The 6 Rising Tech Traits That You Have to Know About Now From Futurist Amy Webb
Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 saw a decade of digital transformation within a few months. Don’t expect the pace of change to end anytime soon, says futurist Amy Webb.
“There have been tremendous aftershocks that reverberated and changed many different industries,” said Webb, who presented the Future Today Institute’s 14th annual Tech Trends Report at SXSW this week. This year’s edition is the most extensive to date with around 500 pages. According to Webb, the length was primarily due to the impact of Covid-19 as barriers to the widespread adoption of remote working, digital payments and artificial intelligence seemed to disappear almost overnight. The report highlights nearly 500 new trends, up from 406 last year.
So what’s on deck for 2021 and beyond? You can expect further advances in artificial intelligence, including for healthcare applications such as drug discovery and patient outcomes, but also for forms of creative expression such as the visual arts and music. The trend towards cryptocurrencies and decentralized funding continues, and the demand for digital collectibles such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will be booming this year. The more nations switch to 5G, the more new technologies like robots, drones, holograms and augmented reality displays will appear in our daily environment, from shopping malls to sports arenas.
In addition, algorithms will continue to evaluate and rate areas of our lives, from our sleep to our fitness to our “Social Credit Score”, which measures your online activity. In other words, the videos, the pictures, the links, and almost everything you post online will continue to be measured by Big Tech.
“Everyone who lives today is scored,” wrote the report’s authors.
Here are some of the most notable predictions for 2021.
1. Smartphones are a thing of the past.
The pandemic hit the smartphone industry particularly hard. Global smartphone shipments declined in 2020 as both supply and demand took a nosedive. While smartphone sales are expected to pick up again in 2021, they will also have to compete with a new generation of smart glasses and wearables that hit the market. These include Apple’s as yet unpublished smart glasses, virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Quest 2 from Facebook and HoloLens from Microsoft, as well as a growing industry of wearables and “hearables” such as Apple AirPods.
Webb notes that people are sticking to their old smartphones longer and are less excited about new features.
“There just aren’t a lot of compelling new features or functionality that can all be found in one smartphone device. So we’re switching from that. It’s a different paradigm, from a single phone to a new constellation of devices that we will use either wear or embed, “says Webb, who is a former columnist for Inc.
2. The tech exodus and the newly removed workforce are not temporary.
While Silicon Valley is going nowhere, it’s going to have an impact as companies like Facebook, Shopify, Twitter, Square, and Slack promise to keep their employees working from home after the pandemic ends. Startups and smaller businesses are likely to follow suit. As a result, a highly skilled tech workforce will now be more evenly distributed across the United States than just the Bay Area and New York City.
3. Healthcare is the next battleground for big tech.
The tech giants will continue to make advances in healthcare, including through wearables like smart glasses and bracelets, and the growing smart fitness industry. There has been ample evidence of this in recent months, including Apple’s launch of the Fitness + service, Amazon’s halo band wearable fitness tracking system, and Google’s acquisition of Fitbit. Webb predicts that big tech will be influential enough to force established pharmaceutical companies and the health insurance industry to evolve. These changes are already underway; For example, major insurers are already offering reimbursement for wearables like the Apple Watch.
Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of telemedicine and smart fitness. So expect big technologies and startups to make further advances in this area. Additional tools for laboratory testing at home and tools for remote patient monitoring are also planned.
4. The “home of things” industry is growing.
The increasing popularity of smart home devices and home surveillance systems like Amazon Ring and Google Nest has created a new “Home of Things” or HoT industry. Google, Amazon and Apple will be the main players in this area. But also a growing number of connected smart home devices and devices, from vacuum cleaners to beverage manufacturers to garbage cans that can recognize an empty milk carton or cereal box and automatically order a replacement, are imminent.
5. Antitrust measures may not keep up with the action of big technology.
The Biden government is expected to push ahead with Big Tech’s antitrust enforcement. However, the report notes that the ever-changing business landscape may be too fast for regulators to keep up. It’s also unclear whether some of Big Tech’s most momentous moves (like Facebook’s takeover of Instagram, or Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods, or the moves to build infrastructure for digital payments, logistics, and delivery) are illegal from an antitrust perspective.
“No US law forbids being really, really smart,” the report’s authors write.
6. Cryptocurrency and social payments are widely accepted.
The blockchain and digital currency made significant strides in 2020. Just this month, JP Morgan released a report pointing out that Wall Street was in danger of falling behind in the digital finance space and released a new debt instrument aimed at cryptocurrency companies. For 2021 and beyond, the report predicts that more governments and central banks will study cryptocurrency seriously. Countries like Ecuador, China, Singapore and Senegal have already issued their own digital coins, and a number of other countries, including Japan and Sweden, are actively considering the introduction of a centralized e-currency for banks.
The pandemic encouraged more people to use Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other peer-to-peer contactless payment services. The growing popularity of online shopping has led to an increase in the “buy now, pay later” or BNPL such as Affirm platforms. Not only are people now more likely to shop or pay using their phones, but they are also more likely to trust big technology with their finances. Big Tech has already stepped onto the plate. Google partnered with Citi last year to open mobile bank accounts and plans to add more partner institutions over the next year. Expect Big Tech to dig further into consumer finance, from offering loans to cryptocurrency.
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