The year 2020 was a transformational year. The onset of COVID-19 earlier saw the emerging technologies – Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain and Open Hybrid Cloud, Internet of Things, drones, autonomous vehicles, and more that came into focus and impacted the way we work and conduct business.
These technologies helped achieve some semblance of normalcy for businesses to resume their day-to-day operations. Computing and healthcare were the ones that saw the most traction.
The combination of these technologies is unlocking the next wave of innovation, helping us work smarter. Intellizence has identified nine important emerging technology trends that we should watch in 2021 that will play a big role in transforming the way we live and work.
1. Spatial Computing – Convergence of the Physical and Virtual Worlds
Spatial computing is seamless human to machine, or a machine-to-machine interaction, in a three-dimensional world, using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.
Spatial software will make the computer’s user interface a part of the 3D world, making digital content of any sort –stories, mathematical concepts, or molecular structures, to be explored in ways that align with cognitive capabilities. A new realism, taking you beyond the limitations of human perception and physical capability – a move from the hypothetical to pragmatic use.
With spatial computing, we will be able to create meaningful and natural ways of interacting such as – eye-controlled interactions, body and hand gestures, and voice controls, etc.
2. Quantum Sensing – Probing Uncharted Territories
Imagine if you could get an advanced warning of an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, see around the corner, or detect initial signs of a disease or map brain activity. That is what quantum sensing can help us achieve in the coming decades, a technology that will transform our world in the future.
The first quantum revolution gave us modern electronics via the transistor and the laser. The second quantum revolution could transform industries ranging from energy and communications to medicine and defense.
Quantum sensing aims to achieve precision beyond the standard quantum limit in parameter estimation, ushering in a new era of precision sensing. Microscopy, positioning systems, communication, electric and magnetic field sensors, in addition to seismology, and mineral prospecting, are areas where Quantum sensors are being used.
3. Edge Computing – Faster Insights and Actions
Edge computing, which is still at the nascent stage, will see a huge paradigm shift in 2021. The pandemic accelerated many technology trends in 2020, edge computing being one of the most notable among them. Going forward, new business models will emerge, cloud platforms will compete, while 5G and artificial intelligence (AI) will drive the rapid expansion of edge use cases.
Edge computing is a distributed, open IT architecture with decentralized processing power. The data is processed around the “edge” of a network and not sent to the central server.
The main benefit that edge solutions provide includes reduced latency, improved network performance, high bandwidth, device processing, and data offload. Time-sensitive data can be processed faster, even in remote locations with limited or no connectivity.
From providing real-time data analysis to reducing system malfunctions, edge computing can act as a mini data center to meet an organization’s specific needs.
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4. Digital Medicine – Software Driven Apps to Diagnose and Treat
Advancement in technology has changed the way medicine is practiced today. Digital medicine uses high-quality hardware and software products that support the practice of medicine. These algorithmically driven products help measure or intervene to improve human health – treatment, recovery, disease prevention, and health promotion for individuals.
The mobile health app market is also growing at a fast pace – general health and wellness apps, telemedicine apps, and health management apps, and more. Moreover, telemedicine, wearable sensors, hand-held medical devices to conduct lab examinations, devices to take images, are all helping predict medical outcomes faster. Some of the healthcare apps can detect or monitor the mental and physical health of patients and directly administer therapies.
Digital medicine is the future. We need to ensure that the tools and apps are tested, protect privacy, and integrate smoothly into the workflow. Moreover, the use of AI should help to personalize patient care.
5. Virtual Patients – Simulation-Based, Revolutionizing Medicine
Virtual patient is interactive computer simulations extensively used in medicine and healthcare education today. Computers are being used to diagnose a disease with unprecedented accuracy.
The focus today is on the simulation of clinical processes with virtual patients. Virtual patients are generally two-dimensional images on the computer that combine scientific excellence, modern technologies, and the innovative concept of game-based learning. They are easy-to-use motivating tools for beginners to learn without stress.
Replacing humans with virtual patients would be beneficial for testing drugs and treatments faster and safe. If these virtual patients could have been used in the coronavirus vaccine trial, it could have helped identify the potential vaccines that were not likely to work. It would have reduced the trail cost and testing ineffective vaccine candidates on living volunteers.
6. Microneedles or The Mosquito Needles – Making Shots Painless
Microneedles are fast emerging as the new trend for painless injections and testing. They are miniature replicas of hypodermic needles that range in diameter from 0.5 and 2.5 millimeters, preventing pain by avoiding contact with nerve endings. Many of these microneedle syringes and patch applications are already in use, while others are in clinical trials.
Microneedles involve superficial and controlled puncturing of the skin, delivering medicine directly into the dermis or epidermis. Using this technique, researchers are mixing star-shaped needles into therapeutic gel or cream to treat certain types of skin disorders such as psoriasis and some types of cancer, enhancing the passage of the therapeutic agent.
Microneedles are a huge innovation, but also have their limitations. They cannot be used when a large dosage of medicine is required and not all drugs can pass through microneedles, nor can all biomarkers be sampled through them. More research is underway that can influence the effectiveness of microneedle-based technologies.
7. Gene Editing- Rewriting the Code of Life
We’ve seen genetic engineering in many science fiction movies. Gene editing is soon going to be a reality. Genome editing technologies enable scientists to make changes to the DNA. These technologies are more like adding, removing, and replacing the DNA, to a particular spot to modify the genetic code.
The genome-editing technique is generally used to investigate different diseases that affect humans. With gene editing, scientists can change the affected genes, to correct any harmful mutations that have happened. There are many ways to edit genes, but the latest breakthrough is a molecular tool called Crispr-Cas9. It uses a guide molecule that helps find a specific area in an organism’s genetic code – which is then removed by an enzyme.
Despite the successes already achieved in genome editing, many challenges remain before its full potential can be realized. The foremost is the development of new tools capable of introducing genomic modifications in the absence of DNA breaks.
8. Electric Aviation – Paving The Way for Greener Aviation
Recently there has been a renewed interest in the development of aircraft that are powered by electric or hybrid-electric power. The rapid expansion of electrically powered aircraft could go a long way to reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality, reduce fuel cost by up to 90 percent, and noise by 70 percent.
Big organizations such as JetBlue, Boeing, and NASA are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on electric aviation research and development. The transformative potential of electric aircraft has attracted many startups like Joby Aviation, Lilium, Magnix, Ampaire, and Zunum Aire are some of the electric aircraft companies in the ecosystem.
For the time being, electric planes will be limited in their flight, i.e., how far they can travel. This is because even the best batteries available have less power in comparison to jet fuel. In comparison to the most advanced lithium-ion battery currently available, Jet fuel contains around 30 times more energy per kilogram.
9. Green Hydrogen – The Fuel of the Future – The Sustainable Energy Solutions
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has named green hydrogen as the renewable energy source to watch in 2021. Hydrogen plays a significant role in the transition to a sustainable energy supply. At present, grey hydrogen accounts for nearly 95% of the hydrogen produced in the world, with most of it coming from fossil fuels.
Green hydrogen is an alternative fuel generated with clean energy that could help bring the world to zero emissions in the coming decades. It is produced using renewable energy through the process of electrolysis, where water is broken into hydrogen and oxygen, leaving no other by-products.
Today, with the advancement in technology, using solar and wind energy, excess electricity has become available. This renewable electricity can decarbonize the energy sector, replacing gas and coal with clean electricity. Moreover, the excess electricity can be used to drive the electrolysis of water, thereby storing electricity in the form of hydrogen. Although it may be a challenge to decarbonize all sectors, in many cases, green hydrogen can be an alternative.
Overall, the above trends show the huge potential of emerging technologies that will help us improve the state of the world. So far, we have seen affordable solutions such as delivery drones, autonomous vehicles, etc. that are being adopted to suit the specific needs and goals of the business. Going forward, we have to see how emerging technologies will pan out in 2021.
- Scientific American
- Race to Zero
- Innovation At Work
- We Forum
- Microsoft – Carbon Negative