Tech moves at such a relentlessly fast pace that keeping your finger on the pulse can feel like a full-time job!

If you’re worried you’ve fallen behind on the industry and you want to know what’s new in the world of tech, read on for ten trends that took over this year.

1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Although artificial intelligence and machine learning rarely made the mainstream headlines this year, significant progress has occurred behind the scenes. Market leaders in the industry have reached a larger scale, and there have been many new companies and products launched in this area

When the world moved on as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, data became one of the most valuable assets a company could possess. In 2021, data is being used alongside artificial intelligence for a range of purposes, both operational and analytical. The results inform strategy and increase efficiency.

2. Robotic Process Automation

Automation has been a big trend in 2021, and Robot Process Automation is one example of this phenomenon. This term refers to a software technology in which software robots are designed to emulate human interactions with digital systems. Basically, software robots are developed and deployed to understand information on a screen, respond to it, navigate systems, extract data and perform other defined actions.

The advantage of software robots is that they can do these actions faster than people, and the margin of human error is avoided. Companies may implement this technology to streamline their workflows and remove mundane tasks from their employees’ workdays, empowering them to focus on higher-level assignments.

3. Edge computing

Edge computing is transforming the world of IT and business computing. Its popularity demonstrates once again how data is increasingly the lifeblood of the modern business landscape. Edge computing is a distributed information technology (IT) architecture, and it processes client data at the periphery of the network, reducing the distance between the originating source and the point of processing.

Edge computing is an attempt to overcome the limits of traditional computing, which is ill-equipped to handle the level of data that modern businesses typically process. The architecture of edge computing avoids bandwidth limitations, network disruptions and latency issues by moving some of the storage resources to the source of the data itself.

4. Quantum computing

Where do scientists and engineers turn when they encounter problems too difficult for a traditional computer? To supercomputers, of course. However, there are some problems so complex that even a supercomputer won’t suffice. That’s when quantum computing comes in.

Quantum computing is a technology that harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to solve complex problems with lots of variables that interact in intricate ways. Typical computers don’t have the working memory to manage all the possible combinations, but quantum computing uses algorithms and creates multidimensional spaces to find solutions.

5. Virtual and augmented reality

There’s been a wave of innovation in the realm of virtual and augmented reality in response to the “new normal” circumstances of post-pandemic life. For example, this year stores like American Apparel used virtual reality to improve their online presence, and some companies have introduced virtual fitting rooms to better emulate an in-person shopping experience on their sites.

AR smart glasses have become more widely available; AR is being used in sports to get more detailed and accurate analytics information, and cars have integrated AR technology with cameras and high-resolution displays to help with directions on a journey.

6. Blockchain

In 2021, blockchain emerged as a serious business technology. The trend towards NFTs (non-fungible tokens) has blockchain at its center, for example, since this technology allows ownership and value of these tokens to be defined. During the pandemic, companies turned to blockchain to resolve their supply chain issues. It allows them to decentralize their data and applications and bring transparency and verification to data of all kinds, so it was incredibly convenient during the pandemic period when traditional methods were rendered redundant.

Banks have begun to investigate blockchain in greater depth because of its potential to deliver value to customers and investors. Recently, banks like Bank of America, UBS and Morgan Stanley established their own blockchain teams, suggesting that the banking industry will be a major site of blockchain adoption and innovation in the future.

7. Internet of Things

As you read this, there are approximately 13.8 billion IoT devices all around the world. This shows how the Internet of Things (IoT) has permeated our lives, and we can find these devices in every aspect of our day-to-day lives including in retail, digital signage and public transportation.

One of the ways IoT has contributed to this most recent industrial revolution is in enabling manufacturing and industrial automation through smart sensors and machines that can self-monitor, diagnose, act independently of human intervention and even communicate autonomously with each other.

8. 5G

In 2021, 5G moved from the margins to the mainstream, and it was a hot topic of conversation in the tech world and beyond as devices like cellphones, tablets and laptops with 5G capabilities hit the market.

Many private 5G startups were launched, such as Celona, which provides enterprises a software-based method of building their own cellular networks. Meanwhile, preexisting tech giants like Nokia restructured their business model to focus on the future of 5G. They made significant staffing cuts to fund research in this field, proving the importance of innovation in this area.

9. Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has never been such a pressing issue. Reported data breaches in 2021 surpassed those of 2020, making this year a record-breaking one for cybercrime rates. What is perhaps more alarming than even the increased rate of these attacks is their systematic and targetted nature.

Awareness of the issue appears to be generally high, with a recent poll showing that around 9 in 10 Americans are concerned about hacking. This shows an engaged market for cybersecurity technology, which has driven ongoing innovation around this issue throughout the year.

10. The digital workplace

With many people still working entirely remotely and other offices introducing hybrid work arrangements, the digital workplace has remained highly relevant in 2021. Today’s digital workplace includes a range of technology including HR applications, messaging apps, monitoring software, the employee intranet, social media tools and internal communications apps.

Tech tools have been crucial as companies have adapted to manage remote teams, and this is an area of significant debate given differing opinions regarding issues such as the future of the workplace, whether the traditional office should be gone for good and to what degree bosses are entitled to digitally surveil their staff members.

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