Technology is now evolving at such a rapid pace that annual predictions of trends can seem out-of-date before they even go live as a published blog post or article. As technology evolves, it enables even faster change and progress, causing the acceleration of the rate of change, until eventually it will become exponential.
Technology-based careers don’t change at that same speed, but they do evolve, and the savvy IT professional recognizes that his or her role will not stay the same. The IT worker of the 21st century will constantly be learning, out of necessity if not desire.
What does this mean for you? It means staying current with technology trends. And it means keeping your eyes on the future, to know which skills you’ll need to know and what types of jobs you want to be qualified to do.
Here are eight technology trends you should watch for in 2019, and some of the jobs that will be created by these trends. Because the time to train yourself for one of these emerging jobs is now.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has already received a lot of buzz in recent years, but it continues to be a trend to watch because its effects on how we live, work and play are only in the early stages. In addition, other branches of AI have developed, including Machine Learning, which we will go into below. AI refers to computers systems built to mimic human intelligence and perform tasks such as recognition of images, speech or patterns and decision making. AI can do these tasks faster and more accurately than humans.
AI has been around since 1956 is already widely used. In fact, five out of six Americans use AI services in one form or another every day, including navigation apps, streaming services, smartphone personal assistants, ride-sharing apps, home personal assistants, and smart home devices. In addition to consumer use, AI is used to schedule trains, assess business risk, predict maintenance, and improve energy efficiency, among many other money-saving tasks.
AI is one part of what we refer to broadly as automation, and automation is a hot topic because of potential job loss. Experts say automation will eliminate 73 million more jobs by 2030. However, automation is creating jobs as well as eliminating them, especially in the field of AI: Pundits predict that jobs in AI will number 23 million by 2020. Jobs will be created in development, programming, testing, support and maintenance, to name a few. Artificial Intelligence architect is one such job. Some say it will soon rival data scientist in need for skilled professionals.
To learn more about potential jobs in AI, read about building a career in AI or why you should earn an AI certification.
Machine Learning is a subset of AI. With Machine Learning, computers are programmed to learn to do something they are not programmed to do: They literally learn by discovering patterns and insights from data. In general, we have two types of learning, supervised and unsupervised.
While Machine Learning is a subset of AI, we also have subsets within the domain of Machine Learning, including neural networks, natural language processing (NLP), and deep learning. Each of these subsets offers an opportunity for specializing in a career field that will only grow.
Machine Learning is rapidly being deployed in all kinds of industries, creating a huge demand for skilled professionals. The Machine Learning market is expected to grow to $8.81 billion by 2022. Machine Learning applications are used for data analytics, data mining and pattern recognition. On the consumer end, Machine Learning powers web search results, real-time ads and network intrusion detection, to name only a few of the many tasks it can do.
In addition to completing countless tasks on our behalf, it is generating jobs. Machine Learning jobs rank among the top emerging jobs on LinkedIn, with almost 2,000 job listings posted. And these jobs pay well: In 2017, the median salary for a machine learning engineer was $106,225. Machine Learning jobs include engineers, developers, researchers, and data scientists.
Robotic Process Automation or RPA
Like AI and Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is another technology that is automating jobs. RPA is the use of software to automate business processes such as interpreting applications, processing transactions, dealing with data, and even replying to emails. RPA automates repetitive tasks that people used to do. These are not just the menial tasks of a low-paid worker: up to 45 percent of the activities we do can be automated, including the work of financial managers, doctors and CEOs.
Although Forrester Research estimates RPA automation will threaten the livelihood of 230 million or more knowledge workers, or approximately 9 percent of the global workforce, RPA is also creating new jobs while altering existing jobs. McKinsey finds that less than 5 percent of occupations can be totally automated, but about 60 percent can be partially automated.
For you as the IT professional looking to the future and trying to understand technology trends, RPA offers plenty of career opportunities, including developer, project manager, business analyst, solution architect and consultant. And these jobs pay well. SimplyHired.com says the average RPA salary is $73,861, but that is the average compiled from salaries for junior-level developers up to senior solution architects, with the top 10 percent earning over $141,000 annually.
Although most people think of blockchain technology in relation to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain offers security that is useful in many other ways. In the simplest of terms, blockchain can be described as data you can only add to, not take away from or change. Hence the term “chain” because you’re making a chain of data. Not being able to change the previous blocks is what makes it so secure. In addition, blockchains are consensus-driven, as explained in this Forbes article, so no one entity can take control of the data. With blockchain, you don’t need a trusted third-party to oversee or validate transactions.
This heightened security is why blockchain is used for cryptocurrency, and why it can play a significant role in protecting information such as personal medical data. Blockchain could be used to drastically improve the global supply chain, as described here, as well as protect assets such as art and real estate.
And as the use of blockchain technology increases, so too does the demand for skilled professionals. In that regard, we are already behind. According to Techcrunch.com, blockchain-related jobs are the second-fastest growing category of jobs, with 14 job openings for every one blockchain developer. A blockchain developer specializes in developing and implementing architecture and solutions using blockchain technology. The average yearly salary of a blockchain developer is $130,000.
The job of developer is not the only one available in the blockchain space, however. Employers are also looking for software engineers, consultants and project managers. Jobs are available at financial institutions, but also in retail and healthcare, and soon probably manufacturing as well.
Formerly a technology trend to watch, cloud computing has become mainstream, with major players AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud dominating the market. The adoption of cloud computing is still growing, as more and more businesses migrate to a cloud solution. But it’s no longer the emerging technology. Edge is.
Move over, cloud computing, and make way for the edge.
As the quantity of data we’re dealing with continues to increase, we’ve realized the shortcomings of cloud computing in some situations. Edge computing is designed to help solve some of those problems as a way to bypass the latency caused by cloud computing and getting data to a datacenter for processing. It can exist “on the edge,” if you will, closer to where computing needs to happen. For this reason, edge computing can be used to process time-sensitive data in remote locations with limited or no connectivity to a centralized location. In those situations, edge computing can act like mini datacenters. Edge computing will increase as use the Internet of Things (IoT) devices increases. By 2022, the global edge computing market is expected to reach $6.72 billion.
As with any growing market, this will create job demand, primarily for software engineers.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) immerses the user in an environment while Augment Reality (AR) enhances their environment. Although VR has primarily been used for gaming thus far, it has also been used for training, as with VirtualShip, a simulation software used to train U.S. Navy, Army and Coast Guard ship captains. The popular Pokemon Go is an example of AR.
Both have enormous potential in training, entertainment, education, marketing, and even rehabilitation after an injury. Either could be used to train doctors to do surgery, offer museum goers a deeper experience, enhance theme parks, or even enhance marketing, as with this Pepsi Max bus shelter.
According to an article at Monster.com, the demand for job candidates with VR knowledge is up 37 percent, but the potential employees are in short supply. That demand will only increase. There are major players in the VR market, like Google, Samsung and Oculus, but plenty of startups are forming and they will be hiring—or trying to, in light of the shortage. Getting started in VR doesn’t require a lot of specialized knowledge. Basic programming skills and a forward-thinking mindset can land a job, although other employers will be looking for optics as a skill-set and hardware engineers as well.
Cyber security might not seem like an emerging technology, given that it has been around for a while, but it is evolving just as other technologies are. That’s in part because threats are constantly new. The malevolent hackers who are trying to illegally access data are not going to give up any time soon, and they will continue to find ways to get through even the toughest security measures. It’s also in part because new technology is being adapted to enhance security. Three of those advancements are hardware authentication, cloud technology and deep learning, according to one expert. Another adds data loss prevention and behavioral analytics to the list. As long as we have hackers, we will have cyber security as an emerging technology because it will constantly evolve to defend against those hackers.
As proof of the strong need for cybersecurity professionals, the number of cybersecurity jobs is growing three times faster than other tech jobs. However, we’re falling short when it comes to filling those jobs. As a result, it’s predicted that we will have 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021.
Many cyber security jobs pay six-figure incomes, and roles can range from ethical hacker to security engineer to Chief Security Officer, offering a promising career path for someone who wants to get into and stick with this domain.
Internet of Things
Although it sounds like a game you’d play on your smartphone, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the future. Many “things” are now being built with WiFi connectivity, meaning they can be connected to the Internet—and to each other. Hence, the Internet of Things, or IoT. IoT enables devices, home appliances, cars and much more to be connected to and exchange data over the Internet. And we’re only in the beginning stages of IoT: The number of IoT devices reached 8.4 billion in 2017 is and expected to reach 30 billion devices by 2020.
As consumers, we’re already using and benefitting from IoT. We can lock our doors remotely if we forget to when we leave for work and preheat our ovens on our way home from work, all while tracking our fitness on our Fitbits and hailing a ride with Lyft. But businesses also have much to gain now and in the near future. The IoT can enable better safety, efficiency and decision making for businesses as data is collected and analyzed. It can enable predictive maintenance, speed up medical care, improve customer service, and offer benefits we haven’t even imagined yet. However, despite this boon in the development and adoption of IoT, experts say not enough IT professionals are getting trained for IoT jobs.
For someone interested in a career in IoT, that means easy entry into the field if you’re motivated, with a range of options for getting started. Skills needed include IoT security, cloud computing knowledge, data analytics, automation, understanding of embedded systems, device knowledge, to name only a few. After all, it’s the Internet of Things, and those things are many and varied, meaning the skills needed are as well.
Although technologies are emerging and evolving all around us, these eight domains offer promising career potential now and for the foreseeable future. And all eight are suffering from a shortage of skilled workers, meaning the time is right for you to choose one, get trained, and get on board at the early stages of the technology, positioning you for success now and in the future.
3D printing becomes a mainstream consumer technology
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), is a process that allows physical objects to be printed in three dimensions, in contrast to traditional paper printers that work in two dimensions. Controlled by computer, successive layers of material are laid down, resulting in products created with a high degree of precision. This is usually achieved with powder heated by a laser, or held in place by spray-on adhesive.
Additive manufacturing was first demonstrated in the 1980s. For many years, it was limited to specialist uses in product design, industrial prototyping, medical modelling and architecture. Like the earliest computers, these machines were bulky, expensive and slow; typically confined to large companies with massive R&D budgets.
As the technology progressed, it became cheaper and faster, easier and more practical. The Internet allowed objects to be digitised, stored online and downloaded by users around the world. As it gained popularity and awareness among the general public, the term “3D printing” became the preferred way of describing this process. By 2010, a huge array of associated websites and communities had sprung up.
Like many emerging technologies, however, 3D printing was subject to considerable hype and misconception. Although a number of desktop versions were being unveiled, these generally remained expensive and/or with technical limitations. Enterprise-level devices continued to show greater promise in the medium term – precisely customised prosthetics and medical implants, for example, could now offer life-altering benefits to patients. It would take until the late 2010s for home-use 3D printing to exceed 1 million global sales and a few more years to become truly mainstream for consumers.
Driving its adoption were ongoing improvements in cost, speed and ease of use – helped by the entry and growth of more established printing vendors such as Canon, Epson and HP – along with continued advances in the range of “ink” materials. By the end of this period (2019-2024), it is common for shoes and clothing to be purchased online and manufactured in the wearer’s home within a matter of minutes. This adds to the already huge variety of plastics and metals that can be used, in addition to glass, concrete and even food such as chocolate.
Further into the future, 3D printing makes even greater strides. In schools, classroom use of this technology becomes widespread. In hospitals, it is possible to manufacture human organs from scratch, eliminating the need for donors. Large-format 3D printing is used more and more often in the construction of buildings and vehicles – even bases on the Moon. By the late 21st century, entire skyscrapers can be printed from the ground up at nano-scale resolution. The overall effect of 3D printing is more localisation of activity, a reduced need for transport, lower carbon emissions and less waste.
LEDs dominate the lighting industry
Light-emitting diode (LED) lamps are 20 times more efficient and over 100 times longer lasting than incandescent bulbs. LEDs were first demonstrated in the early 1960s, but were low-powered and only emitted light in the low, red frequencies of the spectrum. For many years, they were used as indicators such as red standby dots on TVs.
The first high-brightness blue LED was achieved in 1994 (an invention that earned the researchers a Nobel Prize in October 2014). The existence of blue LEDs and high-efficiency LEDs quickly led to the development of the first white LED, which employed a phosphor coating to mix down-converted yellow light with blue to produce light that appeared white. As the technology developed further and the lamps became brighter, LEDs found new roles in a wide range of home, business and other applications.
Governments around the world began passing measures to phase out incandescent light bulbs for general lighting in favour of more energy-efficient alternatives. These regulations effectively banned the manufacture, importation or sale of traditional filament bulbs – first in Brazil and Venezuela (2005), then most of Europe (2009), Australia (2009), Argentina (2012), Canada (2012), Russia (2012) and the United States (2012). Other countries would follow later in the decade, including China.
By the early 2010s, many cities were recognising the benefits of LED lighting for streets and public areas. In particular, social housing communal areas could be made to feel safer and more secure, while delivering huge energy savings in the long term (90%) and reducing the need for maintenance. Buildings that once appeared dim and foreboding at night were now illuminated with fresher, brighter light more closely resembling daylight. In addition, light pollution could be reduced with innovations in the way light was focussed, preventing it from overlapping or flooding areas it was not needed.
Among the early adopters were Los Angeles – which completed a massive retrofit in 2012 – and New York which replaced all 250,000 of its street lights with LEDs by 2017. The market share of LEDs continued to increase rapidly, as prices tumbled and public awareness grew. By the end of this decade, they comprise a clear majority of total sales in the lighting industry. Regulations on mercury begin to limit the sale of fluorescent lamps from 2020, boosting the uptake of LEDs even further in the years ahead.