Alibaba’s DAMO Academy, the company’s global research arm, recently revealed what it believes to be the 10 predictions for trends that will shape the technology sector in 2021 and further years.
- Third-generation semiconductors
The two most powerful materials that support Wide Band Gap semiconductor devices are gallium nitride and silicon carbide. They are known as third-generation semiconductors and can deliver superior performances while withstanding high power levels, high temperatures, and radiation. DAMO believes that recent breakthroughs in material fabrication and device manufacturing will make these materials affordable. Their applications include use in 5G communications, energy vehicles, large-scale power-grids, and data centres.
- A new era post-quantum
Investors all around the world were attracted to the quantum computing field in 2020 when related technologies and ecosystems were thriving and many platforms were growing. For 2021 and further years, the next quantum leap will see scientists and innovators working together. Researchers will have to resolve quantum error correction to help make accurate calculations and improve quantum reliability. Without error correction, quantum computers will become obsolete. Engineers will need to identify quantum-inspired solutions’ real values and discover real-life applications.
- Carbon-based materials and flexible electronics
Flexible electronics, also called flex circuits, are stable despite undergoing bending, folding, and stretching. They can be found in wearable devices, electronic skins, and flexible screens. Past materials were either not flexible enough or could not compete with rigid silicon-based materials that dominated commercial use. Recent breakthroughs in carbon-based materials have allowed for better examples of flexible electronics.
- AI-accelerated drug and vaccine development
AI technology has been found to effectively interpret medical images and manage medical records. The use of this technology in drug development and research is still in the preliminary stages. However, new AI algorithms are being developed and computing power is breaking new limits by the day. This will make the R&D of drugs and vaccines easier as they take a lot of time and cost a lot of money.
- Human-machine interactions
An essential technology for next-generation collaborative intelligence between humans and machines is brain-computer interface. It is at the heart of neural engineering. Brain-computer interface technology will let doctors control robotic arms precisely and help patients that cannot speak or move overcome physical limitations.
- Self-evolving data processing
Today, every person creates 1.7 megabytes of data per second, as recorded by cloud-native platform Domo. Today, manual management and traditional data processes cannot keep up as data is always expanding. AI-based management systems are being explored due to being autonomous and self-optimising costs, operation, and maintenance.
- Cloud-native technologies
Future computers, chips, development platforms, and applications will be cloud-native. This will lower the barriers to cloud-based app development. Engineers can enjoy quicker product development and scalability, easier distribution, and more flexibility. The past November 11 was when Alibaba developed cloud-native technologies to handle more than 583,000 orders in a second. Combined with automatic data processing, cloud-based digital infrastructures can handle surges without downtime.
- Digital agriculture
New digital technologies such as Internet of Things, AI, and cloud computing have been applied to agriculture to address the disconnection between planning, production, and detail. Alibaba has notably used its blockchain technologies to trace and track the transportation of agricultural products in China. These technologies help agriculture reduce its dependence on natural conditions, and instead use intelligent analytics.
- Industrial intelligence
The use of AI and digital technologies in industries has been complicated and costly since it involves many complicated processes. However, companies with industrial intelligence have survived the pandemic, even thriving. Xunxi, Alibaba’s digital factory, uses AI and digital technology in all areas of operation. The use of smart algorithms and technologies can help drive innovation and informs closed-loop decisions for manufacturers, although complete adoption might be difficult.
- Smart cities
Smart cities were conceived a decade ago, using digital technologies. New innovations will see the wide deployment of intelligent operational centres. Using an artificial intelligence of things combined with spatial cloud computing will help enhance different departments and entities, streamlining their processes and helping with governance. These centres will function as the smart city’s digital infrastructure and handle real-time feedback and analytics in areas like transportation and public services.