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2021 'going to be a launchpad for change in NZ - find out what's coming'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Dr. Werner Vogels, Vice President and CTO, Amazon

2020 was a year unlike any other. Organisations and governments had to change across all facets, and technology helped manage these changes. Rather than slow us down, 2020 accelerated our shift to a digital world, and I anticipate we won’t go back any time soon. Thanks to this acceleration, from my vantage point, 2021 will be a launchpad for all kinds of change. Here are some of the areas that will be driving it.

1. Cloud will be everywhere

The days of cloud capabilities being centralised in data centers are fast fading. Today, cloud-based applications can help boost the performance of ships at sea, aircraft traversing the sky, and in our cars and homes. Access to the cloud’s compute and storage is also reaching farther-from rural communities and remote wildernesses to near-earth orbit. Practically speaking, the cloud is accessible nearly everywhere-and it’s not just reach that matters, it’s the speed of the connections. For example, driverless cars become real, you can have more natural conversations with services like Alexa, and factories, homes, and office spaces become increasingly efficient and resilient.

2. The internet of machine learning

In 2020, whether you’re a data scientist or not, we got a glimpse of this growing data curve as scientific researchers, pharmaceutical companies, governments, and healthcare institutes turned every resource toward developing vaccines, novel treatments, and other means to help the world’s population remain healthy during the pandemic. These efforts required generating and processing vast amounts of data. The only realistic way to handle all the information is to use ingestion and aggregation tools, married to machine learning (ML) models, to help make sense of it.

In 2021, we’ll see accelerated adoption of ML models across industries and government. For a real-world example, take the wildfires that consumed the Australian and New Zealand bush in 2020. In the future, ML models running in devices at the edge can help us predict fire danger by modeling current second-by-second conditions against historic conflagrations-on the ground-rather than back in a central data center.

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

A few years ago, I talked about the death of the keyboard due to the rapid growth of voice-activated computing and the rise of user interfaces that allow humans to communicate with machines-and with each other-more naturally. In the months and years ahead, I predict that keyboards will continue to phase out in an evolved way.

In the past year-as we all entered the depths of lock down-we increasingly communicated via audio, video, and images. Companies that want to remain relevant to their customers need to be keenly aware of these changing habits-rather than expecting customers to interact with their products and services through a keyboard, mouse, or other mechanical ways. Thus, companies should explore this move towards user interfaces like voice, and other forms of audio and video.

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

In 2020 we were introduced to social distancing. As we spaced ourselves out, we had the chance to take stock and rethink how our cities live, breathe, and flow. Many of the places we live and work have been built on decades-old assumptions (or centuries-old, depending on where you live) that don’t hold up anymore-or at the very least, don’t perform well in a pandemic.

With the help of advanced data analytics, we’ll start to figure out how to design our cities with the advantages of social distancing without the sense of being apart. Our planning will consider how we make our communities healthier and safer, rather than merely denser and more efficient.

5. Remote learning earns its place in education

Technology, and access to it, has played a huge role in children’s education during this pandemic. In 2021, we’ll prove that remote learning can work-and may be a better option for some-and can have a positive and more persistent role in education. Having remote schooling (and working) options widely available at any time means that kids can stay home when they’re sick without falling behind.

No question, I think we should send our kids back to classrooms. But there will be other interruptions. Remote classrooms give school systems the flexibility to respond to unforeseen events-whether pandemics, natural disasters, or man-made calamities-to continue student education.

6. Small businesses will race to the cloud

In a massive shift, small businesses will begin to make use of advanced cloud technology to reach their customers. This will help small business do everything-from spinning up a chatbot to help answer frequently asked questions, to getting a customer relationship management system in place and running within minutes. Small businesses get the benefits of sophisticated architectures and applications without having to invest the time and expense of building it themselves.

7. Quantum computing starts to bloom

We’ve seen time and again, if you can democratise the most advanced, complex technology and make it affordable, available, and understandable to as many people as possible, great things happen.

As companies and institutions begin to experiment with quantum for the first time-and as that expertise starts to move beyond the academic world-we’ll see business plans and the early seeds of products and services that center around a quantum future.

8. The final frontier...

For technology to help everyone around the world live a better life, we shouldn’t go out and around the world as much as we should go up and above it.

In 2021 and beyond, I predict space will be the area where we see some of the greatest advancements when it comes to cloud technologies.

We’re already seeing the ability to access and process satellite data helping researchers track glacial recession, maritime agencies protect vulnerable marine reserves, and agronomists better predict food supply. By making access to space affordable and accessible to every developer, I’m looking forward to seeing the innovations that come back down to earth and help us grow and prosper.

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