4 Key Tech Trends Making Their Mark In 2021
Last year we posted our four top technology trends we predicted would make their mark in 2020. Following a year that defied all expectations, we reflect on the trends we picked out, and identify four new trends we’re expecting for 2021.
Top Four Review
Artificial Intelligence – AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning
Both lists that informed our 2020 piece – Wikibrand’s 30 Emerging Technology Trends, and Mobile App Daily’s 15 Technological Trends for 2020 – predicted AI would grow during 2020, and the sector hasn’t disappointed. Business Cloud reported in October that the UK attracted the third highest level of AI investment globally, trailing only China and the USA.
As we said last year, AI is changing the types of jobs available rather than eliminating them. Demand for AI skills rose a massive 111% in the UK between 2017 and 2019.
Internet of Things – IOT, Sensors and Wearables
IoT in the UK is set to explode, with the market predicted to reach £5.82m and household penetration of 44.8% by 2024. The sector suffers, however, from one of the UK’s biggest skills gaps: a Capita study showed that three quarters of businesses face a skills shortage preventing them from capitalising on the technology.
Mobile & Social Internet – Advancements, Social Networks/Media, Search, Messaging and Live Streams
We’ve flocked to our phones and socials during lockdown. Over the year to February 2021, Facebook’s UK userbase increased by 6.23 million to 50.76 million. After single-handedly reviving the sea-shanty scene, TikTok is forecast to grow its UK audience to 11 million this year – more than double its size in 2019.
Globally, social media users spent on average two hours and twenty-five minutes online daily through 2020, according to Statista data. Data from IbisWorld suggests 58,919 people were employed in the UK’s app development industry in 2020.
Big Data – Apps, Infrastructure and Predictive Analytics
Data warehousing and analytics caught global markets’ attention in 2020 when US firm Snowflake’s IPO became the largest ever for a software house. Across the world, cloud platform providers saw business boom as pandemic lockdowns prompted increasingly remote working practices.
In the UK, Tech Nation data shows that demand for cloud computing skills was already increasing ahead of the pandemic, with demand growing 22% from 2018 to 2019. Businesses across the country have taken the opportunity to upgrade their legacy systems to cloud-based infrastructure, with Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke of Dept telling Prolific North that “microservices and the API economy [will enable] organisations to increase agility and reduce time-to-market.”
Trends to watch in 2021
According to Tech Nation data Health was UK tech’s third-largest sub-sector in terms of VC investment in 2020, attracting 15% of investment during a year dominated by health concerns.
Huge synergies are available between health tech and other technology sub-sectors. Vin Lingathoti, Partner at Cambridge Innovation Capital, expects AI to play an increasing role in enabling healthcare professionals to leverage “massive amounts of data” to provide better patient care.
Lingathoti also expects 2020 and 2021 to become known as “the years of cybersecurity” as companies respond to the increased risk associated with remote working. A government report shows that the UK’s cyber security industry attracted a record £800m of investment in 2020, and that the sector now employs close to 50,000 people. Even before 2020 demand for cyber skills was growing fast, with a 79.69% increase from 2017-2019, so expect the extra investment to translate into even greater demand this year.
Last year we posted that “blockchain has somewhat lost its appeal.” Blockchain, though, is the meeting point of two inherently volatile worlds - disruptive technology and currency - so perhaps it’s no surprise that cryptocurrency has seen a recent resurgence: bitcoin now trades 603.33% higher than a year ago (as of 11 March 2021).
Some of the UK’s top innovators are adopting blockchain technology to address a wide range of challenges, from speeding up property purchases to securely storing DNA sequencing data.
Backlash against cryptocurrencies like bitcoin currently focuses on the environmental damage caused by predominantly coal-powered mining operations. With the Biden administration hoping to focus global minds on tackling the threat of climate change, expect clean energy questions to exercise some of the UK’s top innovators this year.
Data on Tech Nation’s Net Zero programme shows that investment in UK Net Zero companies (tech firms that directly or indirectly reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions) increased to £336m in 2019. With clean energy stocks hitting record highs in 2020, we’re predicting this trend will be shown to have continued once last year’s data becomes available and for the market to grow further in 2021.
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