2020 was a gamechanger in terms of technological advancements and uptake, as the physical world shut down due to COVID-19 and the pace and use of the digital world accelerated, becoming everything we needed. Technology was how we connected with loved ones, how we ordered food, how we worked, how we shopped, how we got our news, information and entertainment.
This year, technology will continue to evolve rapidly as many people have shifted permanently (or at least increasingly) to this way of living. In this article we explore some of the technology trends being predicted for 2021.
WFR (Working Free Range)
As we all learned in 2020, working from home is very much possible, beneficial and even preferred by many. Working free range expands on this to give employees more freedom when it comes to work, creating a healthier work-life balance.
Technology means work can go wherever we go, which means more flexibility for children, family, friends, pets, recreation and relaxation, promoting the ‘work to live’ mentality as opposed to the ‘live to work’ ethos. In turn, this means that businesses, organisations and services must have an online presence to keep up with the online lives that people are leading – if they aren’t accessible to people who are working from home or around the country then they simply won’t be able to compete.
A small catch of working free range is that with work being virtually omnipresent it may feel inescapable for some, causing them to work more hours and feel more stressed, so perhaps learning to switch off and keep work within work hours will be an important focus for 2021.
With more people online than ever before, they are also online for longer, in more places and on more devices; this is the perfect storm making cybercrime easier and more lucrative than ever. McAfee reported that cybercrime cost the world almost US$1 trillion in 2020, which is almost double compared to 2018, and amounted to 22 billion records exposed.
McAfee senior vice president and chief technology officer, Steve Grobman, said that with more people working from home during the pandemic, they became their own IT support, providing more opportunities for cybercriminals to target vulnerable systems. In the last couple of years, attacks have moved from targeting individual computers and machines to entire organisations, meaning the risk to data security, productivity and safety is much higher.
So what will 2021 bring in terms of cybersecurity and cybercrime? Most likely, more of each. Companies will look to spend more money beefing up their security, while cybercrime inevitably continues. There are fears that attackers will continue to focus on interrupting the supply chains of coronavirus vaccines and infiltrate companies by targeting their working-from-home employees. Other areas of increasing concern may be the vulnerability of legacy security systems, the dangerous power to be found in identity theft and the ever growing Internet of Things – gaming systems, smart TVs, watches and everything in between.
Artificial intelligence underpins so much of the technology we use and with its exponential potential we will see it being used so much more in 2021. Of increasing focus right now is its use in vaccine development as AI models have helped researchers analyse huge amounts of information about COVID-19, meaning vaccines have been developed faster than ever before.
AI has been used in anomaly detection for some time, but an exciting possibility is in the health sector. AI could detect hotspots of diseases (such as COVID-19) by identifying trends in online searches and activity, warning countries or cities of impending outbreaks. Risk detection is another interesting area where AI can be used to protect businesses from vulnerabilities such as supply chain disruptions and lack of staff.
But what can be used for good can also be used for evil, and deepfakes are an area of particular concern in 2021 because of their dangerous and destructive potential – particularly in politics which is an increasingly volatile arena around the world.