Hindsight is 2020. And many people are glad to put that chaotic year into the realm of remembrance. But we still face the same ongoing challenges as we move into 2021, and our new year will be colored by everything that came before it in the last one. Can our experiences of 2020 help us see clearer into what lies ahead? And how has the tech world changed for the long haul? Here are some tech trends and offerings we might expect to see in 2021, based on the events that have led us up to this point.
UV Sanitizers & Modernized Masks
If you haven’t invested in a UV sanitizer yet, you may find yourself considering it this year. Sanitation concerns are likely to stick around, since vaccination for most people will come slowly and some will opt not to do it at all. In any case, the hygiene habits we created in 2020 are general good practices with or without an intense COVID-19 threat. UV sanitizers can kill germs and reduce waste, sanitizing objects ranging from (otherwise) disposable masks to electronics like phones and tablets. Not surprisingly, revenue for makers of these sanitizers increased drastically last year, and this trend is expected to continue for the next several years.
Masks could get fancier, too. Since they’re likely to become normal parts of our existence, at least for a good while, you might see them popping up with built-in earbuds and microphones or even becoming more like an air purifier that you wear on your face.
More Video Calls, and Improved Webcams
Video calls are commonplace now, and they probably will be for a while. We transitioned into them in 2020; now it’s time to improve them. Early into the pandemic, a comparison of laptop webcams found that they all “sort of suck.” This issue ranges from aesthetic confusion about what age we live in to practical difficulties snapping a schoolwork picture clear enough for your kid’s teacher to be able to read. We expect, or at least hope, that new designs will come with improved webcams. Users are also likely to explore more visually pleasing and in-person-like video settings, such as blurred backgrounds or “Together Mode” in Microsoft Teams.
Phone and Laptop Advancements
Laptops will also evolve in other ways beyond the webcam. In November Apple announced that it’s replacing the previously used Intel chips with its own M1 chip, said to be much faster, quieter, and cooler—not unlike those used in phones. Other laptop producers are also going the route of using phone-type chips and developing their own custom versions. Mini-LED displays will be new to laptops released this year as well. As for the smaller devices, flip phones are starting to make a comeback, though an expensive one—appearing with foldable smart screens.
Purchasing through delivery—for both food and other consumer products—has never been so prevalent. Aside from Amazon, delivery options from large retailers like Target are also becoming more of a norm. Instacart, Doordash and the likes will probably be hot this year. That also means lots of delivery jobs, and could potentially mean more demand for electric vehicles in that sector.
Health & Fitness Gadgets
With gyms not the most popular places these days, lots of people are turning to gadgets and wearables to keep track of their fitness at home. Health & fitness apps grew worldwide last year, and their use is likely to continue. Technologies from fitness watches to stick-on continuous glucose monitors are always emerging, improving, and becoming lower in price. Gadgets like those that track breathing and sleep also put more health data and control into individuals’ own hands.
Healthcare from Home
…And that’s a good thing, since hospitals and medical offices are still encouraging folks to avoid coming in when possible. Phone and video doctor visits will likely become more of a common practice, keeping everyone less exposed to sickness. For those who can afford their own health trackers, healthcare could become more of a hands-on, collaborative practice. Could we soon reach a point where we send our own data to our doctors and communicate with them through integrated healthcare apps?
Rising Artificial Intelligence
Throughout most of these new technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming increasingly integrated. Like last year, this will be of particular significance in the healthcare field in 2021. It will also prove to be quite useful in business marketing, e-commerce, cybersecurity, and various software and interactive app interfaces.
The Need for Security & Responsibility
With all of these digital, cloud-based activities and growing AI, the need for strong cybersecurity will be more crucial than ever. 2020 already saw the worst kinds of breaches, from pornographic Zoom hijacks to Russia’s utter attack on American data and privacy. We will need to keep our guard up to avoid such hacks in 2021, since cyberattackers are now very sophisticated and capable of devastating effects. The other essential element we need to prioritize throughout technology’s development is responsibility, particularly with powerful advancements like AI. The apps, products and services we use need to be designed ethically and responsibly, and consumers must demand this. If we can keep these challenges in check, then we have great potential for growth and optimism in 2021.