Over the last months, I’ve engaged in many conversations with people who expressed an interest to transition to a tech career. The question on everyone’s lips (or fingertips, in most cases): ‘What is tech, anyway?’. This is a perfectly legitimate question with an ever-evolving answer. It occured to me that I’d better address it since it speaks to the very core of this page – so here is my best take at it.
So, what is tech?
First of all – having tried to figure out the answer to this question, the one thing I can say for sure that ‘tech’ is one of those super elusive concepts that seem to cover many things yet are extremely difficult to define….
I have come across resources that describe it as an industry sector, as a process, as a product, a class of tools, a body of skills & knowledge, and, finally, as a range of occupations – to name but a few… The meaning of the word technology has evolved over the course of history – and is continually updated. If you’re interested in the historical evolution of the term and its meaning over time, head over to Wikipedia for this detailed article. Turn out that the term can be interpreted in any number of ways – more narrowly or more comprehensively…
Now – this far I’m probably deepening your confusion (mine too) …
…so let’s dig a little deeper in some of these areas:
First up, techology as a sector
As a sector, ‘tech’ covers the group of businesses working in the ‘research, development and distribution of technology-based goods or services’ (Investopedia). These businesses focus on the ‘development and manufacturing of technology products, or provide techology as a service’ (Wikipedia). The sector has been growing exponentially over the recent years, and is set to reach $5.2 trillion in 2020, with a growth rate of 3.7% (read more fascinating information on the growth of the tech sector in this CompTIA article).
Next, technology as process / product etc.
Very briefly, technology also depicts the process of using of scientific knowledge for practical purposes; the methods (ordered sequence of steps) employed in creating tech-related products and services to meet cosumer or business needs. I wish I could tell you more on this – but I don’t feel I can; however, this should give you a brief idea anyway.
As far as tech as a product is concerned, think gadgets and services that you use in your daily life. This ought to be easier to grasp since our smartphones have become practically an extension of ourselves, and given that we are constantly checking our feeds and using cloud services to store our data and so on… For most of us – these represent the true meaning of the word ‘tech’ , though a better term is, according to some sources, ‘applied technology’ since it turns out that the actual technology is the practical knowledge and problem solving skills that go into their creation.
Confused? Here’s a pretty good video by 365 Data science that might untangle some of that:
Ok, that was A LOT – but if it got you to separate things in devices, technologies and concepts – it probably did its job.
Tech as a range of occupations
OK, now we’re getting to the good part. After clarifying a bit further up what the tech sector is all about, time to get to the things that actually matter to you right now.
I’ve explored these in a some detail in the (Almost) exhaustive list of tech careers, so be sure to check it out.
Areas / fields impacted by developments in technology
Ok, so now we have some sort of understanding of the various meanings that ‘tech’ can take on. Below we’ll look at some of the areas that have been disrupted by recent technological advantages.
Education + technology => EdTech
EdTech is the design and use of technology (hardware, software) to facilitate and enhance human learning by delivering text, audio, video, animation and interactive experiences. Critical in a fast evolving age – when the only way to keep up is by learning continuously. Some examples you might be familiar with are Duolingo, EdX, KhanAcademy. Read more on EdTech on Investopedia. And a nice infographic on how tech is shaping the future of education.
Agriculture + technology => AgriTech
AgriTech is the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability by using drones, IoT smart farming (sensors to control light, heat and watering), robotics and automation, hydroponics etc. Critical given the need to solve agricultural challenges to feed an ever-increasing world population. Read more on this informative page by StartUS Insights .
Food + technology => FoodTech
Tightly connected to AgriTech in everything connected to the supply chain, FoodTech includes also distribution (see Sally the Robot) and finding solutions to challenges, such as the impact of the cattle industry on climate change by creating products such as clean, lab-grown meats
Finances + technology => FinTech
FinTech is the use of technology in everything finance to render services more agile and deliver financial services better suited to a society on the go. Using technologies such as blockchain, big data, biometrics. Read more in this informative article from StartUS Insights. As examples go, Revolut is the first one that springs to mind.
Entertainment + technology => EntertainmentTech
Hello Netflix, immersive experiences and so on. If you’re into virtual or augmented reality, this is your thing. Here’s a good article detailing some of the trends.
Legal + technology => LegalTech
Clearly, use of technology to provide legal services more efficiently. If you’re interested in this, you could explore analytics (to understand trends), artificial intelligence and natural language processing (to help with research), and document management. Maye read more here; oh, and be sure to check out the Global Legal Hackathon!
Architecture / urban development + technology => well, no particular name, but still important.
Whatever this is called, it uses of technology to help create more sustainable building and communities. You would have heard about ‘smart’ systems and cities – cities that use technology (such as secure wireless connectivity, IoT sensors, open data etc,) to connect services with the aim of improving the lives of citizens (ex. optimise traffice, streamline trash collection, . Here’s a nice, albeit long, read on the relationship between architecture and technology and another one on smart cities. And maybe this infographic on the Anatomy of a smart city.
Fashion + technology => FashionTech
FashionTech is the use of technology in the fashion industr, including the design of products (3D-knitting, wearables, …) or streamlining processes to deliver better services to clients (better shopping experience – like ‘try-ons’ via augmented reality etc.). Here’s how this plays out in the real world:
… and here’s an article about wearable tech.
Health + technology => HealthTech (or MedTech)
HealthTech covers the use of technology to improve the delivery and quality of healthcare. The benefits? More patient safety, less medical errors, less invasive practices, better monitoring systems, lower costs, more customisation, better and more acceddible prosthetics and so on. Some of the most used technologies in tech are 3d printing, artificial intelligence, robotics and assistive technologies. Here are some of the most recent innovations from CES 2020:
So what IS tech?
Tech is all these things. And more. You get the idea. And these are only some examples – there are several other fields you can explore – and surely more fields to be disrupted in the near future. Think of it this way: if you can think of it – it’s been impacted. If you’re serious about a tech career – you’ll need to find a way to keep up to date with your tech news!
Stay tuned for a future article, in which we will look at all these technologies. I’ll wrap up for now with just one more video in which people share what technology means to them.