Cisco reveals the top 6 tech trends for 2021 and beyond

From a greater adoption of sensors to a password-less future and closing the digital divide, 2021 will accelerate technologies that allow for more agility, resilience, and innovation

Cisco has revealed the top tech trends for 2021 and beyond with technologies that enable businesses to be more agile, resilient, and better prepared for unexpected challenges coming to the fore. In 2020, the arrival of future digital transformation occurred far faster than expected and research from Cisco expects this trend to continue during 2021.

“As the pandemic unfolded, we worked with our customers to move from business continuity to business agility. We also helped to deliver and scale innovative application experiences faster than ever before. With those changes in mind, we see six key trends defining the near future of the tech and IT industry” Said Reem Asaad, Vice President, Cisco Middle East & Africa. “As 2020 has shown, the pace of technological change moves very quickly, and we expect the same during 2021. The pandemic was a hugely challenging experience, but digitization has played a vital role in helping businesses, organizations and individuals through the crisis. I remain hopeful for the future and of the positive role technology is playing in our daily lives,” she added.

Here are the key tech trends Cisco expects to see during 2021:

Trend 1: Closing the Digital Divide

The internet enabled society and economic activity to continue for those with access to this invaluable resource. But that’s only about half of the global population and the pandemic underlined the urgent need to expand access. Currently only 35% of developing countries have internet access, compared to 80% in more advanced economies.

The introduction and expansion of 5G and WiFi 6 networks will improve bandwidth, speed, and latency, and reach areas where fiber is prohibitively expensive. As a result, frontline mobile workers, telehealth, manufacturing, and education will all benefit. This in turn will level the digital divide as these new technologies spur growth and innovation for millions.

According to PwC, bringing the internet to offline communities would add $6.7 trillion to the global economy and lift another 500 million people out of poverty.

Trend 2: Driving experience (and safety) through sensors

Sensors for both personal and workforce health, safety and wellbeing will take center stage in 2021. Patch-like sensors will be used to track health and well-being with sports sensors monitoring concussion. While fatigue sensors will be able to track alertness in ruggedized environments.

Data-based insights delivered by sensors will help provide a safer, healthier, and more productive environment in the workplace. Combined with WiFi 6, 5G, location technologies, and Collaboration solutions like Webex, they will identify underutilized or overcrowded spaces, while monitoring room temperature, humidity, air quality, and light.

According to the Cisco Global Workforce Study, 96% of companies can provide better work environments with smart workplace technology.

Trend 3: Keys to the future: app-enabled agility and resilience

The Cloud enabled organizations to quickly adapt in the early months of the pandemic. Ten months later and the applications at the heart of many businesses are highly distributed. Workforces are more mobile than ever before placing unprecedented demand on systems.

IT teams will need even greater agility going forward. By using observability solutions, teams can shift to monitoring the data and insights that matter. And as they continue to scale their ongoing transformations, insights and automation will be essential to future growth, competitiveness, and resilience.

According to Cisco 2021 CIO and ITDM Trends Pulse, 75% of CIOs and IT decision makers want to be able to utilize business insights better.

Trend 4: From customer experience to brand excitement

Mobile and smart devices have transformed daily life and mobile apps are available for shopping, banking, learning and more. During the pandemic apps became essential tools for tracking contacts. Mobile apps enable public and private-sector organizations to connect with users in unique ways with most business processes also running on applications.

The most advanced applications enable even more personal relationships, along with instantaneous responses. That demands the ability to quickly turn masses of real-time information from the network into actionable insights. Companies that employ such capabilities can respond to a customer even before they report an issue. It’s this combination of immersive, intelligence-based personalization and experience that will transform baseline customer satisfaction into deep customer engagement, excitement, and loyalty.

71% of CIOs and IT decision makers agreed that customer experience is about more than just satisfaction—it’s about delighting the customer.

Trend 5: Identity and a password-less future

Mobility, distributed work, and increased use of Cloud solutions has provided huge benefits in scalability and cost but has come with increased cyber threats. Zero trust methodology can address these challenges. Stolen or lost credentials remain the common cause of security breaches, a situation that has been exacerbated with the massive shift to remote work.

The use of technologies such as biometrics will be far more expanded as platforms, industry groups, and security providers work towards a password-free future for consumers and enterprises. Organizations need to begin preparing for this inevitable shift, where users no longer rely on a traditional password as their primary method of identification.

According to 2020 Duo Trusted Access Report, 80% of mobile devices used for work have biometrics configured, up 12% the past five years.

Trend 6: Consumption models for the tech you actually need

Organizations have long invested in one-size-fits-all digital solutions often paying for features users did not need. Today, software as a service enables organizations to pay for the features they currently need. They can then quickly scale other services, when required.

Consumption models will continue to shift, especially as more features and capabilities are available via software, whether on site or in the Cloud. These pay-as-you-consume models are far too flexible and cost effective to ignore.

This shift to pay-as-you-consume spending gives organizations more flexibility and cost predictability to manage their IT spend — something that 85% of CIOs and IT decision makers agreed is important to their business (43% called it very important) in Cisco’s 2021 CIO and IT Decision Makers Trends Pulse.