Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics

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This article was written on 20 Mar 2021, and is filled under Current Issue, Volume 16 2021, Volume 16 No 1.

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Software development trends 2021

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Software Column

by Allen McLean, RN, MN, MSc, PhD(c)

Allen is currently a PhD Candidate in Health Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) in the Computational Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics Lab. His research interests include the development of computer modeling and simulation software for addressing health systems challenges, chronic diseases and health inequities at the population level, as well as mobile technologies applied in long-term care facilities. Allen previously attended the University of Victoria earning an MN and MSc (Health Information Science) in a unique dual degree program for Nursing Informatics professionals. Allen has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare as an ultrasound technologist, clinical educator, team leader and community health RN.

Citation: McLean, A. (2021). Software development trends 2021. Software Column. Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, 16(1). https://cjni.net/journal/?p=8563

COLUMN

Nurses working in software development have chosen a vibrant area of nursing practice. For many reasons, these are exciting times for these nurses. For example, some of us are writing the code used to improve the usability of electronic health records. Some of us are writing the code used in fitness trackers and smartwatches. Others are building health and lifestyle apps aimed at improving people’s lives. In my experience, nurse developers are pretty good at this type of work, and have a variety of tools they count on to get the job done. Still, it’s always important to look around, see what’s new and what’s happening just over the horizon. This column will describe only a small number of the IT tools and technologies experts predict will have the most significant impacts on society going forward. As software developers working in nursing or health informatics, we need to pay attention to these broader trends. It never hurts to add new tools to our toolbox.

Blockchain

Blockchain is a series of non-changeable data records that are stored and managed by multiple computer servers. A blockchain is a growing list of records called blocks which are interconnected by utilizing cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a time stamp, and exchange information. Utilizing blockchain we can safely store information over the shared system, where everybody can see but can’t do any alteration. Blockchain will track all information trade called ledger and it uses a distributed system to verify every exchange. The blockchain is utilized for the safe exchange of things like cash, property, contracts, and so forth without requiring a third-party intermediary like a bank or government. When a piece of information is recorded inside a blockchain, it is exceptionally hard to change it. Initially, Blockchain was limited to the finance industry but it is now moving to other sectors as well, such as healthcare, logistics, public administration software development, and more.

Cross-Platform Development: Tools and Languages

While the era of native apps is not coming to an end anytime soon, cross-platform development is becoming more popular because of its obvious benefits. Why invest significant resources in separate iOS and Android software development, when it can be done using cross-platform development tools and languages? Almost the same code base can be used for both iOS and Android App development. Although the development cost is low, it is less flexible and not as performant as Native apps.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

PWAs are one of the most important software development trends in 2021. In simple words, PWAs are designed to offer application-like experiences in a web-browser. PWAs reduce the chances of a bad user experience, do not require updates, and use much less data. Progressive web apps are designed to work on any browser that is compliant with the appropriate web standards. As with other cross-platform solutions, the goal is to help developers build cross-platform apps more easily than they would with native apps.

Rapid Application Development: Low Code/No-Code

Low-code/no-code development platforms are types of visual software development environments that allow enterprise developers and citizen developers to drag and drop application components, connect them together and create mobile or web apps. These platforms are often discussed synonymously with the development methods they embody. Low-code and no-code modular approaches let professional developers quickly build applications by relieving them of the need to write code line by line. They also enable business analysts, office administrators, small-business owners and others who are not software developers to build and test applications. These people can create applications with little to no knowledge of traditional programming languages, machine code, or the development work behind the platform’s configurable components. In either case, they see a user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI), through which they can marry components and third-party application program interfaces (APIs). Application builders can rearrange and repeatedly test modules until the app works as expected. The growth of low-code/no-code platforms has proliferated due to a lack of skilled software developers and the need to improve turnaround time for development projects.

Programming: Python and JavaScript

The programming language landscape has also been going through major changes in recent years. The traditional heavyweight programming languages are losing their market share to the easier and more developer-friendly programming languages. The influential programming language ranking site TIOBE ranks Python and JavaScript in first and second place. As the Software development industry is booming, and a huge percentage of new developers join the industry, the easier, developer-friendly programming languages will be more popular in 2021. Python is the number one programming language in Data Science and number 2 or number 3 language in almost all other fields except low-level programming. JavaScript is the undisputed number one language in Web development and increasingly popular in other domains, including Backend development. It is also an ideal language for beginner developers.

There are many other technology trends, either emerging or becoming more established in 2021. The ‘Internet of Things’, AI-driven software development, the increasing use of scanners and sensors, the shift toward cloud computing and cloud data storage, and fascinating new uses for immersive technologies (Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR)) in nursing education and healthcare. All so interesting, I’m excited to see what we can create!

References

American Medical Informatics Association. https://www.amia.org/

International Medical Informatics Association. https://imia-medinfo.org/wp/welcome-to-imia-the-international-medical-informatics-association/

National Institutes of Health Informatics Canada. http://www.nihi.ca/

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