In the COVID-affected world of 2020, we saw our everyday lives experience overwhelming changes. From various lockdowns and social distancing measures to working from home and increased reliance on online services, as we adapted to such lifestyle changes, tech companies did too.
New eCommerce platforms, video and streaming services, pharmaceuticals and health technologies were just some of areas we saw develop last year.
But despite only just entering a new year, we’ve already entered our third COVID-19 lockdown. So, with similarities already emerging between this year and last, we thought we would look what tech trends to expect in 2021.
COVID-19 testing and vaccine development
Along with the development of various COVID-19 testing kits, 2020 saw the development of the first ever mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. So, as our COVID-affected world looks set to continue in 2021, although hopefully not for the whole year, we expect pharmaceutical firms to continue coming up with new and innovative ways to test for and protect against the virus.
Live stream gigs
Whilst many will feel watching music online is not a worthy substitute for the real thing, it’s one of the only ways to see your favourite musicians perform live again until COVID-19 is under control.
According to The Music By Numbers report in 2020, the music industry lost up to 85% of live revenue in 2020. So, monetized livestream gigs could be an invaluable source of revenue for the industry in 2021. Platforms for livestream gigs include Youtube, Facebook, and even Twitch, which is more commonly used for live streaming video games, although we could see more emerge this year.
AI technologies and data algorithms
Video and music streaming services like Spotify and Youtube, search engines such as Bing and Google, and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all utilise analytical algorithms. These work by collating how users interact with these services, and they use this information to recommend new videos, relevant posts on your news feed, songs, and much more.
In 2021, we could see the development of these algorithms and other online data processing technologies to work in conjunction with Artificial Intelligence. GPT-3, an AI tool that can write essays, translate languages, and even create computer code using algorithms was created in 2020, a year that also saw us using social media, video, and music streaming services more than ever.
So, with 2021 looking like another year where more of us will need the internet for entertainment, feeding these algorithms with more and more data, this may hasten the rate at which AI technologies like GTP-3 develop, as online entertainment companies seek to improve their services.
Videoconferencing and remote working
According to the Office for National Statistics, in April 2020, almost half of the people employed in the UK did some of their work from home. As a result, the increasing home workforce turned to technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts to attend video conferences and chat to their colleagues to facilitate their duties.
Project management software like Asana, ProofHub, and Basecamp also became more widely used by the home workforce. So, as homeworking looks set to continue in 2021, we are expecting tech companies to create innovative and exciting ways to improve video conferencing and remote working practices.
Online shopping and contactless delivery
Although online sales grew steadily in the years prior to COVID, the virus accelerated the growth of online shopping and, perhaps, the demise of the high-street; according to the ONS, internet sales accounted for 36% of total retail sales in November 2020, compared to 21.6% at the same time the previous year.
Along with increasing sales, online retailers like Amazon and ASOS and takeaway services like Uber Eats and Deliveroo began offering contactless delivery, and we expect both trends to continue this year.
With the UK heading back into its 3rd lockdown on the 5th of January, we saw schools and colleges shut and university students unable to return to campus until the middle of February.
Educational institutions also had to shut during the first lockdown of 2020, meaning students have become increasingly reliant on online learning for their education in recent times. As such, we would not be surprised if e-learning becomes more integral to education curriculums across the UK during 2021, leading to the development of online lectures and other educational technologies.
As COVID continues to ravage the economy, leading to 1.69 million unemployed by October 2020 and reducing the number of available jobs, more people may also turn to online courses and e-learning to retrain for a new career and improve their employability.
Following the gym closures of 2020, more of us began working out at home to stay in shape. Coinciding with this trend was the use of smartwatches, ear-worn and other wearable devices, which many used to facilitate home fitness regimes. The amount spent on wearable devices is also expected to double by 2021.
So, with gyms closing again as part of the 3rd national lockdown, it will be interesting to see what this year has in store for working out at home and what kinds of technologies will emerge to enhance the experience.
In order to survive, technology companies must adapt to meet changing needs and behaviours, which continue to be dictated by the ongoing battle with coronavirus. And although 2021 looks set to be another year where COVID and technology are intertwined, it will be interesting to see which developments emerge once the battle is finally over.