Tech Trends That WON’T Happen in 2021

As 2020 finally winds down, predictions abound on the technology advancements and innovations expected in the year ahead. However, several highly anticipated advancements, including environmentally friendly 5G, explainable artificial intelligence (AI), mainstream virtual reality (AR), and ubiquitous Wi-Fi 6E, will not happen in 2021, according to global tech market advisory firm ABI Research.

To help facilitate the flow of technology-focused business information in the wake of conference cancellations, global market advisory firm ABI Research is holding its Digital Tech Summit from April 14–16.

(Image credit: ABI Research)

In its new whitepaper, 68 Technology Trends That Will Shape 2021: Predictions for What Will and Will Not Happen in The Year Ahead, ABI Research’s analysts identify 37 trends that will shape the technology market and 31 others that, although attracting huge amounts of speculation and commentary, are less likely to move the needle over the next 12 months. 

Related: Looking Ahead to 2021

“We are nearly finished with one of the most challenging years the world has ever seen,” said Stuart Carlaw, chief research officer at ABI Research. “We have had change thrust upon us all, and the fundamental machinations of standard business processes have been stressed to the point where change has manifested itself as an evolutionary necessity. For success in 2021, one must understand fundamental trends early, and take a view on those trends that are buoyed by hyperbole and those that are sure to be uncomfortable realities. Now is the time to double down on the right technology investment.”

What won’t happen in 2020?

Environmentally Friendly 5G: “Global 5G subscriptions are forecast to grow from 234 million in 2020 to 347 million in 2021 at a rate of 48.4 percent,” said Jun Wei Ee, 5G and mobile network infrastructure research analyst at ABI Research. “This accelerated growth in 5G adoption will strain the environment as a growing number of consumers will be switching over to 5G devices to take advantage of the high speeds and low latency. The transition will potentially create large amounts of electronic waste.” 

Explainable AI: “Deep learning-based AI remains a black box,” said Lian Jye Su, AI and machine learning principal analyst at ABI Research. “Although cloud AI players, such as Google, H2O, and Element AI, have offered development tools and frameworks around explainable AI, AI built based on these solutions is not mature enough for mass commercialization. Now, most AI models are not designed for transparency, let alone explain-ability. Hence, do not expect explainable AI to become mainstream in 2021.”

Mainstream Virtual Reality: “Market elements have not aligned to enable mainstream virtual reality (VR) adoption,” said Eleftheria Kouri, augmented and virtual reality research analyst at ABI Research. “Growth will be strong in 2021, but the user base will not reach levels once thought probable where VR competes for usage time with TVs, smartphones, and traditional displays. The enterprise sector remains the fastest growth opportunity for now. Consumers still present the largest potential user base and the most alignment with content in media and entertainment. However, content creators are mostly waiting for a more approachable user base, and that user base is waiting for content. This will not happen by 2021, but the momentum is indeed growing across both consumer and enterprise spaces.”

Ubiquitous Wi-Fi 6E: “The ever-increasing connected device density and increasing use of bandwidth-intensive applications are always driving the demand for high-efficiency Wi-Fi networks,” said Khin Sandi Lynn, video and cloud services analyst. “COVID-19 has further accelerated that demand. The latest solution is Wi-Fi 6E, an extended Wi-Fi 6 with 6GHz spectrum. But, Wi-Fi 6E adoption in residential broadband use cases will be minimal in 2021 since broadband service providers have only recently started upgrading their CPE with Wi-Fi 6.”

“In this period of uncertainty and change, there is one polestar of unflinching truth: technology will be the most powerful tool in ensuring corporate health,” Carlaw said. “Technology evolution, implementation, and enthusiasm must be embraced by all companies, no matter what tier of the corporate strata or end market in which they reside. A resilient company that is well set to grow once this pandemic ends will be characterized by its digital agility as much as anything else.”

For more trends that won’t happen in 2021, and the 37 trends that will download the whitepaper, 68 Technology Trends that Will Shape 2021: Predictions for What Will and Will Not Happen in The Year Ahead


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