Predictions Watch: Amazon CTO Shares What’s in Store for 2021

Who’s Werner Vogels? Well, he just happens to be the CTO at Amazon. You know, the $1.5 trillion book (and everything else) seller. We figured he’s as good a guide as anyone to what might happen in 2021, given his perch near the helm of the good ship Amazon. So here’s what Werner has to say about the coming year. 

No. 1. The Cloud Will be Everywhere

Is it us or does this prediction seem a bit like a comment on the state of the world today? For four years or more, we’ve been writing about the shift to the cloud for SMBs. Now that it is “everywhere,” perhaps our efforts have been on point. What Vogels does say in his prediction is that the reach of the cloud will be even broader, reaching rural communities and even outer space. He suggests that 5G, as we’ve been saying for some time, will offer cloud computing at speeds we haven’t seen.

We’ve suggested for some time the home services industry will see an explosion of cloud computing devices that will offer service providers and homeowners early indicators of trouble. Vogels also suggests that gamers — and those in eSports — will appreciate the disappearance of lag times associated with older, slower networks. 


No. 2. The Internet of Machine Learning

According to Vogels, “we generate more data in one hour than was created in the entirety of 2000. And more data will be created in the next three years than was created over the past 30.”

Given the vast amounts of data that are being generated, machines will necessarily be leveraged to make sense of it all. In the local arena, we’d expect breakthroughs in virtually every vertical category. Who will make inroads in making sense of that data is an open question.

Take the woman’s hair coloring space. Madison Reed, which has raised more than $120 million from the VC community, already uses a blend of sophisticated technologies to address the age-old challenge for many women. With the pandemic halting the in-salon option for many women, the company’s fortunes and data collection have risen dramatically. We’d expect a company like Madison Reed to further improve its customer experience by learning even more from its customers. Madison Reed already uses a mix of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and uploaded selfies to help users find their perfect color match online. As its customer count grows, so does its data set to make the color recommendations more reliable. 

Vogels predicts that 2021 will deliver “accelerated adoption of ML models across industries and government.” We expect the smartest players in local services to leverage their vast amounts of data into transforming customer experiences across the spectrum of local categories. 


No. 3. In 2021, Pictures, Video, Audio Speak More than Words

Vogels predicts that “keyboards will continue to phase out in an evolved way”. We too expected a more rapid transition to voice as the interface of the future. We believe some engrained habits have put a damper on the expected trend lines associated with voice interfaces. 

Predictions Watch: Customer Experience Trends for 2021

That said, Vogels does expect the use of audio, video, and images to accelerate in 2021 in many customer experiences. He contends that the on and off lockdowns in 2020 drove us toward more use of non-text communication. We’d agree and argue that local is well behind in turning the dial-up on how to use more engaging communication channels. When will the children’s dentist offer parents a live-cam feed of their kid’s first dental appointment? Or how about a streaming feed of your car being given its 15,000-mile maintenance.  Or the time-lapsed video of the roof being torn off and replaced. There are so many applications of video, audio, and images that local hasn’t yet begun to explore. 


No. 4. Technology Will Transform Our Physical Worlds

Vogels noted that in 2020 we were introduced to the notion of social distancing — in the physical world. He believes that the notion of social distancing will have a pronounced impact on how we think about designing the physical spaces of the future. That means that the local architect will now be taking into account what an outside space might look like in a pandemic-centric world. Vogels suggests that what we experienced in 2020 will impact how our digital and physical worlds will connect and define our experiences well into the future. 

To a large extent, this means local businesses will have to rethink what the physical experience will be for in-store or on-premise experiences. What’s that auto repair shop look like and how will it be configured in the future? What’s the check-out experience at the local running shoe store? And how does physical distancing dictate that experience? Lots to consider and ponder in 2021 and beyond. 

No. 5. Remote Learning Earns its Place in Education

Vogels points out the use of digital tools being applied to the online learning world. As millions of mothers and fathers learned during 2020, remote learning is no lay-up. It is challenging at best and often overwhelming. And with good luck and patience children will be back in the classroom sooner rather than later. But, remote learning will be with us in perpetuity as it represents an efficient means of instruction and learning. 

At the local level, it may mean that the chiropractor will be doing their mandatory continuing education via an online application. So too will the solar roofing repair specialist learn how to troubleshoot and fix a panel via a digital connection. 

No doubt more classes were taught digitally in 2020 than probably the last 10 years combined. From cooking to addition and subtraction, from fitness to music history and everything in between. What we’ve learned in 2020 will set the stage for even better digital and remote learning experiences going forward. Now when we figure out how to do the socialization aspect digitally, then we’ll really be in for real disruption. 


No. 6. Asia, Africa Will Lead the Small Business Race to the Cloud

We could hardly agree more with Vogels’ sixth prediction. He contends that “small businesses will begin to make use of advanced cloud technology to reach their customers.” He expects “we’ll see an explosion of higher-level technologies and service providers that cater to these small businesses. In turn, this will help small businesses do everything. From spinning up a chatbot to helping answer frequently asked questions, to getting a customer relationship management system up and running within minutes. Small businesses get the benefits of sophisticated architectures and applications without having to invest the time and expense of building it themselves.”

Predictions Watch: Shopify’s Five Commerce Trends for 2021

What’s very interesting to us is that he sees countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa leading the way in 2021. That bodes well for all small businesses around the world if smart people at Amazon see the shift to the cloud happening in Africa and Southeast Asia. 

No. 7. Quantum Computing Starts to Bloom

We’re not very well versed in quantum computing. Vogels, who clearly is, believes that 2021 will be a big year for the world to begin realizing its power. We asked Google what it means. Here’s what we learned:

The new goal is to manipulate and control quantum systems so that they behave in a prescribed way. … A quantum computer encodes information into quantum states and computes by performing quantum operations on it. There are several tasks for which a quantum computer will be useful.

Here’s a link to something IBM put forth for “us” to comprehend. We’ll give five bucks to anyone who can read this and then explain it to us. What we believe is at play here is taking computing to new dimensions of scale and computational size. 

It may well mean identifying viruses sooner and developing the appropriate vaccines in weeks instead of months. Down the road, the developments in quantum computing will naturally flow down to the local business owner, as technology always does eventually. In what fashion and how we can only imagine at this point. But as 2021 sees the use of and experimentation of more quantum computing, we will learn more about its powers and potential. 

No. 8 The Final Frontier…

Vogels points to the use of space and technology as his eighth and final prediction for 2021. As today’s multi-billionaires — Musk and Bezos in particular — push to explore the boundaries of the space frontier, there will no doubt be benefits that are passed forward and downward.

Maybe by going into space, local fishermen can figure out where to position their ship for the most efficient catch. Or the local farmers can use imaging from space to better choose crops with the highest yield probability. Vogels concludes by saying this. “By making access to space affordable and accessible to every developer, I’m looking forward to seeing the innovations that come back down to earth and help us grow and prosper.”

Like everyone doing predictions, Vogels has a bias rooted in the company he works for and its ambitions for the future. As we curate more predictions, we hope that by the time you’ve read through some of them you’ll come to your own views about what we can expect in 2021. And for the opportunity the year promises to all of us.

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