Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

01.1.2021 Technology highlights from 2020 - Tech Talk Column 231


Throughout the year I have talked technology across the airwaves with over three hundred radio segments and written over fifty technology columns. What were my technology highlights from talking and writing about technology throughout the year?

My overall highlight? Adaptability. The world as we knew it changed dramatically over a very short time frame. Technology had to be adapted to a new world. And, by association, people had to adapt. If ever we doubted the resilience and flexibility of humans, the year of COVID-19 has shown us not to doubt.

The first technology highlight was videoconferencing. The TV series ‘24’ aired an episode in 2007 which showed the Cisco TelePresence suite. It seemed like only months before everyone would be sitting in their home office and performing a virtual commute. Well, it took thirteen years and a global pandemic but the promise has finally been delivered. With everyone from grandmothers speaking to their grandchildren down to politicians participating in parliament in a virtual sense, there are few people that haven’t tried the concept at some stage this year.

In a similar vein, many people had to learn how to better use their mobile phone this year. Whether it was loading a COVID related app or to scan a QR Code to have a coffee, some mobile phone users in the past were happy just to use their phone as, well, a phone, despite the incredible power contained within. COVID-19 forced many people to discover some other uses of their mobile and be exposed to just a few of the millions of apps available.

While not exactly mainstream yet, the ability for your phone to be used as your ‘key’ to access your car and home was another highlight of this year. Tesla has had the ability for several years but Apple launched the Digital Car Key this year. In the not-too-distant future, we will laugh at the ‘old days’ when we used to carry different keys and different remotes for the variety of access devices we required. Our phone or our smartwatch or our body will allow us access in to all the places we are allowed to go.

While some car companies have been under-delivering on the promise of autonomous driving, this year was still a year where we saw significant developments in machine autonomy, somewhat aided by progress in AI. With everything from fruit-picking robots to autonomous road-repair machinery and drones and cars improving their ability to self-navigate, there is no doubt that we are edging ever closer to autonomous devices. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the path for commercial drone deliveries and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved robotaxis. My kids will need a license to drive a car but I am not sure my grandkids will need to worry.

We saw significant movement in attitudes towards power production this year. Coal was still king, but when it was revealed that mining giant, Glencore, spent up to £7 million per year to use social media bots to amplify their messaging and with Climate Change further acknowledged by the public, the market has started moving more rapidly to renewable power. Non-renewable power still made up 79.1 per cent of power production in Australia in 2019 but at current trends I predict that 2026 will be the year that we hit the 50 per cent mark – and that is without help from the government. Increased efficiencies we witnessed this year in solar panels and solar glass as well as further technological advances in power storage will help this progress.

Tell me your 2020 technology highlights at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson