Top Tech Trend Predictions for 2021

The year 2020 unfolded radically different from the world’s expectations. What seemed to be a random outbreak in a remote part of China soon escalated to become a worldwide catastrophe. We saw drastic measures implemented globally to contain the virus, and wearing masks using hand sanitizer were just a small part of the equation. Work from home and distance learning challenges remained a constant reality, and virtually no one on Earth remains unaffected. The pandemic has changed our lifestyles and we are still unsure how it will continue to affect us. One thing is for certain: that the pandemic will influence the future of tech. Here we share some predictions about the top tech trends to watch for in 2021:

Internet of Behaviors

The concept stems from the Internet of things (IoT) which, simply put, is the network of devices (cars, sensors, health devices, lights, etc) connected to the internet. An estimated 20.4 billion IoT devices were online in 2020, and this number is likely to climb to 75 billion by 2025. There is a mindboggling amount of data churned out from this massive network. In 2019 alone, 500 zettabytes of data were generated by IoT devices. 

Internet of behaviors goes one step further by using this data to change the behaviors of people. An example is when a company monitors the behaviour of an employee and provides corrective feedback. Many industries are using mask detection algorithms embedded into local CCTV systems to generate alerts and provide feedback if their employees are not wearing masks. Another innovative example is the use of advertisement beacons. Eateries use them by identifying likely customers in the vicinity (based on purchase history and dietary preferences) and sending them a message about their offers at peak times and effectively turn nearby commuters into paying customers.

It might be evident that such technology poses serious ethical and societal implications. Data collected via IoT can be extremely sensitive (as in the case of location history and health data) and has a multitude of consequences should it fall into the wrong hands. Even the slightest transgressions can spark privacy concerns. Such data can increasingly blur the lines between authoritarianism and performance monitoring. Companies will need to tread with caution and vet each use case with legal counsels and ethical committees before deploying the technology to cater to potential use cases. 

Cybersecurity

As more people go online for extended periods of time, mischievous actors have had more opportunity to cause more mayhem than ever before. Interpol reported an alarming rise in cyberattacks amidst uncertainty and fear. These incidents encompassed phishing attempts, disruptive malware, data theft, and misinformation. All sorts of conspiracy theories have popped up causing hysteria rendering people more susceptible to misleading information. In just four months, one of Interpol’s private sector partners detected 907,000 spam messages, 737 malware incidents, and 48,000 malicious URLs related to COVID-19. In response, companies have started beefing up measures but there is a lot to be done. Everyone needs to be extra vigilant to safeguard themselves against online threats.

A challenge that COVID-19 brought was the fact that, instead of logging in through the company network at the office, employees working from home had to resort to private internet connections with weaker security protocols. To ensure protection, businesses are now adopting secure VPN connections to connect their staff to the intranet. For this to work, technology and training will have to continue to go hand in hand. The saying “a weapon is as good as the person carrying it” is fitting here. Technology is as good as the user’s awareness and training. Cybersecurity education will be a lot more relevant and needed in the upcoming year. We are still a long way from building Zero trust cybersecurity defense mechanisms. Any such deployments are still niched at best. Developing, testing, and deploying at scale is going to take time. Agile and risk-based security will continue to be paramount for companies in this time of turmoil and beyond.  

Remote working/ learning

According to Statistics Canada, 64% of Canadians are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Worldwide, major educational institutes have had to improvise and transition learning online. While giants like Google, Zoom, and Skype have tried to fill the void, there are still major challenges with remote learning. Studies have shown that learning effectiveness has declined in a distance learning paradigm. A similar ordeal has happened with teleworkers where the workforce has seen a reduction in morale and engagement. Technology that can make learning and work more immersive will see a rise in the coming year. This can include AR/VR capability integration to deliver advanced meeting and class environments. A notable contribution to the virtual classroom was already demonstrated by David J Malan back in 2016 for his course CS50 (introduction to computer science), at Harvard University. The course offers the ability to join the class using virtual reality, providing an immersive experience not often used in traditional classrooms. 

Hyperautomation

A decline in business and constant fears of economic recession has forced businesses to make major layoffs. According to Statistics Canada, more than 1.7 million Canadians were unemployed as of November 2020, compared to 1.1 million in November 2019. Layoffs tend to increase the load on the remaining workforce. In an effort to survive, businesses are driven to cut costs by automating repetitive, low-skill tasks. Robotic process automation is already gaining massive popularity in accounting, finance, manufacturing, and retail. Increasingly automated reporting and transactional services are popping up. Gartner reports that RPA software is expected to rise to $2 billion USD in revenue, a 20% increase from 2020. In the midst of the pandemic, companies have shifted to contactless operations. An example is smart thermal cameras capable of detecting signs of fever and barring entry of individuals to an area. This wave of digitization and mechanical automation is not new. However, the trend will pick up pace as a must-have for businesses to stay afloat. Before this profit maximization had been the dominant goal. 

Artificial intelligence had become more of a buzzword in the past decade. We can expect to see the word live up to its hype in 2021. As complexity increases, automation will need to be applied to more challenging and ever-changing set of scenarios. AI will help to bridge this by learning and helping systems adapt to dynamic environments. This is already evident by the surge of AI-powered solutions such as chatbots, cars, medical diagnostics, etc.

5G

We have all heard about the war for 5G superiority and affiliated developments. However, few commercially available gadgets could demonstrate the true benefits. The pandemic has given more meaning to the technology as there is a pressing need to for faster and more reliable internet. The boom in IoT devices can be attributed to a shift towards industry 4.0. From farms to industries, from schools to hospitals an intricate mesh of sensors and actuators governs our lives. To keep this massive network of devices and their interdependencies integrated, a resilient 5G backbone capable of delivering a robust network is vital in the time to come. 

Track and Trace Capability 

Contact tracing has become extremely important during the pandemic. Health agencies need to contact potentially infected personnel after they identify a confirmed positive case for COVID-19. Most of this effort is being done manually using teams of people who call and ask for the history of the people they have been in meaningful contact with. To automate and make the effort effective, multiple technologies relying on RFID, Bluetooth, and ultrawideband have surfaced. The most common form being apps that use the mobile phone’s Bluetooth feature to communicate and swap identities when brought into proximity of each other. Some wearable forms consist of watch-like devices that are not only able to provide hepatic feedback – signaling two wearers to move away from each other – but are also able to execute a digital handshake. Such an interaction allows each device to remember whom it had been in contact with. Such capabilities are effective at building a culture of social distancing and allowing contact tracing when the need arises. Despite the huge strides in advancement, there are lots of gaps that need to be accounted for. R&D for such technologies will go well into 2021. This is especially true when there are looming fears of future pandemics and even progressive waves of COVID-19. 

Entertainment

Children and adults have been confined due to lockdowns and restrictions globally. This has given a tremendous boom to the entertainment industry. Media watchdog Ofcom reported 12 million additional subscribers and a 71% increase in streaming services versus 2019. Similarly in the e-sports arena, we saw a dramatic increase in playtime with record-breaking numbers from PUBG, Call of Duty, Clash of Clans, AmongUs, and others. A key example is the record-breaking sales for Play Station 5 in terms of both units sold and dollar amount. This too despite a global economic recession. The time to invest in the entertainment industry has never been more lucrative.  

It is clear that the current pandemic will heavily influence the upcoming tech trends for 2021 and perhaps even the latter years to come. This is an unprecedented time in history where a single cause has brought humanity together. What is more awe-inspiring and hopeful is the fact that humans have rallied and are leveraging combined ingenuity, collaboration, and resilience towards a common threat. 

  • Social network

  • Please make sure that you have installed the Profile Builder plugin.