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Engineering Future: Technology Trends to Watch Out For in 2021

Several statistics speak volumes on how the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted economies in an unprecedented fashion. International trade paused and logistics jammed while businesses and other organizations struggled to migrate online. The year 2020 has shown and forced businesses to adapt to a different kind of future – a digital one. It seems to be time for a reboot, perhaps, not due to the pandemic but because the technological advances demand it.

 Here are some of the technology trends to watch out for in 2021:

Hyper-automation

Hyper-automation is a combination of various tools including Robotic Process Automation (RPA), intelligent Business Process Management Software (iBPMS), and AI. It aims to increase AI-driven decision making. While automation optimizes processes, hyper-automation adds an extra layer of robotic intelligence and makes the process error-free, faster, and end-to-end automated. This makes it indispensable in the race for digital transformation. Besides, it can be looked at as a discipline that augments human capabilities with the application of advanced technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), rather than replacing them. 

Business-driven hyper-automation has been trending amongst organizations to identify, evaluate, and automate as many approved business and IT processes as possible for a long time now. But the pandemic has accelerated its demand, especially to deal with the sudden need for digital-first operations across the horizontal market. Thus, the process is now inevitable.

Hyper-automation often leads to the creation of the digital twin of the organization, enabling a business to see how its functions, processes, and key performance indicators together drive value. This digital twin then becomes a part of the hyper-automation process. It gives real-time and continuous intelligence about the entire organization and business opportunities.

IoT and AI integration

The crucial data from AI and IoT will usher us into a new era of actionable insights. Smart home devices such as Alexa, Ring, Google-owned Nest will be everywhere shortly. Research claims there will be 35 billion smart devices online by 2021, which will further grow to 75 billion by 2025. Sensor-enabled AI will make predictive maintenance a New Normal in manufacturing.

Consumer Data Platforms

There have been instances where “bad data” has severely hit annual businesses. No doubt addressing this issue has become a priority for organizations. Consumer Data Platforms (CDP) creates a unified customer database by pulling data from multiple sources while also cleaning and combining it to create neat customer profiles that further drive customer experience.

Undoubtedly, data has become the key to drive modern businesses. More so, there is a change in user preferences post-pandemic. AI, analytics, big data technology engines are working hard to collect and create newer, evolved customer profiles. A lot of companies such as Adobe, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, etc. have already invested in bringing enhanced CDPs to the market. Analytics platform, Data Warehouses, and Visualization tools will stay relevant but are going to see a huge surge in the coming years.

Digital Twins

Gartner predicts that almost half of the world’s large industrial organizations will be using digital twins to improve productivity by 2021. Digital twins are virtual versions of real products, processes, or services. This confluence of the digital and physical world allows data analysis and helps to monitor systems to identify issues before they even surface. It prevents downtime, creates new opportunities, and lets you leverage AI and ML to smartly navigate ahead of time using simulations and actionable data in hand.

Hybrid Cloud 

Hybrid cloud combines a private cloud with one or more public clouds through proprietary software and facilitates seamless communication between each service. While we saw large public cloud providers such as AWS, Google, IBM, and Azure investing in the hybrid model, OEMs like Dell, Cisco, and others are also beefing up investments in building tools that allow easy connectivity between on-premises data centers and the cloud infrastructure. They are more powerful as they give businesses control over their private data, thereby addressing the challenges of data growth, security, and compliance at the same time. For instance, Honeywell developed its Forge IoT using an open-source and hybrid cloud approach. It helps the data to seamlessly integrate with traditional cloud centers, workloads, and applications.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having an agile cloud infrastructure. Companies need a hybrid cloud to enable faster adaptability during unprecedented events such as the one we faced this year.

AI at Scale

While AI may seem to be largely a thing of the future, it is now more of everyday technology. The pandemic has only catalyzed the adoption of AI and datasets. It is more so as companies, governments, and agencies are working together to halt the spread of the coronavirus and clubbing data as well as use-cases from multiple sources. 

However, it has also impacted how many businesses work today. ML integrated cognitive chatbots have kept businesses afloat in the absence of support agents during these times. The recommendations that Netflix shows based on your viewing history and the products that Amazon suggests as you shop on the platform are all AI working behind the scenes. As computing power continues to become affordable and SaaS providers democratize such powerful solutions, a lot of companies will be able to benefit from AI technology. 

Edge Computing 

In simpler terms, edge computing can be seen as the next level of cloud computing. It is a networking philosophy that focuses on bringing computing as close to the data source as possible to reduce time and bandwidth consumption. It makes the approach much more powerful and efficient than the cloud itself. One of the factors why it is rapidly spreading its wings is the increasing penetration of mobile and telecommunications services across almost all industries. This development is giving birth to new-age concepts such as Logistics 4.0 and Industry 4.0 alongside others.

Edge computing encompasses all technology on the Internet of Things (IoT) and looks at how these devices are increasing and forming the base for smart spaces. It moves key applications and services in proximity to the users and devices. As per some reports, the edge computing market worldwide is pegged at USD 6.72 billion by 2022 with tech behemoths such as Microsoft investing heavily into the brewing edge computing revolution.

These were some of the top AI and Analytics trends that we will observe in 2021. As we can see around us, technology has already become our present-day reality. This technological influx is only going to increase with every passing day. Interesting times are ahead of us.

Source: Business World

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