Top 3 Technology Predictions for 2021 from Igor's Founder and CTO, Dwight Stewart
January 18, 2021
The year 2020 was an unusual year marked by many challenges. The rapid creation of a vaccine to combat the pandemic showed the innovation that remained strong amid a difficult time in history. This trend will continue into 2021 and will expand far beyond the healthcare sector. With the new year and a look to life after the pandemic, many changes will accelerate. The new administration has indicated they will renew focus on topics such as sustainability and technological advancement. However, with an increasingly advanced technological world comes the need for strong cybersecurity considering the depths of recent data breaches. Companies and governments will search for ways to become more secure, advanced, and automated. To meet safety and sustainability goals, the public will turn to DC microgrids, place an emphasis on cybersecurity, and we will witness the continued rise of Artificial Intelligence in 2021.
Direct Current (DC) technology is quickly disrupting the traditional alternating current (AC) line voltage markets and DC microgrids are becoming the power source of the future. Typical AC alternates back and forth sixty times a second, similar to ocean wave energy pulling and pushing a boat up and down, whereas DC is energy constantly streaming in one direction similar to a flowing river. Most digital devices (e.g. cell phones, solar panels) are natively DC, and extra work is required to adapt them to AC line voltage. Additionally, each AC/DC or DC/AC conversion causes approximately ten percent power efficiency loss. For example, solar panels generate DC power which is converted to AC, and then converted to DC again at a typical digital device. This efficiency loss represents a significant cost for companies.
Also, when running at a lower voltage as does Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), a DC distribution system more efficiently delivers power to end devices. This energy efficiency leads to cost savings for companies, making the system a strong alternative to traditional line voltage. Customers are demanding businesses practices align with ESG (environmental, social, and governance, and DC microgrid power savings will have a meter-moving impact considering buildings use 40% of our energy and 70% of our electricity. DC microgrids will be the up-and-coming solution for organizations in 2021 to meet their sustainability goals.
Additionally, true low voltage DC technology also provides significant safety advantages as recognized by the NEC’s (National Electrical Code) class-2 electrical designation. Class-2 devices nearly eliminate risks of electrocution and fire; low voltage installs do not require electricians nor conduit or other highly rated equipment.
When using Power-over-Ethernet for a DC microgrid, installs benefit from plug-and-play modularity, flexibility, and component miniaturization. From hospitals patient rooms to large open office spaces, these benefits deliver lower initial costs and transform spaces into agile environments that economically change over time.
Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) makes microgrids more intelligent and effective. PoE delivers low-voltage DC power and IP data simultaneously over a single Ethernet cable. PoE eliminates the numerous conversions between AC and DC, reducing energy losses. PoE can cyber-secure, power, and connect a wide variety of devices with the DC microgrid including lighting, environmental, access control, safety, sensors, and many more niche applications. PoE in combination with an intelligent controls software, like Igor’s Nexos IoT Platform, optimizes building systems through data and provides a single point of control. Armed with this information, building management can make smarter, more sustainable, and secure building decisions.
The DC microgrids will revolutionize the way the world is powered. DC microgrids reduce risks and costs while simultaneously improving safety, security, and sustainability. Power-over-Ethernet with Igor-Enabled intelligence is the clear choice for DC microgrids to additionally provide intelligent management and protect each end device with cyber-security.
Cybersecurity will take on even more importance in 2021 with the growth of data and evolution of technology. As technology continues to improve and expand its touch in our lives, so increases the risk of security breaches and the potential severity of those breaches. The rise of technology has exponentially increased the amount of data and information available. The loss or compromise of data access could be catastrophic. From financial data, to government databases, to everyday personal data, there is cause for concern.
Cybercrime is very costly for companies with data breaches causing U.S. companies to lose $3.5 billion yearly. A breach in data can lead to a lack of trust and loss of positive reputation. As a result, companies will be looking for technology platforms that have significant safety standards and security measures in place to protect data from falling into the wrong hands. Trust will be placed in those with proven experience protecting data, strong cybersecurity reputations, and standards-based credible 3rd-party validations.
At minimum devices and systems must require the core information assurance principles ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Numerous IT industry standards should be deployed and 3rd-party verified. These standardized and well-vetted processes have been sufficient to cyber-secure the largest scale most sensitive installs for any application including military, government, medical, and real-time life safety automation.
Not just the software needs to be secure, but also each of the individual products that make up the chain of devices and technology. If only the user interface of the software is protected, then that leaves everything else vulnerable should that one protection fail. When that happens, a compromise can easily happen. Furthermore, if compartmentalization is minimal, then a simple breach can spread into a wide and deep compromise of nearly everything connected. Recent examples such as the SolarWinds Breach display what can happen when all security measures are placed in one spot.
Igor implements standard cyber-security standards. Igor also uniquely wraps and compartmentalizes standard end-devices with cyber-security. Use Igor PoE nodes to encapsulate lights, sensors, USB devices, etc. with cyber-security features and extensions.
Technology in 2021 will continue the cybersecurity path with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Companies are looking for ways to safely automate processes and make lives easier: AI is the answer. Artificial Intelligence provides the innovative and adaptable solution to automate processes while saving money and time in the workplace and everyday life.
Using Artificial Intelligence, companies can make use of machine learning where actions will improve automatically based on experiences. This leads to extensive time and resources saved for organizations. Smart buildings will play a role in machine learning in 2021. Using smart building technology, AI can track correlations which ultimately improve automations. For example, using lighting data from smart buildings, machine learning can occur by detecting patterns in what times lights are turned on and off. Eventually, the lights will be able to be passively automated to turn on and off based on these patterns. Whereas many interactions are singularly manually activated, AI enables passive engagement so numerous simultaneous automations can occur in parallel, thereby freeing end-user brain power, allowing human focus to stay on tasks that benefit from human socialization, emotion, and creativity.
In addition to enhancing the platform value with tangible benefits, Artificial Intelligence will also continue to manage and optimize the platform itself. Numerous AIs will service various platform aspects including building energy optimization, system performance optimization, and cyber security. For example: AI can detect these minute baseline deviations in a way no human can. This can alert for potential security breaches and improve cybersecurity overall. Igor uses Artificial Intelligence to detect device abnormalities and quarantines suspect devices to ensure the rest of the system is not compromised.
Artificial Intelligence is not about replacing people but rather about augmenting everything from cybersecurity tactics and intelligence to creating more sustainable spaces and improving comfort. In 2021, machine learning will become more efficient and algorithms more accurate, complex, and secure. Multiple AIs will become layered upon one another creating higher intelligence abstracted behaviors. Machine learning is basically a software developer that is using data to generate programs. This multiplier effect is reminiscent of Archimedes’ famous quote: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
As the calendar turns, so comes the opportunity for innovation. With the promise of a brighter future, technology will play a major role in making 2021 a step forward. DC microgrids will promote energy stability, security, and sustainability. Emphasizing cybersecurity will help ensure our technology works for us, not against us. And AI will help the world become more safe and secure and unlock new value within our connected spaces. This year will bring about positive technological advancement, that will foster collaboration and innovation. I’m excited about what lies ahead for 2021 and beyond, and I hope you are too.