News In Context

What To Expect In Tech In The Year Ahead

What To Expect In Tech In The Year Ahead

We thought it would be appropriate to kick off the New Year by summarizing predictions for the year in tech from The Innovator and a variety of pundits. Read on to find out what to expect in 2021, including how supply chains, financial services, e-commerce, electric vehicles and renewable energy will evolve, and to learn more about this week’s technology news impacting business.

Embedded Finance Will Introduce New Revenue Streams In A Variety Of Industries

 2021 will see the acceleration of embedded finance, an enabler that incorporates financial products and services into any offering. For more on this $7 trillion dollar opportunity read this week’s deep dive article.

5G Will Start To Unlock The Full Power Of Industry 4.0

5G touches virtually every aspect of the communication ecosystem and is still in its infancy with regards to adoption. However, the rollout continues apace with increasingly more devices enabled for 5G . GP Bullhound notes  in its 2021 predictions that networks are expanding their 5G capabilities as quickly as possible to as much of the population as they can, to establish leadership in the space. Why should business care?  In recent decades, a wide range of technological advances, in such areas as data collection, analytics, machine learning, and augmented reality, has fueled the rise of smart, automated factories. Yet connectivity has remained a critical barrier to realizing the full potential of what is collectively known as Industry 4.0. Even the most advanced factories of today still largely depend on inexpensive Wi-Fi networks that have several drawbacks, such as interference in dense settings and complex fixed connections that are difficult to manage in large industrial settings. 5G can provide manufacturers a reliable alternative. This will enable critical communications, such as the wireless control of machines and manufacturing robots, that will unlock the full potential of Industry 4.0, including the mass proliferation of 5G-specific IoT devices, says McKinsey.  By 2030, as a result, the manufacturing sector could generate an additional $400 billion to $650 billion of global GDP impact, according to research by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) and the McKinsey Center for Advanced Connectivity.

Edge Computing Will Get A Boost

With edge computing receiving a significant boost from widespread availability of 5G networks, GP Bullhound predicts we will see existing and new businesses increasingly building solutions to service this growing need and adoption. By 2025 55.9 billion connection devices will generate more than 97 ZB of data, signifying the increasing importance of running data-intensive processes on devices and how they can have significant business outcomes.

Graphs Will Change Data Management And Lead To More Robust AI

Until recently knowledge graphs were mainly leveraged by tech companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon. But large corporates in traditional sectors such as chemicals and finance are starting to discover the power of graphs and, as their number grows, it is expected to cause a paradigm shift in data management. What’s more, as graphs progress they could potentially lead to more robust and reliable AI systems. For more on the power of graphs read The Innovator’s December deep drive article

AI Decision Making Will Come Of Age

Various methods being tested to improve AI’s decision-making powers. Some of these methods – such as the merger of rules-based and machine learning techniques, knowledge graphs and multi-modal neural sequencing – promise not just to help automate existing functions but to aid companies to strengthen and even re-imagine their businesses. For more on this topic read The Innovator’s deep dive.

Supply Unchained

Long considered a cost of doing business, supply chains will increasingly move out of the back office and onto the value-enabling front lines of customer segmentation and product differentiation, predicts consultancy and professional services provider Deloitte. Future-focused manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and others are exploring ways to transform the supply chain cost center into a customer-focused driver of value. They are expected to extract more value from the data they collect, analyze, and share across their supply networks. Some will use robots, drones, and advanced image recognition to make physical supply chain interactions more efficient, effective, and safe for employees.

Drug Development Will Speed Up

In 2020, the digital health sector saw massive growth led by the rise of telemedicine. In the next year, we’ll see the digitalization of drug development come to life driven by the urgent issues healthcare institutions and pharma companies experienced during the pandemic from suspending clinical trials to seeing hospitals in panic mode, predicts global venture capital firm Cathay Innovation. With new ways to leverage data, such as operational data in hospitals or real world evidence, pharma will significantly reduce time to market for critical drugs. The COVID-19 vaccine is just the beginning — we’ll see the bigger impact come from drug development as a whole with 10 year development cycles simply no longer being sufficient.

The Electric Vehicle Market Will Expand

Coming out of the pandemic, we’ll see a renewed focus on technology for good or innovation to address macro issues particularly around climate change or sustainability which global venture firm Cathay Innovation predicts will result in a major boost to the electric vehicle market. Tesla may be the obvious leader today, but with EU governments pouring money into the subsidization of electric vehicle purchases (such as the Renault ZOE),more players will emerge to build the necessary infrastructure while providing EV options in a more widely accessible price range.

The Effects of COVID-19 Will Continue to Influence Consumer Behavior In Financial Services

Cashless payments will continue to outpace cash, digital-only banking will see more widespread adoption, and digital wallet usage will expand. Financial services providers that can quickly and effectively react to these changes will thrive, Richard Hodgson, Chief Financial Officer, Global Processing Services, writes in financial services pundit Chris Skinner’s blog. It is now well established that COVID-19 has accelerated many pre-pandemic trends, says Hodgson. For example, while the number of cashless payments was already rising globally (a 14% increase in non-cash payments between 2018-2019, totalling 708.5 billion transactions), lockdown restrictions to combat the coronavirus have supercharged the trend  In the UK, six million adults (or 12% of the population) downloaded an online banking app for the first timeduring the initial lockdown, 90% of face-to-face transactions made in April were contactless, and in July 2020 there were 1.5 billion debit card transactions (20.8% more than in June 2020). In the APAC region, which was already the global leader in non-cash transactions (243.6 billion cashless transactions in 2019) due to high adoption of mobile payments and digital wallets, a Mastercard survey found that 91% of consumers in the region had transitioned to contactless payments as a result of COVID-19. However long the pandemic lasts, these trends in consumer behaviors are likely to persist throughout 2021, he predicts.

Cybersecurity Spending Will Increase

Enterprise cybersecurity spending will increase and grow the fastest in four key industries: healthcare systems and services, banking and financial, technology and media, and telecom and public and social sectors, according to McKinsey.

E-Commerce Will Get Faster And Smarter

The next-generation of commerce will be laser focused on speed, enabling a better consumer experience not with next day delivery or even in hours, but in the matter of minutes, predicts global venture capital firm Cathay Innovation. While the concept has been realized with meal deliveries, in the past year startups started to build a broader infrastructure, resulting in micro fulfillment services for brands and e-commerce players and the emergence of dark stores. The sector is still in its infancy with 2020 being all about the groundwork and 2021 being the year we see quick commerce come to fruition with the delivery of goods from food and groceries to makeup, shoes and more. Consultancy and professional services provider Deloitte says it expects consumers will no longer be satisfied with distinct physical or digital brand experiences: They will expect a blend of the best of both—highly personalized, in-person experiences without sacrificing the convenience of online transactions. In the next 18 to 24 months, Deloitte expects in-person and digital experiences to become more seamless and intertwined. Online and offline interactions will not be separate experiences anymore—the customer’s journey will be made up of in-person and digital elements that are integrated and intentionally designed to create a seamless brand experience that’s tailored to fit the individual. Pundits quoted in Internet Retailing’s 2021 predictions say the sector will increase its use of better deal with fluctuations in demand and supply, enable product discovery and personalize offers.

Renewable Energy Will Rebound

Energywatch predicts that as the price of renewable electricity continues to fall, green hydrogen will become cost competitive and play a greater roll in the energy industry. Many renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind, that were postponed by the pandemic are expected to come online in 2021 and lead to a rebound in renewable energy capacity. As a result, 2021 capacity levels are expected to come close to those of 2019, before the pandemic struck. That being said, the combined renewables growth of 2020 and 2021 will be nearly 10% lower than the International Energy Agency had previously forecast, according to Energywatch. New PV installations are expected to experience a partial comeback in 2021, although distributed PV has been hit more severely and will not fully recover. The commissioning of two enormous hydropower projects in China in 2021 are expected tto drive the overall rebound of renewables.

Corporate Social Responsibility Will Takes Center Stage

Customers of B2B and B2C brands are demanding corporate social responsibility. Technology is empowering organizations to unify their CSR efforts and simplify these initiatives, leading to greater transparency and greener and more efficient supply chains, predicts boutique investment bank GP Bullhound.

In The News This Week:


Haven ,the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan Venture Aimed At Disrupting Healthcare, Is Disbanding

Haven, the joint venture formed by three of America’s most powerful companies to lower costs and improve outcomes in health care, is disbanding after three years. The move to shutter Haven may be a sign of how difficult it is to radically improve American health care, a complicated and entrenched system of doctors, insurers, drugmakers and middlemen that costs the country $3.5 trillion every year


BBVA Is Shutting Down Banking App Simple

Global Spanish bank BBVA  told users of Simple — a pioneering mobile and online banking app that it acquired for $117 million in 2014 — that it is planning to shut down the service, moving accounts to BBVA’s USA business in the process.The move is part of an ongoing effort at BBVA — which had been an active investor and acquirer of startups — to streamline its business as it works on closing a merger with PNC. PNC announced in November last year that it would acquire the U.S. business of BBVA for $11.6 billion.

Venmo Adds Check Cashing Service

Venmo, a mobile payments service owned by PayPal, announced January 4 that it will begin to offer a new check-cashing service, “Cash a Check,” in the Venmo mobile app. The feature, which is being rolled out to select users, can be used to cash printed, payroll and U.S. government checks.


Air Protein Raises $32 Million To Create Meat From Air

Air Protein, a U.S. company using technology to make meat from elements in the air, announced has completed a $32 million Series A round of fundraising. The startup’s feeds elements found in the air, such as carbon dioxide, to genetically modified microbes in a fermentation tank. The microbes ingest the air elements and output a healthy protein that then gets texturized and turned into various alt meat products. Though the company has not yet named specific types of meat it is developing, it said it plans to create products it will sell directly to consumers, as opposed to selling to other food producers. 

Aleph Farms Partners with Mitsubishi Group to Bring Lab-Grown Meat To Japan

Israel’s Aleph Farms, which created the world’s first slaughter-free steak made from cow cells in 2018, announced a new agreement this week with Japanese multinational Mitsubishi Corporation’s Food Industry Group to bring cultivated meat to Japan.Aleph Farms will provide its manufacturing platform, BioFarm, for the cultivation of cultured steaks, while Mitsubishi Corporation will provide its expertise in biotechnology processes, branded food manufacturing, and local distribution in Japan.

AI- Powered Tool That Predicts Food Quality Attracts Funding

ProfilePrint, a Singapore-based AI-powered food ingredient analysis platform, announced that it has closed a seven-figure pre-series A round. Founded in 2018, ProfilePrint has developed a technology that combines metabolomics, AI, and sensor technologies into a single platform that predicts the quality profile of a food sample “within seconds.” The solution takes the form of a cloud-based platform with a portable analyzer. It allows stakeholders in the ingredient supply chain – ranging from growers, collectors, wholesalers, manufacturers, to retailers – to predict quality profiles without human intervention or destroying the sample, the firm said.

Too Good To Go Launches In The U.S.

French startup Too Good to Go is launching in the U.S., making its debut in New York City, which tops the heap of food-wasting cities in America. Via an easy-to-use mobile app available for iOS in the Apple store or Google Play for Android, Too Good To Go connects restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and markets to neighborhood residents, enabling them to save meals by picking up surplus food that would otherwise be tossed. The startup already operatets in 15 markets including Italy, Spain, the U.K., and France with more than 25 million downloads. Collectively, these consumers have saved 43 million meals using Too Good To Go.


Foxconn To Make Electric SUVs With Byton

Apple assembler Foxconn and the Nanjing Economic and Technological Development Zone have agreed to start building electric sport-utility vehicles in 2022 for cash-strapped Chinese startup Byton. Foxconn’s deal with Byton, its most concrete foray into the auto sector, amplifies the threat to established automakers that technology companies such as iPhone maker Apple and other non-traditional players could use contract assemblers as a shortcut to competing in the vehicle market. By lowering manufacturing and the associated capital costs as a barrier to entry, contract assemblers could enable technology companies to focus on software and digital connectivity features that will define automotive competition in the coming years

Chinese Search Engine Giant Baidu To Enter EV Market

China’s Baidu  plans to form a company to make smart electric vehicles (EV),with manufacturing to be carried out at plants owned by automaker Geely.Baidu, the leading search engine company in China, will take a majority stake and absolute voting power in the new company.The venture will revamp some of Geely’s existing car manufacturing facilities to make the vehicles, with in-car software input from Baidu and engineering know-how from Geely, sources told Reuters.

Artificial Intelligence

OpenAI, the San Francisco-based research company behind the breakthrough AI language generator GPT-3, has developed a new system that can create images from short text captions. In a blog post, OpenAI said that DALL-E had demonstrated the ability to create images “for a wide range of concepts” Images generated by neural networks, a type of machine learning that can spot patterns, are not new. Generative adversarial networks, which rely on a pair of neural networks — one creating content and the other assessing how close it is to a desired output — have been used to create images of realistic humans, cats, rental properties and snacks. But DALL-E is notable for being able to produce images based on text inputs. The system is based on a version of GPT-3, the text-generation system that has been used to write poetry, news articles and text adventures.

Quantum Computing

Some users of China Telecom, one of the country’s three state-owned telecom companies, can now make quantum encrypted phone calls using a special SIM card and smartphone app, the company announced last week.The move is the latest from China showcasing the country’s commitment to all things quantum computing, an area that, like artificial intelligence and 5G,  has come part of the ongoing U.S.-China tech war.


Apple Will Modify Executive Bonuses in 2021 Based On Sustainability And Other Actions

Apple said in its annual proxy filing that it will modify executive cash bonuses based on whether the executives act within the company’s social and environmental values.

Malaysian Team Turns Pineapple Waste Into Disposable Drone Parts

Malaysian researchers have developed a method to transform the fiber found in normally discarded pineapple leaves to make a strong material that can be used to build the frames for unmanned aircraft, or drones.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.