A visual representation of the trends observed in the software sector

What are the trends in Software Development?

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Technology changes fast, so software projects constitute a large chunk of the R&D tax relief claims that go through our system. In fact, nearly one in four claims prepared using WhisperClaims has a software project element involved, so we think it’s important to help our users understand, at least at a high level, where software development is going in the future. This blog is designed to give you an idea of what’s coming up in this sector and act as a glossary of current buzzwords!

Artificial Intelligence

Now this is definitely a current buzzword, but for good reason! Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to become ubiquitous in the next few years, and progress in this space is accelerating fast. AI is the development of intelligence machines, thinking and working like humans to solve problems such as facial recognition (think Airport Security) & digital assistants (think Alexa, Dot etc). It’s also more integrated into your everyday life than you may think and likely being used in the text editors, email clients and online payments systems you use.

AI progress is evolving in scope – recent developments in human-like text AI even managed to write an article that could be published in the Guardian! We’re seeing incredible advances in other areas as well. For example, an AI technology called generative adversarial network (GAN) allowed the creation of image portraits of human faces without a person actually existing.

Across the AI board progress and discoveries are being made. This will only gather pace from here and we will be using more and more AI tools in the future – maybe without even knowing it.


The events of 2020 created a seismic shift to online working all over the world. The need for more businesses and individuals to move online has in turn amplified the need for greater online security. Cybersecurity is the term for work done to protect computer systems from damage, data loss and theft and disruption of services.

Each year the job for cybersecurity firms and individuals becomes harder, perhaps even more so this year. Attacks are more powerful and sophisticated than they ever have been – for example, an attack on German software company Software AG led to them being held at ransom for $23 million. On this occasion, the hackers managed to obtain company documents and information. Happily, however, the focus on this area has been sharpened by some new technologies. Darktrace, for example, are gaining a lot of traction with their AI cybersecurity implementation. This software learns and understands the normal state that a computer system should be in and responds and alerts when this changes.

Internet of Things

Originally, it was thought that it would just be computers hooked up to the internet. By 2021 that had completely changed, with more and more devices having internet capability. Internet of Things (IoT) refers to any and all electronic devices connected to the internet. Some of the more obvious examples include lamps & heating within our homes, watches we wear to track our fitness and vehicles helping us navigate to our destination. 

The use of this technology is on the up and the scale could be massive with talk of entire “Smart Cities” making use of IoT. These urban spaces would be low on emissions, low on traffic jams and extremely secure all thanks to sensors and monitoring devices taking control of the logistics of an entire city. Singapore is leading the way, utilising all the combined data from sensors, fare cards and bus tracking to reduce overcrowded buses by 92%, for example.

Web Applications

These have been well established for a while now. You may remember the phrase “Web 2.0” in the early 00’s which took web pages from being static documents to being more interactive and powerful. Think of the first time you ever used Google Maps, for example, and the change in functionality compared to the comparatively lifeless documents of text and images we were used to.

Since this point browser technologies have improved again,leading to the emergence of Progressive Web Applications (PWA). These are applications that we can download to our mobile or desktops while we browse the web on our favourite sites. These PWAs are then accessible on device home screens much like the applications we are used to downloading from our phone’s App Store. The idea of them is to be as usable as an app we would download as well, even with offline capability, alerts and notifications. Some big companies have made the shift already, including Twitter, The Washington Post and Starbucks.

PWAs are really a set of independent technologies grouped under this one banner. Whether used together or independently these could have a dramatic impact on the capability and output on the next generation of web applications. 

Wrapping up

For this article I picked out just a few of the trends that are going to play a big part in shaping the next step forward in Software Development. Remember that, although I’ve talked about these trends independently, most products have a combination of a few or all of them – and that’s what makes the future of this industry really powerful. 

Most importantly, what does this mean for your clients and their R&D tax relief claims? Well, on the one hand if your clients are undertaking research in any of the areas mentioned here, they’re likely to be eligible for R&D tax relief – great! It’s worth talking to these clients about what combinations of technologies they are using, and what difficulties they have encountered along the way.

For clients carrying work in other areas of software, remember that this is not an exhaustive list – there are plenty of other cutting-edge things they could be doing! However, it’s worth first checking out our blog on what is not eligible in software development and comparing their work to the work described there.

How to write an R&D tax relief technical narrative

With HMRC’s new mandatory requirement for project descriptions on all submissions, we wanted to share our experiences to help others to write their best possible technical narratives.

Available to download here.

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