Today, technology is evolving faster than we expected. And with so many changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are investing in business technology more than ever before. As business technology continues to grow, we can expect to see developments that move businesses toward automation, a long-lasting focus on remote work and increased cybersecurity.
Business Technology Trends to Watch in 2021
Some trends end up being short-term fads that aren’t worth pursuing. But staying ahead of technology trends can help you optimize your business operations and impress your clients with your forward-thinking strategies.
Here are nine of the latest business technology trends to watch in 2021.
1. Expansion of Videoconferencing and Remote Work
While remote work wasn’t entirely uncommon before 2020, it exploded when the COVID-19 pandemic pushed companies to close offices and implement official remote work policies.
Zoom became the go-to solution for online meetings, both at work and with family and friends separated by stay-at-home orders. Just months after pandemic quarantine began in the United States, Twitter announced that current and future employees could work from home “forever.” Many other companies followed in their footsteps.
As organizations increasingly support virtual collaboration, more products are available to help workers share files, track projects and conduct team-building activities online. These solutions come together to create a “virtual office” where colleagues can collaborate easily, much as we did before 2020.
2. Online Education and E-Learning
Like remote work, e-learning also experienced an unexpected boom in 2020 that will continue beyond the days of COVID-19. Online learning has allowed college students to save money on transportation and on-campus housing. Universities made existing online courses more robust and engaging.
As students become more comfortable with online education models, we can expect to see more immersive virtual learning experiences. Virtual reality and augmented reality may become more commonplace in both K-12 schools and higher education. Driven by advancements in 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), e-learning will become an integral part of education beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
3. Increased Development of 5G Infrastructure, Utilities and New Applications
5G has the potential to revolutionize our lives, not just business technology. With 5G, sci-fi imaginings like smart cities, autonomous mobility and even undersea drone exploration can become a reality.
5G, shorthand for the fifth-generation mobile network, is up to 100 times faster than 4G. It drastically reduces latency, enabling faster data sharing and eliminating processing delays. Implementing 5G will redefine the global wireless standard and drive the shift toward the industrial Internet of Things.
The reliability of 5G connectivity ensures that essential business technology operates without disruption. We can expect to see 5G used in factories, grid control and retail, where even the slightest delays can affect thousands of people.
4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence has been a buzzword in the business technology world for the past decade. But the application of AI in business and at home is still only in its early stages. While we have seen AI dramatically improve smartphone personal assistants, navigation apps and image and speech recognition, AI technology offers so much more potential.
Experts predict the AI market to grow to $190 billion by 2025. We can expect to see AI in major industries like healthcare, forecasting demand and informing resource utilization decisions. In retail, AI can identify customer behavior patterns and create personalized shopping experiences.
Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence, focusing on how algorithms improve themselves using experience and data. It will continue to grow as more industries recognize its potential to streamline their operations. By allowing algorithms to identify patterns, analyze data and make business decisions, you can automate many processes and focus on your companies’ long-term strategies.
5. Industrial Automation
Thanks to rapid AI growth, we can expect greater demand for industrial automation as manufacturing and supply chains continue to recover from pandemic-related delays. Along with the growing presence of the Internet of Things, automation can further optimize manufacturing operations.
Industrial automation can also address understaffing. Most retailers worldwide prefer to overschedule than risk being understaffed, which results in high labor costs and decreased profitability. Adding technology to the workforce can help businesses analyze shopping trends, store traffic data and make more efficient staffing decisions.
6. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Commerce
Although virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been around for a few years, we can expect to see them become more integrated into how we shop. While AR enhances a user’s environment, VR can completely immerse them in a constructed environment. Both technologies offer much potential for businesses looking to invest in enhanced customer experiences.
AR allows shoppers to see what products will look like in their home, from kitchen appliances and rugs to bulkier items like furniture. Beauty retailers like Sephora and Ulta have invested in AR-powered virtual product testing, allowing shoppers to evaluate makeup choices using their smartphones.
7. Edge Computing
Although cloud computing has been a data storage trend in the last few years, it’s no longer the latest and greatest in information technology. Say hello to edge computing.
Think of edge computing as the happy medium between cloud storage and on-premises storage. With edge computing, data is stored “on the edge,” closer to your business’s location, increasing bandwidth and improving response times.
As IoT devices grow in popularity, so will the use of edge computing in business technology. IoT devices can act like mini data centers to facilitate edge computing, an ideal solution for organizations in remote locations with limited connectivity to a centralized data center.
Blockchain entered the mainstream when cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin erupted in popularity. But blockchain offers many security benefits beyond cryptocurrency.
A blockchain is a digital ledger that you can only add data to; you can’t change or take away data after adding it. Each record, called a “block,” connects to the next one, forming what we know as a blockchain.
Blockchain technology is secure by design because you cannot alter one block without changing the rest. A peer-to-peer network often manages the blockchain itself, so no single entity controls the data. Blockchain is a widely applicable solution for many industries, including financial institutions, supply chain management and even electronic voting.
9. Advances in Cybersecurity
While cybersecurity isn’t new business technology, it is developing as rapidly as other technologies are. These advancements in cybersecurity are driven by cyber threats, which are constantly changing. Just as one cybersecurity approach has become an industry best practice, hackers have already figured a way around it.
The modern cybersecurity approach prevents problems rather than reacting to them, leading to recent innovations in encryption and threat monitoring. Zero Trust is a micro-level cybersecurity business strategy for authenticating requests at every point within a network. It is growing in popularity as companies expand their remote teams around the world.
Partner with SugarShot to Future-Proof Your Business
As business technology continues to evolve, you might struggle to keep up with the latest tech trends while focusing on your core operations.
SugarShot can provide you with a stabilized IT environment and secure business processes that support your operational continuity. At SugarShot, we catch technology problems before they happen so you can avoid costly downtime and keep your business running optimally.