5 Emerging Technologies in 2021

By 2030 the number of devices that are collecting, analyzing, and sharing data is expected to increase to 50 billion. Every second, approximately 127 new devices connect to the internet. 90% of the world's big data was generated in the past two years [1]. To say that we are living through a technological boom would be a gross understatement. Despite the unprecedented and unfortunate events of the past year, technological advancements have continued at a breakneck speed. In this article, we explore five emerging technologies for 2021.

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List of 5 Emerging Technologies 2021

1. Blockchain

Most people associate blockchain with cryptocurrencies or specifically bitcoin. But this technology has applications far beyond digital currencies. Blockchain is a decentralized ledger that is used to record information in a way that can't be hacked or changed. The information stored via blockchain technology is encrypted and stored in multiple locations. All of these ledgers are kept up-to-date. Thus if someone tries to manipulate or change data in one location, it will be flagged as the information will not match with the data stored in other locations. Thus blockchain makes manipulation and hacking impossible. The computing power required to manipulate data in all locations of a blockchain does not exist.

Hence, the technology is very useful for applications where timestamps and values need to be securely recorded. In 2021 we will see increasing use of blockchain technology in the medical sector, for financial services, for privately owned enterprise blockchains, and more. Currently one of the leading providers of blockchain solutions in the medical sector is IBM. Another emerging trend that has gained a lot of traction in 2021, is the use of blockchain for NFTs. Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) are unique and cannot be duplicated. Thus only one person at a time can own an NFT for a digital asset. The digital asset itself may be duplicated but the NFT cannot. So for example, a painting may be copied or prints may be created from it, but only one person can own the original. Similarly, digital art can be reproduced but via an NFT, ownership of the art can be given to a single entity. Beeple was one of the first artists to sell his artwork as an NFT. The piece sold for USD 69 million, through the auction house Christie's.

2. Smart Vehicles

Self-driving cars have been in the works for close to a decade now. Smart vehicles are not limited to driving automation. Recently there has been a lot of innovation in the field of smart vehicles. The use of augmented reality (AR) for improved navigation. Connected vehicles that share information about traffic, best routes, etc. Companies like Tesla, BMW, Chrysler, and others are releasing advanced vehicles that have led to increased adoption of smart vehicles. Governments are also encouraging innovation in this field. A primary motivator for this is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat the looming threat of climate change. Through new laws and regulations, governments are encouraging the manufacture and sale of smart vehicles that are better for the environment.

Though fully self-driving cars are still a while away, the technology for them to become a reality is already here. Once these cars become the norm they will fundamentally change how we move around. Would you need a parking space close to your work if your car can drop you off and go park itself a few miles away? Later it can come to pick you up right outside your workplace. Would you need to take short flights to nearby cities if you can get in your car and sleep most of the way?

3. 5G

5G is the 5th generation broadcast standard for cellular networks. This technology has not been without controversy. Critics have raised concerns about the possibility of 5G waves causing cancer. There is a widely believed conspiracy theory that 5G towers are the cause of the coronavirus. There has also been more legitimate criticism about the multitude of 5G towers spoiling the skyline and view in many cities. Despite these setbacks, 5G technology is not slowing down. Though availability is currently limited, many companies have started trials of 5G coverage in various parts of the world.

Huawei used to be a big provider of 5G hardware, however since its ban by the US government, Samsung has emerged as the leading provider of 5G hardware worldwide. The increased connectivity and data transfer speeds that will be possible through 5G will lead to advancements in VR and AR gaming. 5G networks have low latency, this will allow us to experience VR and AR environments with the same ease as streaming videos on Netflix.

4. 3D Printing

3 printing can be used to create whole objects using liquid materials. Once a high-concept idea, today 3D printers have become an everyday reality. The technology has been used to print a variety of objects from keychains and toys to guns and even entire houses. The technology has proven lifesaving. In the medical field, 3D printing has been used to manufacture bones, organs, and support plates from various materials. In the Netherlands as part of a government-approved pilot program, citizens can rent homes that have been 3d printed.

5. Renewable energy

Climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity. Rising global temperatures have led to an increase in the frequency of natural disasters like forest fires, heatwaves, cyclones, tornadoes, and hurricanes. We are quickly approaching a point of no return, beyond which there will be irreversible changes caused to the earth's environment. Renewables are a key tool to fight against climate change. Solar and wind are the leading sources of renewable energy. Tesla announced its solar roof in 2016, a solution that would allow homeowners to enjoy the benefits of solar energy without the need to compromise on their home's aesthetic. There have been several advancements in wind energy generation that do not rely on large three-blade turbines. Compact designs like the PowerPod will make it easier to generate power from wind in residential areas.

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Sources:

1. Jul 2021, J Bulao, "How Fast Is Technology Advancing in 2021?", Tech Jury, [available online] available from: https://techjury.net/blog/how-fast-is-technology-growing/ [accessed Jul 2021]