Every year, the innovations unlocked by technology seem to appear faster and faster. But the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated technology in a way we have never seen before.
Different from the dot-com boom, Covid-19 has forced businesses to adjust not by choice, but by necessity. If you’re a local restaurant and you weren’t on Postmates, GrubHub or Uber Eats, you are now. If you’re a business that had never considered working remotely before, chances are you’re now fully remote (or, at a minimum, offering it as an option for certain employees and offices). And if you’re an enterprise organization with thousands or even tens of thousands of employees and you had been thinking about investing more in your own internal technologies, Covid-19 has most likely made that decision for you.
Major disruptions — whether it be a pandemic, an unstable economy or the shifting of a major industry — always reveal opportunities for technology to advance society forward. For example, in this year alone, videoconferencing went from being a slightly stigmatized form of work communication to our everyday standard.
As the year comes to an end, it’s important to look to the future for signals of where technology will move the world next. Here are five tech trends to keep an eye on in 2021.
According to Deloitte’s 2020 digital media trends survey, “During the crisis, a third of consumers have, for the first time, subscribed to a video gaming service, used a cloud gaming service, or watched esports or a virtual sporting event.” Furthermore, in previous years, Deloitte had found that “a quarter of consumers rank playing video games as one of their three favorite entertainment activities.” And for millennials and Gen Z consumers, playing video games is in their top three favorite activities.
For an industry that has only started to mature over the past 10 years, Covid-19 was just fuel to the fire of a rapidly growing market that is on pace to surpass $1.5 billion by 2023. And as trends like streaming, virtual and augmented reality, and in-game entertainment (like the Travis Scott performance within Fortnite) all continue increases, we have only just scratched the surface of the role esports and gaming can play in the future of our society.
Wearables have been on the rise for the past five years or so.
But the whole narrative changed in March when, suddenly, people could no longer go to the gym. Companies like Peloton defined our “new normal,” and at-home athletics became synonymous with smart workout devices, wearables, and remote competitions and leaderboards — with everyone tuning in from their living rooms.
According to a Gartner report, consumer spending on wearable technology will double by 2021. And if you’ve been following Apple’s innovation closely, then you already know the company is set to debut its first augmented reality headset in 2022 — with the goal of replacing the phone in your pocket with a pair of glasses.
Blockchain Technology And Cryptocurrencies
While much of the hype from 2017 about blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies has died down in the mainstream media, the past few years have been incredibly productive for these industries.
For example, the SEC commissioner recently made a statement saying innovation is welcome and that publicly traded stocks may very well become tokenized in the future. This in itself is a leap forward from three years ago — where lawsuits were being thrown at blockchain startups left and right, and legacy investors like Warren Buffet were calling bitcoin “a delusion.”
Furthermore, in a 2019 survey by State Street Corporation, “94% of the 101 large asset managers and owners who responded said they either have digital assets under management or are planning to add them in 2020.”
My prediction? By 2030, digital assets will become our “new normal.”
Artificial Intelligence For Creativity
In just the past few years, the conversation surrounding the future of artificial intelligence has expanded outside the realm of machines being able to process information and equations to also include the possibility of creative output. In 2018, the first AI-generated painting sold for $432,500.
I am particularly interested in this field because, as the co-founder and CEO of an AI photo editing software company called Skylum, I firmly believe that artificial intelligence has the potential to unlock more of society’s creativity, but not by any means replace it. As these tools become more and more sophisticated, the barrier to entry will become lower. More people will be able to unlock their creative ideas, faster. And what might be considered radically different today may become standard and expected tomorrow.
How people choose to use these new tools and technologies, however, is what will ultimately create and redefine our most artistic industries — photography, music, film, art, graphic design, branding, marketing and beyond.
Healthcare is known for being a slower-to-adjust industry, but after being so heavily accelerated over the past year due to Covid-19, the innovation here is no longer a choice — it’s a necessity.
A terrific report by the World Health Organization explains what the next five years of digital health innovation can look like and what the industry’s strategy should be for utilizing these new technologies: “The vision of the global strategy is to improve health for everyone, everywhere by accelerating the development and adoption of appropriate, affordable, scalable, and sustainable digital health solutions.” This includes smart and connected devices, advanced computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.
If there’s one thing the Covid-19 pandemic has shown society at large, it’s how quickly we can adapt, innovate and create when we need to. And as technology continues to embed itself into every facet of our everyday lives, our “new normal” will continue to evolve faster and faster.