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  • Writer's pictureBy Jay Shedd

Ready for 2021: Tech trends to watch

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

It’s a few weeks away before the end of what feels like the longest rollercoaster ride ever. The majority of us were blindsided by the global impact Covid-19 pandemic has made on our communities. It has mandated many shutdowns and restrictions, forcing many of us to rely on technology, where it was otherwise not an option.

The transformation has already made a lasting effect on how we conduct business. Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve seen an increase in our reliance on video calling. I’ve done more video calling this year than I’ve ever done in my entire career in the telecom industry.

Keeping a close eye on technology, I’ve seen that despite everything that’s been happening, it continues to progress and shape our lives.

As I reflect on what 2020 has brought us and the lingering effects the pandemic has made, I am curious and look forward to what technology will continue to bring in the new year.

The biggest lasting effect I see is in online service, which I anticipate will continue to expand and become more widely used. Theses service include things like shopping, banking and registering for services and accounts. In addition, services that are optimized for mobile will tend to be more successful because a large chunk of internet traffic is from mobile devices.

To this point, Facebook noted in a statement on its latest financial results released on October 29, that the pandemic contributed to a shift of commerce from offline to online and the social media giant expects the trend to continue into 2021.

Another lasting effect could be the over-cautiousness to avoid the spread of germs. We may see the adoption of touchless technologies, especially in establishments that have a lot of visitors. Payment apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay are one example, as they utilize NFC technology in the phones so that one could make a payment by simply tapping one’s phone against a console at check-out line. It’s contactless and efficient.

Our reliance on our mobile phones for news and information is, of course, here to stay. During the pandemic, some 53% of Americans said the at the internet was essential during the COVID-19 outbreak, while 34% said it was important, but not essential.

Technology will definitely continue to evolve with our habits.

Streaming video content dominates entertainment consumption and impacts the design of our smartphones. Streaming subscription services gain more and more users every year. Netflix, for one, reported a gain of 28 million subscribers worldwide in the first 9 months of 2020, much more than its growth the entire year of 2019. And although it recently announced a price increase, there are still several other streaming services for people to choose from who steadily invest in original content that is performing well with subscribers, such as Prime Video with “The Boys” and Disney+ with “The Mandalorian.” Both of these series launched their second seasons this year.

Device manufacturers promote improved screens as a major feature, enticing users who seek the best viewing experience. These features include vibrant and bezel-less displays, both being touted by the new iPhone 12 series.

In addition to the hardware, software is evolving. Apps will become more streamlined to make it easier for people to use. A single app providing multiple services. This has already started with Facebook, where you can publish and see posts, send direct messages, submit job applications and shop. In another step toward more integrated apps and services, in October Facebook merged the Facebook and Instagram messaging apps so that all messages from both platforms can be viewed on one app.

Online privacy continues to be a concern. According to a Pew Survey completed in 2019, about 70% of Americans believe their personal information is less secure than it was five years ago. Each new smartphone offers improved security and privacy protection, from improved Face ID and phone unlock features to ensuring that all personal data is encrypted.

Technology is expanding into the home. Forbes predicts that the Smart Home device market could grow to $174 billion by 2025.

I’m very excited about seeing the smart home becoming more mainstream. It first starts with the connected home, which refers to devices and appliances that are simply connected to the internet. Then, evolves into the smart home, where these devices and appliance utilize artificial intelligence and/or machine learning to anticipates our needs and wants.

Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Nest are very accessible and have features that can make anyone feel like they’re one of the Jetsons. Yes, Alexa and Google can tell you the time or the weather, or play songs for you, but if you have the right devices, these virtual assistances can also operate your lights, security system, locks, coffee maker, microwave and other kitchen appliance.

Imagine saying, “Alexa, I’m leaving” and your lights turn off, the doors lock, your security system is activated and your robot vacuum starts its work for the day. That’s definitely possible now.

Someday your virtual assistant will be making decisions on its own. It will note that you have an alarm to wake you up at 7 a.m. Then it will decide to turn on your coffee maker at 6:45 a.m, without your instruction.

As technology continues to improve, we will see more use in health telemedicine. Wearable technology, for one, are becoming more advanced. Smart watches are now equipped with heart and blood pressure monitors that doctors may rely on for monitoring patients’ health.

Augmented reality and virtual reality have gained steam in recent years. VR has gained traction in the gaming industry with the launch of Oculus Quest 2 by Facebook in October. While gaming is the first step, VR and AR have potential to expand to retail and other industries. For example, VR and AR could be used to picture furniture in your home, what you’ll look like in different outfits and many other ways of experiencing the product.

These are just some of the many technologies to keep an eye on in 2021. As we roll with the punches and celebrate the success of global and local events, we can always be sure that technology will be constantly progressing and offering something new to marvel at.

— Jay R. Shedd is senior director of Sales, Marketing and Customer Service at IT&E, the largest wireless service and sales provider in Guam and the Marianas. He has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry.

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