The first blog post I write each year looks forward to the technology trends I believe are coming. So, has 2020's global pandemic changed everything?
In my first blog post last year I predicted the following trends for the new decade:
- Internet of things growing and the world becoming more closely connected.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming an accepted standard for doing business.
- Big data usage increasing, as data is the new gold.
- Electric and driverless vehicles becoming the norm.
- Blockchain technology use increasing in commercial spheres.
Are these trends still holding true?
One thing no-one saw coming for 2020 was the massive need for working from home, online meetings and video calls during the lock downs. What a sad and lovely place the world would be without modern telecommunication!
Now that office workers have shown how productive they can be when working for home, the trend towards flexible work has accelerated. Corporate office towers with people trudging in each day to be chained to their desk will become a thing of the past. The office of the future will be a place to gather and socialise, occasionally dropping in to share ideas, plan and strategize. This means regional towns and cities are booming, including Adelaide, where buying houses has become incredibly competitive.
The Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
The convergence of masses of data created by the Internet of Things, faster communication via the NBN and 5G and the increasing sophistication of machine learning (artificial intelligence) is creating new opportunities that will fundamentally change the way business is done.
More and more Internet of Things devices are being installed that accumulate data, but to date we’ve not exploited the value of that data. In my August 2019 blog post I wrote about data being the new gold, but there have been roadblocks to using the data to create meaningful information. The roadblock of fast communication of the data from the device to a processing point is being overcome by the completion of the NBN network and the rollout of the 5G network. Streaming videos for example are now an accepted norm, something which was impossible to rely on just a few years ago.
With the common use of online meetings in 2020, there’s been masses of data accumulated about those meetings. But beyond saving the meetings for posterity, has any value been extracted from that data?
Online shopping became the norm during lockdowns, but has anyone besides the pesky online marketers taken advantage of the opportunity all the data from this activity created?
I believe over the next few years we’ll start to see more sophisticated use of big data using machine learning and/or deep learning (artificial intelligence) programs. With so much data readily available, we just need the imagination to exploit it, which will change the way business is done in the future.
Training data skewed by 2020
The very strange year we’ve had in 2020 means we have to use recent data with caution. If we train machine learning systems with data that’s too recent, the system will believe that 2020 was normal and not an anomaly to the longer term trends.
In my September 2020 blog post I wrote about whether artificial intelligence is racist. These potential problems stem from poor assumptions and skewed training data, so problems could also arise from relying too much on 2020 data as your base for training the algorithms.
I believe Australia and New Zealand are in an excellent position to become world leaders in technology advancements, due to our governments’ excellent handling of the pandemic (so far). While other countries around the world struggle to recover from the economic impacts of the global pandemic, we are well positioned to innovate and gain a lead on competitors. Australian universities have gained a world-wide reputation for excellence through sale of education to international students. We have a fabulous opportunity on the back of that to once again be known as the clever country, with the confidence to sell our technological innovations to the world.
An exciting recent announcement from the South Australian space industry is the recently announced public-private partnership project to launch a low Earth orbit nano-satellite the size of a cereal box. The mission will be led by the SmartSat Cooperative Centre (based in Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen) in partnership with Inovar Technologies and Myriota.
Adelaide is well placed to take advantage of this opportunity, with our popularity as a regional city, being the home of the Australian Space Agency and our world-class university research.
South Australia is great at supporting small, entrepreneurial businesses such as Inovar, Myriota and one of my customers, Micro-X, so I’m feeling positive about the future for our little city. As a train lover one missing link I’d like to see tackled is a high-speed electric train link between Adelaide’s CBD and Melbourne’s Southern Cross station. I’m envious of the well-connected cities of the UK and Europe, where travel between major cities is fast and convenient, without all the hassle and waiting around involved at airports. High speed rail has been considered but discarded for Australia’s eastern cities, missing a great opportunity. I’ve spoken with colleagues about the Adelaide Melbourne link being a great opportunity to showcase this technology in a pilot project, but we’d need a big push by the South Australian government to get behind this idea.
Electric and driverless vehicles
One of the technology innovations I still believe is coming soon is electric and driverless vehicles.
The technology to support driverless trains for example is already possible, with the rail network’s complete control of the infrastructure and environment. One example of this is the Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) world-leading technology, developed here in Australia. ATMS replaces the old signalling infrastructure as it doesn’t rely on track-side hardware to know the location of trains in the network. It uses a central organising algorithm to optimise train movements, allowing trains travelling in the same direction on a single track to be only 4 minutes apart, increasing the capacity of the rail network.
A trial of ATMS is finished and the technology is ready to be rolled out across the country. ATMS technology is also exportable, once manufacturing capability is ramped up it can be sold to other rail operators around the world.
The proliferation of renewable energy production we’re seeing will support the use of all-electric vehicles, allowing us to wean ourselves of reliance on fossil fuels. We have so many solar panels on houses in Adelaide (including on my house) that a new problem has been created, too much power is being generated for the current infrastructure to cope with!
The final prediction that I made last year was for increasing commercialisation of blockchain technology. Unfortunately, I believe blockchain, whilst a great innovation, is going to be on the back-burner for a while. The world is going to focus on technology that can help understand and defeat the COVID-19 virus and in the meantime support the ‘new normal’ of people needing to continue to live and work remotely.
Plan your strategy for 2021 and beyond
So, what will your technology strategy be for 2021 and beyond? Do you need professional advice, but don't know who to trust? Do you feel overwhelmed by the complex and technical world of information technology? Wiser Technology Advice is here to help with wise, independent advice on planning and procuring technology.
If you’d like to talk further about anything I’ve written about, get in contact with me today, I’m always happy to meet and have a chat over a coffee.
2021 technology trend review, part two: AI, knowledge graphs, and the COVID-19 effect, George Anadiotis 20 January 2021, available at https://www.zdnet.com/article/2021-technology-trend-review-part-two-artificial-intelligence-knowledge-graphs-and-the-covid-19-effect/
Advanced Train Management System (ATMS), ARTC website, available athttps://www.artc.com.au/projects/atms/.
ATMS demonstration video, ARTC website, available athttps://youtu.be/0rq7BgdAeKo.
Cabinet papers 2000: how the Speedrail Sydney-Canberra very high speed rail bid derailed, Harley Dennett 2 January 2021, available at https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7072180/end-of-the-line-for-speedrails-sydney-canberra-route-bid/.
Dollars from data, Sonya Weiser 5 August 2019, available athttps://www.wisertechnologyadvice.com.au/blog/dollars-from-data
Driverless cars – are we there yet?, Sonya Weiser 15 November 2019, available at https://www.wisertechnologyadvice.com.au/blog/driverless-cars-are-we-there-yet.
Is artificial intelligence racist?, Sonya Weiser 7 September 2020, available at https://www.wisertechnologyadvice.com.au/blog/is-artificial-intelligence-racist.
SA’s $6.5 million ‘satellite the size of a cereal box’, Tom Richardson 20 January 2021, available at https://indaily.com.au/news/2021/01/20/sas-6-5-million-satellite-the-size-of-a-cereal-box/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=InDaily%20Express%20%20January%2021%202021&utm_content=InDaily%20Express%20%20January%2021%202021+CID_277a4d3f86b9dea676d2d5ee4a826e7e&utm_source=EDM&utm_term=SAs%2065%20million%20satellite%20the%20size%20of%20a%20cereal%20box.
Tech trends to watch in 20201, Case Tonkin 21 December 2020, available at https://ia.acs.org.au/content/ia/article/2020/tech-trends-to-watch-in-2021.html?ref=newsletter.
Technology trends for the new decade, Sonya Weiser 7 February 2020, available at https://www.wisertechnologyadvice.com.au/blog/technology-trends-for-the-new-decade.
The future of remote working, Barclay Ballard 25 June 2020, available at https://www.theneweconomy.com/strategy/the-future-of-remote-working