Brian Jones

What’s on the Technology Horizon for 2021?

As we draw to the end of 2020 and reflect, nobody could have predicted what a year we’d have. COVID turned the world upside down. Things will never be the same as they were – certain businesses and industries were destroyed while others had a stellar year. People are working remotely and relying on technology more than they ever have. A bright side of COVID is that it became a catalyst for technology innovation. COVID will go away, but the innovation that was forced to happen to deal with it will not.

Moving into 2021, there are technologies that will thrive and impact all of us. Some of the biggest ones are – Artificial Intelligence, As-a-Service Revolution, Extended Reality, and Evergreen IT. What are these and why do they affect you?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – AI has been an evolving technology that is in everything from your automatic NEST thermostat, to a Tesla auto driving car, to the medical companies that are working on COVID vaccines. Computers are doing the thinking and making our lives easier and better. Think about the volume of data that is being collected on COVID. Computers are processing that data, looking for trends to figure out how it spreads, what is successful in fighting it, and predicting demands for healthcare providers. AI also works for business in watching and predicting changes in human behavior – think about the shift of shopping online vs in person. What products are being purchased, by whom, and how often? AI helps crunch this data to figure out demographics to market to and recommends what will be successful. AI also has a seen a big growth in the computer security sector. No longer are computers in house and controlled by a company as they had been. People are working from wherever they can. Security software uses AI and big data to protect these devices a look for and report on anomalies. Expect the use of AI and big data to continue to grow in 2021.

As-a-Service Revolution – Think for a moment about the shift in what you used to buy vs what you now subscribe to. You used to go to the video store and rent or buy a DVD to watch a movie, now there is Netflix – oh and Hulu, and Disney+, and HBOMax, and, and, and. You have access to all this content and its constantly updated and refreshed. Same goes for the Computer industry. We used to purchase programs –not so much anymore. There is Office 365 for Microsoft apps and Email, there is Zoom for meetings, there is the Adobe Suite for web design and content creation, Salesforce for CRM, and many more. The software is run from the “cloud” and forever current. Even ZipCar lets you subscribe to a car vs having to buy one… and they handle all the maintenance, gas, and insurance! This trend will continue in 2021 –you get cutting edge technology without the upfront investment. Simply pay the monthly fee.

Extended Reality – Extended Reality and Virtual Reality (ER and VR) technology is exploding! I used to go to the Y a few times a week to – as my wife says –waddle on the treadmill -as my job requires a lot of desk time and I need the exercise. With COVID, the Y closed for several months, then when it did reopen, it was at a very limited capacity and I needed to wear a mask when exercising. That’s no fun. I looked at getting a Peloton bike or treadmill or even a Lululemon Mirror, but they are very expensive and I’m afraid they’d become a decoration like the treadmill and weight machine in my basement. I was reading Time Magazine and they had an article on the coolest products for 2020 – and one of those products was a VR exercise system called Supernatural. I have a Quest VR, signed up for the trial subscription, and am now hooked. For 30 min
every couple of days, I put on the Quest and my virtual personal trainer takes me to exotic locations and makes exercising fun. I’m sure there are other VR programs as well. I don’t have to leave my home, get some exercise, and have fun doing it – all at a fraction of the cost of a Y membership or that weight machine that’s covered in dust.

Some other examples of AR and VR that are becoming common are with cell phone apps. If I want to paint a wall in my house, I take a picture of it, load it in an app, and can visualize exactly what the color will look like on my wall. Same goes with designing a deck or landscaping. There are apps for those too. There are also virtual doctor apps that help diagnose illness and even VR apps that can do eye exams remotely. I can even test drive a new car with my Quest headset. That’s just plain cool.

Evergreen IT – Evergreen IT is the idea that technology always remains relevant and current. Traditional IT has been buying servers and software, running it for several years and then repeating the cycle when either forced to by obsolescence or on a budgeted plan. This is often very disruptive and can be very expensive. Evergreen IT is the idea that everything remains current – this can involve Software as a Service, cloud computing, and hardware as a service. Take Microsoft and Windows 10 as an example. Windows 10 is designed to be Evergreen. Once you buy Windows 10, you will always get the latest updates – in theory forever. It auto updates itself and adds relevant features that might not have even existed a few years back. It’s the last version of Windows you’ll buy. Many software providers, Infor included, are pushing customers to Software as a Service. The software is continually updated and remains relevant –once on the cloud version, you will never need to do another upgrade again. Effort that once was spent doing these upgrades can be re-directed to something that actually grows and pertains to the business that you are in vs maintaining the IT infrastructure. You’ll see more of this in 2021 as well.

As the year draws to an end, we have hope and things to look forward to in 2021. Vaccines are being developed and are soon to be deployed to help fight COVID. Technology is also running at full speed. At NSA we are looking forward to 2021 and helping our customers use this technology to better their businesses and themselves. As always, if you do have questions or want to talk about what NSA can do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. Enjoy the Holiday season and stay safe.

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