There are those who wish 2020 could be erased, re-written or have a do over. But that is just wishful thinking. But for all the hysterics, confusion, and real worries that have characterised much of 2020, there were moments of positivity that show the ingenuity of humanity in the face of challenges.
Businesses large and small, governments new and old all had to completely change what they do and how they operate. Helping us to manage this dramatic change was technology. Rather than slow us down, 2020 accelerated our shift to a digital world.
Werner Vogels, vice president and chief technology officer at Amazon.com, outlines what he sees will be driving these changes.
Cloud will be everywhere
The days of all cloud capabilities being centralized in data centres are beginning to disappear. Access to the compute and storage of the cloud is spreading out of dense data centres and reaching into rural communities, remote wilderness, and even near-earth orbit.
When fast connections to the cloud are pushed to the farthest edges of the network, great things can happen. By removing latency and conducting more of the compute on the device at the edge of the network, we are beginning to overcome the one limitation that still faces all technology on earth, the speed of light.
The result? Driverless cars become real. You can start to have more natural conversations with services like Alexa. Our factories, homes, and office spaces become increasingly efficient and resilient. And if gaming is your thing, you will no longer need to worry about lag hampering your experience and your skills will be at full strength, wherever you are.
The Internet of machine learning
ML has historically been a computationally heavy workload that’s incapable of running anywhere but on the most powerful hardware. However, with advancements in software and silicon, this will begin to change.
By moving towards the edge, what we will see in the coming year is an acceleration of the adoption of ML models across industries and government. In manufacturing, we will see ML embedded on production lines, able to spot production anomalies in real time. In agriculture, ML models will help farmers manage precious resources, such as soil and water, more intelligently.
In 2021, pictures, video, and audio will speak more than words
When it comes to building relationships and transacting with a brand, customers want to do what is natural so companies should explore this move away from the keyboard and towards more natural user interfaces. Alexa already allows customers to conduct their Amazon shopping with their voice, and we are excited with the adoption we are seeing there.
In 2021 and beyond, the use of audio, video, and images will continue to replace written text in everything from social platforms to business operations, and cloud technologies will play a significant role in meeting that demand.
Technology will transform our physical worlds as much as our digital worlds
With the help of advanced data analytics, 2021 is the year when we will start to figure out how to better design our cities to give us the advantages of social distancing, without feeling so distant. Our planning will consider things like how we make our communities healthier and safer, rather than simply denser and more efficient. It’s the true convergence of the digital and the physical.
For example, using advanced data analytics technologies and ML, cities will be able to analyse foot traffic to understand how pedestrians move around, whether that is filing into a stadium, out of a grocery store, or onto a subway platform. Big-box stores have been using a version of this technology for many years to analyse the foot traffic at any given moment, and help move people in real-time past the best deals or advertising. But add ML models to the tool kit, with a desire to solve tougher real-world problems, and we can spot the bottlenecks and the danger spots before they occur.
Remote learning earns its place in education
While we’ve slowly started to see change here through online options such as Coursera, or services like Chegg, with COVID-19 education was forced to go through a rapid reinvention, almost more than any other industry. Tools like Brainly have exploded as desperate parents are making sure their kids are learning in this new, remote educational reality.
Technology, and access to it, has played a huge role in children’s education during this pandemic. This next year is when we’re going to prove that remote learning can work and may be a better option for some, and that it can have a positive, and more persistent role in education.
Small businesses will race to the cloud
In 2021 and beyond, we’re going to see a massive shift in small businesses beginning to make use of advanced cloud technology to reach their customers and we’re going to see an explosion of higher-level technologies and service providers, that will cater to these small businesses.
It will be helping small business to do everything from spinning up a chatbot to help with answering frequently asked questions, to getting a dead-simple CRM system in place and running within minutes. Small business get the benefits of sophisticated architectures and applications without having to invest the time and expense of building it themselves.
Quantum Computing starts to bloom
At re:Invent 2019 AWS announced Amazon Braket, a fully managed quantum computing service that helps researchers and developers get started with the technology to accelerate research and discovery, and in 2020 AWS made it available to everyone.
Before Amazon Braket, companies needed to be one of the world’s most advanced research institutes or one of the world’s richest companies to have access to quantum computing hardware.
The final frontier.....
In 2019, AWS launched a service called AWS Ground Station which that lets companies control satellite communications, process data, and scale your operations without having to worry about building or managing their own ground station infrastructure.
We’re already seeing the ability to access and process satellite data is helping researchers to track glacial recession, maritime agencies protect vulnerable marine reserves, and agronomists better predict food supply. Startups are looking to make space the home for a new breed of fast, secure networks. By making access to space affordable and accessible to every developer we can look forward to the innovations that come back down to earth and can help us all to grow and prosper.