It’s the trend-spotting season and you know that’s our favourite time of year. In 2020, we learnt that you could forecast what technology innovations would dominate society but that you couldn’t predict a world-stopping health crisis. However, we also discovered that technology is humanity’s best hope to meet modern challenges.
Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company, has released its report on strategic technology trends that businesses and customers should prepare for in 2021. It paints a picture of a society fully transitioning into the new normal and rebuilding resilience. Here are the five technology trends for 2021 that we’re most excited about.
1. Internet of Behaviours
The Internet of Behaviours (IoB) is a Gartner coinage. It’s a fancy term for the way organisations gather intel about our digital behaviour to improve experiences and drive sales. Some organisations are already doing it. Think about how one of South Africa’s most prominent private health insurers uses data from our health apps to grant personalised rewards, cashbacks and other incentives. Gartner predicts that we’re on the brink of turning digital dust (another fancy Gartner coinage for the Big Data we leave behind when we interact with any digital product) into heaps of actionable customer insights.
2. Total experience
The experience economy is maturing rapidly with brands getting closer to 360-degree seamless experiences. Gartner is calling this end-goal total experience (TX). The idea is that eventually, we will no longer speak of customer experience, employee experience and partner experience as separate concepts. Soon brands will have only one total experience that cuts across all touchpoints regardless of whether the audience is a customer, staff member or part of the supply chain. This new approach addresses the issue of brands having disparate levels of engagement with different stakeholders and it also has the potential to improve satisfaction metrics if applied well.
Hyperautomation is a staple on Gartner’s trends watch because, realistically, we found incredible new ways to automate every year. In 2021, the research firm predicts that we’ll start to see automation at an ecosystem level instead of task-based automation. Covid-19 presented a challenge for logistics operations, manufacturing and even smart office management. A team still needs to be physically present to facilitate automated systems, which is a health risk we’d rather avoid right now. Ecosystem-level hyperautomation hints at systems that can potentially automate themselves with one or two back-up facilitators operating remotely and apart.
4. Anywhere operations
Anywhere operations (or the remote provision of services) was an urgent need brought on by the pandemic and lockdowns. With most of the world working from home, we had to find ways to deliver services anywhere they were needed without getting someone to actually go there. Telemedicine is perhaps the best example. Health professionals were able to use technology to diagnose patients, administer treatments and even perform minor procedures. IT services are next up, which means at-home teams can still have access to advanced IT support without going to the office or interacting personally with a technician.
5. AI engineering
AI engineering sounds like enhancing engineering projects with AI, but it’s actually adding engineering disciplines to AI initiatives. Gartner explains that AI has become so widespread that almost anyone can tinker with it and leverage it for their own unique needs. But the success isn’t universal. Many AI projects fail to deploy successfully or scale effectively and it comes at a significant cost to those who choose to experiment with it. We can finally turn AI into a consumer technology that always delivers results by applying the engineering principles of research and development, prototyping, iteration and adaptive design.
So how will you prepare for these technology trends? You can start by choosing something shiny and cutting-edge from our new arrivals.