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Top 10 Emerging Technologies To Watch in 2021


Twenty-twenty was a year of uncertainty.

Between the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, uncertainty over the U.S. election and the climate crisis, this year felt longer than most. Fortunately, a multiple COVID-19 vaccine seems to be headed our way soon, which is easing many people’s minds.

One thing that is certain though, 2020 will have a lasting impact on the world.

Now, researchers are looking for what else could have a lasting impact on humanity as we move forward. In a new report titled Foresight 2021, analysts at Lux Research were asked what technologies they will be following in 2021 that have the greatest potential to transform the world over the next decade.

Technologies to Watch in 2021

The researchers highlighted a number of technologies that they will be watching in 2021. Many of these technologies will play a role in the post-pandemic world.

Michael Holman, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and lead author of the report, explained:

“Technologies from our lists like digital biomarkers and AI-enabled sensors can help bring businesses back to work. But for all the changes that the pandemic has brought, the key megatrends shaping the future are still in force. Technologies that support these transitions, such as autonomous vehicles, alternative proteins and green hydrogen will maintain their momentum as a result.”

Here are Lux’s top ten technologies to watch:

1. Autonomous Vehicles

With improvements in safety and efficiency happening at all levels of vehicle automation, it won’t be long until these become ubiquitous on our roadways. Those benefits extend to both consumer vehicles and commercial applications, according to researchers.

Investors may want to keep an eye on areas like sensors and connectivity for autonomous vehicles while planning for the impact on mobility businesses more broadly, the paper’s authors said.

2. Natural Language Processing

These are tools and techniques that are used to process, analyze, and generate text. Including technologies like voice assistants, machine translation, and chatbots.

There are now more than 3,000 natural language processing patents, according to Lux. It’s a growth rate that could see natural language processing reach human performance levels in the not-too-distant future, the researchers said. However, the technology likely won’t reach human-level comprehension and understanding for some time.

3. Plastic Recycling

Concerns over plastic waste continue to grow, but new advances in technologies that can convert plastic into a variety of useful products are emerging. These advances have applications in food apparel and more.

4. AI-Enabled Sensors

“Sensors of all kinds now can provide more impactful insights when coupled with machine learning and AI,” write the authors.

There have been a number of advancements in machine-learning capabilities in recent years. Developers and operators can use these advances to extract more value from sensors and create new products or improve internal processes.

5. Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is a key part of pharmaceutical discovery, but it has new and far-reaching opportunities. Those include risk assessment, safety, personalization, diagnostics, and traceability. These advances could have applications in multiple industries, especially food and agriculture, according to Lux.

6. Green Hydrogen

Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced from renewable energy. It has applications in storage and transportation of clean energy.

Climate change remains a top concern around the world. Green hydrogen can help clean up otherwise hard-to-decarbonize industrial processes.

7. Shared Mobility

These are innovations in mobility outside of traditional ownership. Things like car-sharing, ride hailing, and autonomous taxis make up these advances. Companies like Uber and Lyft have disrupted the multi-trillion-dollar auto industry, according to Lux. “Self-driving cars, zero-emission vehicles, connectivity, and innovative materials are defining the future of mobility,” the authors said.

8. Alternative Proteins

Meat is traditionally a resource-intensive industry that has negative effects on the environment. Plant-based protein alternatives are becoming more popular with consumers. It’s a shift that could have a long-lasting impact on how people consume food and the environmental footprint of society.

9. 3D Printing

The two main trends in 3D printing in the coming decade will be sustainability and digital transformation, according to the researchers at Lux.

10. Materials Informatics

This is the use of Artificial Intelligence techniques to accelerate chemical and material development. The major players in this industry are still in the early stages of engagement, according to Lux. “This indicates an opportunity for clients who engage well and early enough to become the dominant player,” they wrote.