Technology moves at an incredibly fast pace. If it were a runner, it’d be Usain Bolt. Since 2007 alone, technological advances have shaped the world we know today. That was the year:
- Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone
- Amazon launched the Kindle
- Google was about to release the Android operating system
- Twitter got its own platform
- Three roommates in San Francisco came up with a start-up called Airbnb
So there’s no denying that 2007 was a vintage year, and there’s no sign that things are slowing down any time soon. In fact, Peter Diamandis, entrepreneur, investor, and co-founder of the Singularity University, a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit offering education in futurology, believes that technological innovation is about to get even faster.
Diamandis predicts that in the next ten years “we’ll reinvent every industry” and Ray Kurzweil, his partner at Singularity University, believes that by the mid-2030s our brains will seamlessly connect to the cloud. And, according to Diamandis, Kurzweil’s predictions have an 80%+ success rate. (1)
But what does the near future have in store for us tech lovers? And what effect has the pandemic had on the rise of technology? We’ve consulted our crystal ball (aka Google) to sneak a peek at tomorrow’s world to discover the tech trends to look out for in 2021. By the way, if you (like us) have your fingers crossed for flying cars – spoiler alert – we’re not quite there yet.
- Marketplace Tech
- As-a-service Tech
- Future trends for your business
Distance learning was always on the horizon but an age of social distancing moved everything online quicker than anyone had imagined. Video conferencing software gave students across the world the opportunity to join virtual classrooms and experts predict it will remain part of a blended approach to learning from now on. In a recent interview, Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, said, “I really feel this will be a turning point for how we work and learn because there are just some very real practical things happening that will mean we’ll never go back to the old way”. (2) The increased need for remote conferencing software saw Zoom’s stock rise by 67% in the first quarter of 2020 (3) and in April 2020 Microsoft reported that Teams leapt from 32 million daily active users to 44 million in just one week (4) with 183,000 tenants in 175 countries using Teams for education. (5)
With school trips temporarily on pause thanks to the pandemic, technologies such as virtual and augmented reality can help lessons come alive by bringing the world to you. Simply slip on a VR headset and you can be walking through ancient Rome or exploring the pyramids rather than simply reading about them. By giving you the chance to learn by doing, extended reality tech can make tricky subject matter easier to grasp.
Voice interfaces such as Alexa also give students learning remotely the option to ask questions they normally would of a teacher – and there’s no need to put up your hand. Forbes also predicts that chatbots will become increasingly important in education as a way of engaging learners with lessons delivered via conversational messages. (6)
Lockdown didn’t bring a stop to shopping, it simply changed how we shop, moving everything online. In fact, Forbes predicts COVID accelerated the growth of eCommerce by four to six years. (7) A new trend emerging in the States is shoppable adverts that connect programmes to an app, which lets viewers buy the products that they’re watching on TV. As this technology becomes more widespread, it’s not impossible to envisage a day where you could be watching This Morning and, at the tap of a finger, buy the dress Holly is wearing or Philip’s shirt.
As with many trends in the world of commerce, Nike is leading the way. Their Nike By You service allows you to customise the design and look of your trainers, and even add your own wording so the end result is a truly unique pair of Nike Airs. Many believe that this personalised approach to shopping is the future. As 3D printers become more common, making customised changes to everyday products will become more commonplace.
Gone are the days of scrolling through your device to choose a song to listen to. Thanks to the likes of Siri, Alexa, and co. we simply say the name of the song out loud and it will start playing. And that technology is now available in wearables, seen by many as the future of how we’ll listen to music. For example, the success of Apple’s AirPods helped Apple’s wearables unit report revenues of $10.1 billion (8) and companies such as Bose have released audio sunglasses with built-in Bluetooth speakers.
The rise of Cameo, which lets you buy personalised video messages from celebrities, shows that there’s a strong desire for a customised experience between consumer and artist. During lockdown there was a 77% rise in talent joining the site meaning it’s never been easier to personally connect with our idols. (9) A trend report by the Thinkwell company found that more engaging artist-to-fan experiences could be the future, with 46% of respondents reporting that they’re willing to spend up to $1,000 to get closer to their favourite artists. And 17% said they’d spend up to $2,500. (10)
As a Service Tech
A lot of the tech trends on this list, such as video conferencing technology, wouldn’t be possible without as-a-service technology. Company spend on services provided through cloud-based, on-demand platforms is up 50% in 2020 compared to 2018 (11) and Cisco predicts that 70% of workloads will be SaaS only by 2021. (12)
With as-a-service increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives, it’s predicted that micro SaaS products will become more common. These are essentially niche add-ons to bigger SaaS products, such as Grammarly for Google Docs, designed to allow us to get even more from the services we already use.
A booming industry
Financial technology (FinTech) investment is at a record level in the UK right now. And continues to see even higher growth as a result of Covid-19. The pandemic has pushed more consumers towards digital platforms as retail operations have scaled back.
FinTech is such a large industry in fact, it has its own sub niches. Including InsuranceTech, PayTech, LendTech, crowdfunding, digital banking and cryptocurrency to name a few.
With lending at an all-time high and underwriting teams at full capacity, artificial intelligence is playing a key role in enabling lenders to provide support to many more organisations than would previously have been possible without AI.
Keeping AI driven FinTech lenders busy during the 2020 pandemic.
Cryptocurrency is a $200 billion industry that many see as the future of finance. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple use blockchain technology to create a decentralised and autonomous finance system that anyone can access. As a result, Bitcoin users and transactions have grown by almost 60% a year for the past five years (13) and that trend looks set to continue. Many gaming companies have also introduced their own in-game currencies:
- Fortnite has Vbucks
- Roblox has Robux
- Minecraft has Minecraft coins
These currencies are said to represent a whopping 50% of the gaming industries revenue. (14)
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, it forced the funeral industry online. Government restrictions on funeral attendance saw some crematoriums live-streaming the services to friends and family across the world via a password-protected connection.
Research by the Foresight Companies suggests that this could be the new normal moving forward with 40% of consumers expecting live-streaming of funeral services to continue permanently. (15)
Further technological advances possibly on the horizon include environmentally-friendly GPS markers instead of headstones so loved ones can locate your final resting place using their smart phones, and QR codes on headstones that take mourners to a memorial web page.
According to Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, the pandemic has “set the stage for the sex tech revolution we’ve been all anticipating to take place sooner than we thought.” This includes “an increase in remote-controlled sex toys where people can engage sexually with a partner through technology from a distance”. (16)
Sex and relationship expert Annabelle Knight agrees. Her predictions for the top sex trends for 2021 include app-controlled sex toys that allow you to control the stimulation your partner receives no matter where they are in the world, and the rise of responsive technology that is easier and more intuitive to use than traditional sex toys.
Va Va Zoom
Sure, video conferencing has made it easier to hold meetings and lessons, but it’s also allowed partners who can’t be together to, ahem, connect online. It’s never been easier to have a long-distance relationship as your other half can be with you via your tablet or phone in real-time. The key to intimate video sessions is to take things slowly and, Annabelle Knight suggests, to only do things you’re both comfortable with such as “sharing a candle-lit meal together like a normal date. If you want to take things further, move on to sexier stuff.” (17)
Of course, food delivery apps such as Deliveroo and Just Eat existed before lockdown, but the pandemic has helped solidify their standing as part of the new normal. The enforced lockdown saw more than 11,500 new restaurants and 16 supermarkets join the Deliveroo platform. That, and their introduction of a ‘contact-free’ delivery option, means takeaway deliveries are more popular than ever (we’re partial to a home-delivered Wagamamas ourselves).
Deliveroo announced in September 2020 that they’re on the lookout for 15,000 extra delivery riders. (18) As for groceries, no less than 29% of shoppers shopped online for food and drink more than before lockdown, and 20% plan to continue doing so from now on. (19)
The doctor will see you now
In an age of social distancing, seeing a doctor in person isn’t always an option. That’s why no less than 48% of GP appointments in May 2020 were carried out over the phone, according to NHS figures. (20) Video consultations give doctors the opportunity to diagnose and treat patients without putting anyone at risk from crowded areas. Even when lockdown rules relax, video calls will continue to provide a lifeline to patients who are unable to leave their homes.
Drugs by drone
Is there a contact-free way of getting medicine to those who need it most? The answer is drones. Zipline, an American medical product delivery company, uses drones to deliver critical and life-saving medicine to millions across the globe.
According to their website, they ‘fly the equivalent of twice around the equator every week. In a few months, we’ll be doing that once a day, and by the end of 2020, once every hour.’ Zipline primarily operates in Rwanda and Ghana but was granted permission to deliver medical supplies and personal protective equipment in North Carolina during the pandemic.
As time progresses, prescription delivery by drone could become an essential part of life for many
How we work has changed a lot over the past few months. For many office-based roles, working from home has gone from being an occasional act to everyday life.
To help ensure the return to office life can be achieved safely, apps such as Mapiq are helping companies organise who’s going to be in the office and when. The Mapiq app lets staff book desks and meeting rooms and gives employees real-time updates on how many people are in the office. Sander Schutte, founder, and CEO of Mapiq, believes this could well be the future of office life – “The new office will really be about sharing. Rather than having your own office or desk, people will come in shifts and share desks and office spaces.” (21)
Future trends for your business
According to Google research, apps will drive the post-pandemic economic recovery (22) as they allow customers to quickly and easily make purchases while being socially distant.
So now is the perfect time to ensure your business is agile and responding to your customer needs. To discuss how we can help build you a mobile app, marketplace website, or eCommerce website, get in touch.