Now that 2020 is history, let’s ask ourselves a question: will the world ever be the same again? One thing is certain – when it comes to the advancement of technology, the direction of that advancement over the past year isn’t going to change. And this is a good thing.
Indeed, 2020 was a difficult ordeal for individuals and businesses alike. However, most of us would admit that it also encouraged us to adapt and come out of it stronger than ever.
With technology by our side
In such trying times, humanity managed to change its established ways surprisingly quickly. People learned how to work and study from home, how to entertain themselves, and how to remain healthy and positive even in isolation. Businesses have also developed new ways to stay afloat and even prosper.
All of this wouldn’t be possible without technology. The internet, smartphones, computers, and other technological marvels allowed us to stay connected with the world and each other even during the lockdown. In such circumstances, technologies continued evolving at an ever-increasing pace.
As a result, the year 2020, despite its hardships, has brought us lots of groundbreaking and innovative tech tools that not only helped us get through the crisis but also laid the foundation for greater technological advancements. Below is our overview of these tools.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become more accessible, even for SMBs
Artificial intelligence has been around for years. Lately, AI technologies such as machine learning, intelligent data processing, biometric and speech recognition, have been in ever-higher demand as people are moving toward contactless interactions due to remote working conditions. What’s more, artificial intelligence has near limitless potential for workplace automation, which has become an increasingly pressing matter due to emerging work from home practices.
Reports indicate that the use of AI technologies among enterprises has grown by 270% over the past four years. Such growth dynamics make it clear as day that artificial intelligence is here to stay, and here’s why:
- AI helps simplify many processes that used to require human interaction. That’s why AI-powered robots are now widely integrated in industries such as retail, logistics, customer service, sales, security, supply chain, and others.
- Artificial intelligence is capable of continuous learning and improvement. This means robots can scale with businesses and customer needs.
- According to a report by Salesforce, more than half of all businesses employ AI to help them increase productivity.
- The same report reveals that 62% of customers believe that AI can improve their experiences with brands.
This is what the future looks like. More companies are embracing AI as it becomes more accessible. Formerly, customized systems based on the capabilities of artificial intelligence were only available to large corporations that could afford costly software development. However, one of the emerging technologies of 2020, referred to as “AI-as-a-service”, has opened the door to new opportunities for small and medium businesses looking to adopt tailored AI solutions out of the box.
Meanwhile, AI technologies continue to develop, becoming better at analyzing data and understanding the patterns and connections underlying people’s behavior. With this in mind, it’s safe to assume that artificial intelligence use cases will continue expanding into more industries.
Automation and no-code help businesses operate regardless of quarantine measures
Tedious and repetitive tasks are part of almost any professional routine. Businesses used to spend countless employee hours on mundane operations such as filling out forms, processing documents and transactions, analyzing and transferring data, replying to emails and customer requests, and so on.
The COVID-19 outbreak, the ensuing economic crisis, and mass layoffs, despite their negative impacts, also showed businesses that advanced software can effectively optimize an ever-growing scope of human-based tasks so that they can be completed remotely. This is made possible thanks to modern automation technologies that use programmable software robots to carry out mechanical and monotonous tasks at the workplace faster and at a reduced cost.
Some automation tools, like chatbots, have been widely used over the past years. But it was in 2020 when no-code solutions revealed their full potential and took over the market. No-code technology enabled non-technical users to automate complex business processes by means of simple graphical interfaces, without writing a single line of code.
For example, airSlate succeeded in offering enterprises an end-to-end solution for automating document workflows via easy-to-use no-code Bots. As a result, companies reduced their paperwork costs and saved hundreds of man-hours on scanning, distributing, printing, and shipping documents, allowing human employees to focus on more creative tasks at hand. What’s more, digitized document processes helped healthcare and other institutions to reduce in-person visits and contain the spread of the virus.
We also made sure that our tools reached those who needed them most, especially during turbulent times. And finally, that these tools were easy to master. We achieved this by:
- Offering educational institutions a free premium subscription to our pdfFiller and signNow products.
- Providing healthcare organizations with free pdfFiller and signNow premium packages.
- Creating a free online airSlate Academy course that enabled users to become automation experts during the COVID-19 crisis.
No-code automation helped many businesses survive in 2020 and will likely continue to dominate the tech-biz landscape in the coming years.
Edge computing is making data delivery lightning-fast
The amount of digital data generated during the 2020 crisis skyrocketed. Since practices for remote work, online learning, and video conferencing have taken root, the workloads for networks have increased substantially, putting the existing infrastructure under an abnormal amount of stress.
With so much data to be processed and distributed to end-users, the need for higher bandwidth and lower latency data transfers has become a growing concern. In addition, the higher number of IoT (Internet of Things) devices has added fuel to an already raging fire.
While giants such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, IBM, and Oracle spearheaded cloud computing as a major technological trend over the last few years, its capacity to overcome latency issues is limited. Data still needs to make its way from the point of generation to a processing center before it is delivered to its final destination. This is where edge computing steps in.
Edge computing is aimed at increasing data delivery speed by decentralizing data processing. In other words, data is processed as close to its generation point as possible without having to travel all the way to a data center. Taking into account the potential of edge computing (coupled with 5G connectivity) to reduce data latency to as little as 1 millisecond, Gartner predicts that 75% of all data generated by enterprises will be processed using edge computing by 2025.
Internet of Things (IoT) has made lives easier — and healthier
Fueled by edge computing, the Internet of Things has become one of the most promising tech tools. Not only for improving quality of life and workplace efficiency during times of social distancing but also for combating the Coronavirus.
With 31 billion devices connected to the Internet in 2020, IoT provides the following benefits:
- Continuous data exchange between devices
- Remote control of network-connected systems
- Real-time monitoring of processes
- Timely troubleshooting
- Improved security
- Reduced production and maintenance costs
- Active prevention of breakdowns, and much more
The advantages of IoT make it indispensable in the proliferation of workplace automation, which is a vital tool for businesses during the COVID-19 lockdown and the resulting shortage of human resources. For this reason, IoT is now profoundly used in smart homes, production facilities, security systems, logistics, transportation, and other areas.
But most importantly, IoT has become increasingly important for the healthcare sector over the course of 2020. IoT devices are now widely used for monitoring people’s health in real-time, communicating the data obtained to medical institutions, and initiating preventive measures against COVID-19 and other diseases. In this regard, the IoT healthcare market is expected to reach a $136 billion net worth in 2021.
VR and AR made social distancing bearable and even productive
Although VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) technologies were previously only associated with gaming, 2020 became the year when both found an impressively wide range of applications. Here’s a mind-boggling fact: the number of VR systems sold in 2020 reached 68 million units as compared to just 5 million units sold in 2016.
Social distancing and self-isolation caused more people to turn to VR and AR not only for entertainment but also for educational and professional needs. Thus, virtual reality kits became widely used for online learning and employee training. Since VR provides an unparalleled immersive experience, it is a lifesaver for people who strive to develop practical skills in certain fields while under lockdown (e.g., special vehicle drivers, aircraft pilots, surgeons, etc.).
VR enabled people to visit various travel destinations virtually. Some high-end enterprises also experimented with using it for online conferencing and collaboration projects. Even in the healthcare industry, medical scientists employed VR and AR for molecular design when researching the coronavirus and developing possible treatment.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
Although this may sound like a trivial thing to say, it holds true when we talk about the technological advancements 2020 has brought about. On the one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed were a hard blow for most people around the world. But on the other hand, the challenges we had to endure urged us to adapt to new conditions and seek alternative ways to prosper, regardless of the circumstances.
Today’s state of technology reflects that perfectly. From artificial intelligence to virtual reality, the tech tools discussed here not only helped us get through 2020, but have also set the path for further development. And we at airSlate are happy to be a part of this progress by facilitating change for businesses looking to automate their workflows.