The application-first economy and future of work that was emerging over the past few years suddenly got a jolt of adrenaline when the pandemic hit. COVID-19 forced everything from digital computing, healthcare, large scale supply chain, the service economy, and even home and family life to reinvent themselves. For 2021 and beyond, there are a few top-of-mind predictions that look at the bigger picture for the future of work, as so many of us are re-imagining what that will be, and how some things have changed forever.
The application-first digital economy
The business agility and quality of experience provided by modern applications have led to the mantra that the application experience is the new brand. Increasingly more transactions are taking place through modern distributed cloud-native applications spanning every industry. This has been slowly taking shape over the past few years but will exponentially grow in 2021 and beyond.
Meet the new edge
Starting in 2021, we will see the advent of a true distributed edge computing paradigm which will operate in a “headless” distributed manner. A manufacturing enterprise, for example, would have their edge nodes under this untethered distributed control, while keeping the data sovereignty, latency and cost sensitivity aspects localized. I expect initial proof of concepts to begin this year, with production deployments still a couple of years away.
Future of collaboration
The way we collaborate, work, consume live entertainment, access healthcare, and interact with others will all drive a dramatic change in collaboration tools.
During 2021, we will solve these newer use cases by retrofitting our current tools. By late 2021 though, innovators will take a fresh look at these challenges and start solving them in evolutionary ways. As an example, being able to merge disparate audio-video streams and collaborate on a movie set or design a car from scratch.
Seamless healthcare and more agile supply chains
Healthcare environments, AI/ML assisted diagnosis systems, and software applications and systems that provably track data and asset flow between organizations will attract significant mindshare in 2021, because of the security, agility and flexibility they offer.
- Smart wearables are hot, but the space is even larger when it comes to Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). We will see an expansion in the types of sensors being deployed for RPM, and a rise in the backend systems that will intelligently integrate these multi-mode sensors to drive insights.
- The disparate manufacturing and supply chain control systems are due for a massive disruption with zero-touch, agile, end-to- end automation. I expect advanced analytics, AI, and automation will be applied to the myriad operational problems in manufacturing environments, solving the autonomous operations and flexibility gaps in supply chains today.
AI/ML is still hip, but Quantum is getting hipper
Today, we are seeing a refocus of AI talent and technologies into applied areas, particularly in the areas of AI-Ops, ML-Ops and systems design. Starting 2021, we will begin to see the usage of AI/ML in production operational systems, though we will still be learning through niche use cases.
Quantum Computing is hitting the hype cycle. There has been a massive influx in funding in Quantum this past year. (e.g,   ) Initial use cases in security, networking, and niche scientific markets are already showing up.
The impact of the global pandemic has forced humankind to reassess priorities and accelerate technology innovation. It’s clear the next decade will see unprecedented innovation and growth because of our rendezvous with a virus.
For more information on how Cisco views the Future of Work, visit here: https://www.cisco.com/c/en_uk/solutions/collaboration/future-of-work.html
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