Stephen Smith's Blog

Musings on Machine Learning…

Technology Predictions for 2021

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Introduction

Last week, we discussed some of the remarkable technologies from 2020. This time, we are going to look at some of the technology trends that will influence life in 2021. Everyone is hopeful that now that vaccines are starting to roll out, that we can put the pandemic behind us. The pandemic will certainly continue to dominate life well into 2021, but hopefully as more people become vaccinated, the numbers will start to finally go down and the level of community infection will reduce. As always, predictions are highly inaccurate and you should always expect the unexpected, nevertheless, it is fun to speculate.

Continuing CPU Wars

Intel will continue to have trouble with their new chip process technologies and as a result the wolves are circling. Both AMD and ARM will aggressively target Intel in all CPU categories. Both AMD and ARM will exploit newer process technologies from TSMC and Samsung to produce faster chips with higher transistor counts that use less power. Apple will accelerate their transition from Intel to ARM and it is likely they will finish their transition in 2021 a year ahead of schedule. Apple has proven the ARM processor is fully capable of competing in the laptop and desktop markets and expect other manufacturers to produce similar products running the ARM version of Windows which Microsoft will put more effort into as it gains market share. Similarly, the Apple M1 brought down a high bandwidth memory bus from the expensive server market into the mainstream. Expect to see better memory buses and technologies starting to appear in the consumer market. RISC-V will still struggle for relevance unless they can produce a Raspberry Pi board with similar performance for a similar price.

Self Driving Cars

There are dozens of companies working on self-driving cars. Honda plans to release a level 3 autonomous car by summer that will allow the driver to take their eyes off the road in a number of conditions. Already we are seeing self-driving taxis in some Asian cities. Expect to see more autonomous trucks driving the highways in the US. Expect the driver assist features in regular cars to be far more advanced this year going beyond simple lane control on highways.

We won’t see mainstream flying cars or jetpacks, these will remain dangerous toys, but expect cars to drive themselves more and more and suddenly we’ll wonder why we didn’t let cars always drive themselves.

Hackers and Virtual War

2020 is finishing with a major attack by a Russian state sponsored hacking group on the US government, infrastructure and corporations. We blogged on the ransomware attack against our own Translink, which is just one of dozens of successful attacks on various companies. IT departments everywhere are now under constant attack from private freelance hacking groups like the Translink case, but worse they are now faced with well funded state backed attacks from foreign countries, especially Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. All the labs developing COVID vaccines have been attacked as other countries have tried to steal their secrets for their own vaccine development.

In 2021, this is only going to get worse. The COVID pandemic made most IT departments short staffed and this will continue. The US government hasn’t made any investments in strengthening cyber security as any attempts to do so are stalled in a deadlocked congress. Similarly, corporations have gone cheap on their defenses as they just see these as a cost that should be reduced to increase profits.

There have been no real penalties for carrying out these attacks and this failure of law enforcement is going to embolden others to jump in and try to profit.

In 2021 things are going to get worse before they get better. Companies and governments will start to respond. Hopefully, the US can get past the dysfunction of the past four years and start to show some leadership again. Sadly, so far governments have been more interested in weakening encryption standards and providing backdoors for law enforcement. These moves have made communications easier to hack. Keeping backdoors secret from hackers never works, they always figure them out. Making it so law enforcement can eavesdrop on drug dealers sounds good, but the reverse is that it allows criminals to eavesdrop on our banking transactions.

In many ways, warfare between nations has gone virtual. While the US continues to buy more planes and tanks, Russia and China are investing in cyberwarfare and so far they are winning.

Computers Get Faster and More Powerful

This is an easy prediction as it is always the case. Expect more RAM, bigger SSDs and faster CPUs. Towards the end of 2021, I would expect a standard mid-range laptop or desktop to have 32Gig DDR5 RAM, a 2TB SSD and a 10+ core CPU. Further it will be standard to have GPU functionality built into the CPU chip. You can buy such systems now, but they are quite high end, just expect that as prices come down, what used to be high end becomes mainstream. There is currently a RAM surplus so look for more inexpensive RAM and SSD for this spring.

Summary

These are a few of the technology trends to watch in 2021. Of course AI will continue to improve, but only look for incremental improvements. The Raspberry Pi will go fully 64-bit, but don’t look for a new RP 5 until 2022. Will there be something unexpected? Probably. As always participating in the technology world is exciting.

Written by smist08

December 18, 2020 at 10:04 am

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