8 predictions by Amazon CTO on how tech will change our lives next year

Dr Werner Vogels, vice president and CTO, Amazon
As vice president and chief technology officer of Amazon.com, Werner Vogels is responsible for shaping the world’s largest online retailer’s long-term technology vision and lead some of the cutting-edge innovations in the work in areas such as artificial intelligence, big data, cloud, drones and robotics. It is very hard to predict the future especially after the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic. But Vogels is sticking his neck out and is making eight predictions on how technology will continue to change our lives in the coming year:

Cloud will be everywhere

Gone are the days of cloud being contained in a centralized datacenter. Cloud is moving to the edge of the network where it is being embedded in the devices we carry with us, in our cars, and throughout our homes and workplaces. You can find cloud-powered applications helping to boost the performance of ships at sea, and in aircraft in the sky. 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. In the future, we will increasingly see the same software that runs in the cloud run closer to us. That will lead to improvements in all aspects of our lives, from healthcare to transportation, education to manufacturing. 

The Internet of machine learning

We are seeing a data explosion. To give this trend context, today we generate more data in one hour than was created during all of 2000 and more data will be created in the next three years than was created over the past 30. As machine learning use continues to expand, we will also see an explosion in machine-to-machine connections. In 2018 only 33 per cent of connections on the internet were machine-to-machine, in 2021, this will be well over 50 per cent. The next step in this evolution in 2021 and beyond, is machine learning moving out of the datacenter and to the edge of the network. In manufacturing, machine learning embedded on production lines would be able to spot production anomalies in real-time. In agriculture, machine learning models would be helping farmers more intelligently use the most precious resources – whether that is water, fertilizer, or people to get the job done. 

In 2021, pictures, video, and audio will speak more than words

Vogels predicts the phasing out of the keyboard will continue.  In 2021 and beyond, the amount of text we consume on our screens will continue to reduce. There will be greater use of multimedia and other mediums to communicate. From the trends Vogels has been seeing, 60 per cent to 80 per cent of all internet traffic will be video, images, and audio in 2021. He sees that number accelerating into the future.

Technology will transform our physical worlds as much as our digital worlds

Due to Covid, 2021 is the year where data analytics would play a bigger role in designing cities and other gathering spots.  This will enable humans to stay efficient and connected. It would better encourage healthy behaviours such as social distancing. It will be the true convergence of the digital and the physical after using data collected in 2020 to help redesign cities for the future. Also, expect to see the need for literal cash in our pockets continue to disappear. One of the biggest changes from 2020 has been the rise of cashless payments. In some bars and restaurants around the world, cash is forbidden. As a result, Vogels sees a dramatic rise in new online payment platforms whose businesses are built in the cloud. 

Remote learning earns its place in education    

With Covid, education has gone through a rapid shift, almost more than any other industry.  And it isn’t going back. 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. That it can be an even better option for some, and that it can have a positive and more persistent role in education. Vogels said 2020 has shown how to keep the learning going, whatever the conditions.

Small businesses will race to the cloud, and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will lead the way

In 2021, there would be a massive shift in small businesses beginning to make use of technology to reach their customers. And to enable these small businesses, there would be an explosion of higher-level technologies and service providers that will cater to these organizations. Access to new technologies is allowing small businesses to do everything from spinning up a chatbot to help with answering frequently asked questions, to getting a simple CRM (customer relationship management) system in place and running within minutes.

Quantum Computing will start to bloom

Amazon Braket, a fully-managed quantum computing service helps researchers and developers get started with quantum technology to accelerate research and discovery.  In 2020, Amazon made it available to everyone. Anyone can now use quantum machines for as little as $0.30.Based on experience with making advanced cloud technologies affordable, available, and understandable to everyone, Vogels said 2021 will be the year the quantum computer starts to bloom.

Space is the final frontier

In 2021 and beyond, Vogels predicts space will be the area where we see some of the greatest advancements when it comes to cloud technologies. This includes helping researchers track glacial recession, maritime agencies protect vulnerable marine reserves and agronomists better predict food supply. 

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