5 tech trends to watch out for in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation for many companies last year and spurred them to adopt new technologies to adapt to the changing landscape. Virtual events, eCommerce as well as digital media saw a spike last year and with the number of COVID-19 cases not abating, companies and consumers will have to continue equipping themselves with the new tools and technology to help facilitate new ways of working and living this year.

Based on its research, Telenor Research has identified the five trends that will shape 2021, including new technology to tackle loneliness and remote education.

1. Password panic emerges as a symptom of cybersecurity challenges

Companies and consumers that do not have proper password solutions or do not maintain strict digital hygiene will witness a surge in password panic, meaning the feeling of utter hopelessness and frustration that occurs when one's mind draws another password blank. This is is compounded by the ever-increasing number of password-protected accounts consumers will have to manage, as well as the general advice to change passwords every three months and not reuse old passwords.

Telenor Research predicts a greater implementation of user-friendly security solutions in 2021. Password managers across sectors or iris and fingerprint scanning solutions will be more common, ensuring efficiency, security, and one less pain point for employees.

2. Using tech to tackle mental health maladies

Mental health has been an issue of growing concern ever since the pandemic hit and countries went into lockdown. Chronic isolation has led to a range of health maladies such as anxiety and depression. To help combat this, Telenor Research predicts that a new generation of chatbots, specifically designed to engage and help people who struggle with loneliness, will be launched. Drawing on AI, these personalised digital helpers can respond to questions, initiate calls, offer entertainment, and conduct enriching activities that enhance feelings of being connected.

At the same time, eHealth actors will also develop and roll out new sets of tools and services related to mental health. According to head of Telenor Research Bjørn Taale Sandberg, countries with full 5G implementation will likely see the first uses of AR and VR technology applied in holographic communication tools, already within the next year.

3. Society-as-a-service offers much-needed flexibility

With work from home becoming the norm now, new expectations among employees will arise, especially concerning increased flexibility to work from home or other locations regularly to enable a better work-life balance. People also expect to find amenities that support and facilitate their digital work style wherever they go, marking the dawn of the society-as-a-service age.

Telenor Research predicts more companies to offer employees with more flexibility to carry out their work outside the office walls. To ensure the necessary competence for the future way of work, Sandberg said managers will increase the upskilling of employees in cyber security, digital hygiene, and the use of digital tools and technologies.

4. New methods of remote learning

While 2020 was the year for students to adapt to remote and virtual learning, this year will see a number of new and creative methods of remote, digital learning emerge from the rapidly advancing virtual learning sphere. According to Telenor Research, those equipped with network access and internet-capable devices will be able to take part in this digital leap and reap the rewards. This, however, means that those unconnected will lose ground.

According to Sandberg, if this urgent issue is not properly addressed internationally and within countries, there is a risk of significant setback and a widening educational gap in the coming years. To bridge this gap, the education sector and ICT actors must collaborate to ensure faster and robust networks, and to promote and support digital literacy.

5. A digital spring for green tech

AI is expected to be implemented in cities worldwide to optimise energy consumption in data centres and mobile base stations. This move will help make renewable energy, such as wind power, more predictable and "smarten up" cities by optimising transport and predicting air quality.

At the same time, Sandberg said AI-powered micro IoT devices known as tiny machine learning, will also be expected to start functioning as ultra-small and ultra-low powered drones will take to the skies to expand drone monitoring of climate-exposed areas through image processing.

Outside the cities, new autonomous modular robots are expected to work in the fields, supporting farmers who struggle to find agricultural workers. Mechanical weeding with machine vision will streamline the use of pesticides, thus reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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