Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

04.1.2021 Tech Talk Predictions for 2021


As a technology futurist, I perform my research and gather my data and use my experience to predict what medium and long-term trends we will see in the technology space. But somewhat like a Climate Change scientist can tell you the long-term effects of global warming, but can’t tell you if it is going to rain tomorrow, short term technology predictions are much harder. I am a sucker for punishment though. Each year I can’t help myself. I will make some estimations of how the technology world will look just a year later and then look back in a year and see how close I was.

This year was even a little harder. On 31 December 2019, health authorities in Wuhan, China, confirmed that dozens of people were being treated with pneumonia-like symptoms. Researchers later identified a new virus and it is fair to say that the world is now way too familiar with COVID-19. On a positive note, I credit the 2020 pandemic with progressing technology three years in three months. Video-conferencing; working from home; increased Internet speeds; changes in cybercrime; additional streaming services…pleasantly, when I looked back at my predictions from last year, without knowing how our world would be upended, some of my predictions involved many of these areas of technology.

With the swagger of success under my belt, here are my predictions for our technological world in the year 2021.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are often confused as the same thing – but there is a significant difference. VR takes you somewhere else and AR adds to your real-life situation. With increasing computing power and better graphics – plus a strong demand – both technologies will see a dramatic increase in usage and functionality over the next year. No – I am not just saying that because I have spent way too much time playing on my son’s Oculus Quest 2 over Christmas. With restricted travel opportunities and a desire to visit people and places, what better way to do it than with a VR headset. And with physical shopping reduced, imagine placing furniture in your house in an AR scenario before ordering the physical items online and having them shipped to you.

Educators have found an incredible challenge this year. Skilled educationalists ‘connect’ with their audiences and ensure they are presenting relevant material in a way that is able to be absorbed. Without any additional training, those same professionals were talking to a camera through 2020 and trying to have the same impact. I expect some significant changes to occur in online and digital learning platforms and many of these will involve both VR and AR.

Oh, and there are some pretty cool games as well!

For many years I have been espousing the benefits of working from home. Work should be a thing you do rather than a location you visit. While some companies spoke about such a policy, it didn’t really happen – until it had to. Employees quickly realised that commute time had disappeared and a home coffee machine was almost as good as spending hard earned cash with the local barista. Sure, some missed the office gossip but, in the hands of the correct employees, productivity could increase. To do it properly, Internet speeds need to improve (particularly upload speeds); security needs to be tightened and employers have to ‘believe’ but expect to see technology to allow for more working from home solutions over the next year. As an added bonus, you can use the saved commute time to play on the VR headset!

5G is not hot off the press but still new enough that conspiracy theorists like to blame it for everything from coronavirus to cancer and maybe even the lack of form of Steve Smith! With more handsets on the market now and towers being brought online every week, users will start to see some real-world advantages of 5G. Up until now, it has been nice to show your friends an Internet speed test and hear the excitement when big numbers come up but expect to see more applications of the speed and low-latency that 5G offers.

With less car travel occurring around the world, you might be mistaken in thinking that the development of electric cars (EVs) may slow. I believe the contrary. Progressive governments in some countries have shown that users respond to a slight nudge in the direction of EVs. This country has some catching up to do. Our tax system allows a 2.6 tonne, 5.7 litre V8 ute consuming over 12 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and costing in the vicinity of $200,000 to be exempt from luxury car tax (LCT) but a $78,000 EV is charged LCT. Despite our laggard politicians, enough governments around the world see the (electric) light at the end of the tunnel and different manufacturers are developing new technologies at an impressive rate. It still won’t be the year for the flying car but the future is electric and we will see a dramatic increase in EV uptake across the world.

Notable mentions are wearables; robotics; more efficient solar PV (including black silicon cell technologies) and increased surveillance usage – by both governments and individuals.

Tell me your number one technology prediction for 2021 at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson