insiders, 2020
Other Cloud Computing alternatives:
- Mesh Networks. A service initiative that aims to provide everyone with the needed bandwidth to process their data at tremendous speed.
- Resilio. A cloud storage service that does not require servers. It follows the principle of torrents where files are divided and shared in tiny pieces among each member.
- LBRY. Combines blockchain technology with the file-sharing property similar to torrents. This is a great way of distributing videos without the complex RDM schemes.
6. 5G Network
5G networks are the next big thing in mobile internet connectivity. After almost a decade of development, it has finally become a reality in some areas. It offers an unprecedented transmission speed that far surpasses its predecessor, 4G. And since we’re talking gigabytes per second transfer rate, 5G is actually faster than virtually any home broadband available.
Although it’s not just a simple, though tremendous, upgrade in speed that 5G brings. It’s also going to make leaps and bounds to the technology of smart devices. What was once only done through computers can now be done in smart devices as well. Furthermore, IoT gadgets will be able to interconnect more smoothly. Also, things that require complex operations are now achievable. This includes drones, autonomous cars, and smart cities.
The biggest drawback of the 5G network is it’s still far from being complete. It’s also available only in certain countries and areas as of now. Moreover, the increase in bandwidth translates into less coverage. That’s because a lot of cells must be built in order to support the network’s ridiculous speed. More signal droppings are to be expected as of now too. There are issues about its capability to penetrate walls and other materials as well.
But the most concerning of them all is that some claim that the network produces radiofrequency radiation. It’s a big health hazard since it can cause cancer, premature aging, DNA damages, disruption of cell metabolism, etc. This is due to the power of the cellular towers that will empower 5G networks. The more powerful the cell phone towers are, the more chance they will emit radiation to the environment.
What does 5g mean for the future?
- By 2024, 5G networks will cover 40% of the globe. This is equal to 25% of worldwide mobile traffic data.
- An average 5G network will support millions of devices per square miles. That’s a big improvement from thousands of devices per square miles that 4G networks support.
- By 2035, 5G will make $12.3 trillion in global economic output. It’ll also support 22 million jobs around the world.
7. Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) immerses the user into an environment. By stimulating their hearing and vision, it makes them feel as if they are experiencing the simulated environment firsthand. The most popular application of Virtual Reality is in gaming, with PlayStation VR and Facebook’s Oculus leading the market.
Aside from games, VR is also used in other forms of entertainment. For instance, some theme parks provide a more immersive experience to their patrons through VR. Some applications aren’t for entertainment alone; AR can also be used for education—edutainment. Examples of this include virtual museums, galleries, discovery centers, and theaters.
Another widespread application of Virtual Reality is training and simulation. This is done in various fields such as in surgery and in aviation for flight simulation. There are VR solutions, such as VirtualShip, that are used to train the US Army, Coast Guard, and Navy.
While there are already good equipment and software for VR, the field hasn’t taken off just yet. While it’s true that it has gained a lot of traction, there are still some issues limiting the immersion experience. For one, most of the good hardware is expensive. Also, at this point, you’re either tethered to a big clunky device or are using lite stand-alone headsets. The former is expensive and limits movement while the latter has lower graphical performance.
Source: Perkins Coie 2020
What are some practical applications of virtual reality?
- PTSD treatment
- Pain management
- Recruitment and training
- Paraplegics therapy
- Workplace collaboration
8. Augmented Reality
Many confuse Augmented Reality (AR) with Virtual Reality. They do have similarities but they are, at their core, different. AR enhances a real-life view with digital images. This is commonly an app that works with camera lenses. Usually, the overlay images blend into reality in a way that users can easily tell them apart. Some of the most popular AR software are Snapchat and the game Pokémon Go.
Many consumers welcome AR because of its numerous real-world applications. For example, IKEA has an app that will let you see how furniture would look like in your room. You can do this by first scanning or taking a picture of your place and then add the furniture’s image. In this way, without having to actually buy and assemble the furniture, you’d see if it fits perfectly with the room.
The AR technology has also been of great help to different sectors. In enhanced navigation systems, AR is used to show routes over a real-time view of the road. Some neurosurgeons use Augmented Reality to project a 3D image of a brain to aid them in surgery. In the military, pilots wear AR helmets to see vital statuses such as their speed and altitude.
As with every technology, AR has some drawbacks associated with it. Perhaps the most popular among them is the blurring of the line between the real and digital world. This became controversial when accidents happened to many people playing Pokémon Go. There are certain privacy concerns as well since AR is based on data collection and redistribution. This means that there’s potential for information leakage and legal issues.
Source: IDC, 2020
Expected revenue of Augmented Reality by 2025 (Lumus Vision)
- Video games – $11.6 billion
- Healthcare – $5.1 billion
- Engineering – $4.7 billion
- Live Events – $4.1 billion
- Video Entertainment – $3.2 billion
- Real Estate – $2.6 billion
- Retail – $1.6 billion
- Military – $1.4 billion
- Education – $7 million
Due to the growth of machine learning, chatbots have become extremely popular among small businesses and huge enterprises alike. Combine that with natural language processing (NLP) and we got ourselves a more responsive, more intelligent, and more human conversational agent. Typically, chatbots are used in customer service. It’s also one of the most popular SMB technological trends of today.
A chatbot is a program whose main function is to simulate conversation with humans. By that definition alone, we could infer that this technology has a certain degree of application. It’s no longer just a novelty and hyped technology but instead, it has reached the stage of maturity. That, however, does not mean that it has no room for growth because it does, a big one even.
Chatbots today are more AI-driven and are becoming human-like. They’re now more suited to chat with customers as representatives of the company. Smart speakers, which deliver voice experience, are also becoming a norm. Chatbots are being steadily adopted by more businesses too. According to IBM, there are 265 billion customer requests recorded that businesses spent $1.3 trillion to deal with (IBM, 2017). A chatbot is a big help in cutting some of those expenditures.
One of the biggest challenges to chatbot development is that it can only be as advanced as NLP is. This conversational software will always be dependent on their part which parses human language. Also, when used as a customer service tool, clients might become frustrated when the answers get repetitive or limiting. To top it off, chatbots with more complex and robust functionalities are quite expensive.
Chatbot insights for the future
- Chatbots will handle 85% of customer interactions
- 50% of big companies will be spending more on chatbots than mobile applications
- Companies will save $8 billion from using chatbot conversations
- The overall global market value of chatbots by 2024 is $1.3 billion
Blockchain, in its most bare form, is data that you can only add to. It’s like creating a link of blocks to form a chain, hence the name. The fact that the previous blocks cannot be altered is the central point of its security. Another main feature of blockchain is that no single entity governs it. The technology is usually related to cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin but it’s more than that.
When it was first introduced, blockchain has attracted a lot of snake-oil salesmen. They’re making use of get-rich-quick schemes to rake money out of a less informed crowd. It got so bad that regulators had to enter the scene. Scammers aside, however, many businesses legitimately believe in the potential of blockchain as the next big breakthrough.
Blockchain is also becoming big in the field of Internet of Things. It turns out that the technology is a good solution for providing security to IoT devices. It’s also making noises in the financial sector, especially the big ones since it’s a potential disruptor to their business. In this light, it’s more likely that the upstarts will be the ones to offer services built around blockchain.
The emergence of this technology, however, does not signal the end of cryptocurrencies. In fact, Bitcoin is still a big thing and there are other cryptocurrencies to watch out for. These include Tether, Ripple, and Ethereum, which are all making their way to improve upon Bitcoin.
What is the significance of Blockchain?
- Provides good defense against hackers
- Built around security and transparency that prevents tampering of information
- Eliminates the need for a middleman for a transaction
- Provides privacy
- Innovative businesses can take advantage of it
IT Landscape continually changes
Latest technology trends in 2021/2022 have picked up the momentum from the pandemic and the last few years of technological development. Artificial intelligence is continually improving and it powers more applications and machines each day. IoT devices are becoming more and more widespread. Cybersecurity is a steadily busy field.
There are also game-changing technological trends for businesses. IT trends in business will reshape the future of commerce and industries. Automation and digitization will make a lot of changes in customer experience. Many jobs will become obsolete but a lot will also open up.
There are technologies that aren’t in their stable and mature stage yet. But still, businessmen and analysts view them as minefields of potential. These include 5G networks, blockchain, virtual reality, etc. A conclusion we could draw is that there is simply no stopping the IT trends train.
- IDC (2020). Worldwide Spending on the Internet of Things Will Slow in 2020 Then Return to Double-Digit Growth, According to a New IDC Spending Guide. Retrieved from IDC
- Kande, M. & Sonmez, M. (2020). Don’t fear AI. It will lead to long-term job growth.. Retrieved from World Economic Forum
- Lawler, R. (2020). Zoom usage peaked at 300 million daily participants in April. Retrieved from Engadet
- Statista (2020). Distribution of the information technology (IT) industry worldwide from 2019 to 2021, by region. Retrieved from Statista
- TWI Global (n.d.). What is Industry 4.0?. Retrieved from TWI Global
- World Economic Forum (2020). The Future of Jobs Report 2020. Retrieved from World Economic Forum