Top tech trends to watch in 2021
The coronavirus pandemic has forever changed our ways of life. During the past 12 months, we saw how companies and governments adapted and used technologies to keep their operations going. Many businesses embraced remote work using video conferencing software like Zoom to keep their teams together. New disruptive technologies are transforming and changing the way work and live, removing barriers to entry, and leveling the playing fields.
From the mass adoption of telehealth to the remote workforce, new technologies are now at the front and center of everything we do as every industry grapples with the effects and fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look at years ahead, new technologies will help us to emerge stronger from the pandemic.
Late last year, we looked at the top 10 technology trends of 2021 and beyond. Just like looking at a far distance, the closer you get, the clearer it becomes. Since our last article, we’ve learned a lot from industry leaders, research analysts, and experts with a better understanding of the industry. In this piece, want to take a look at the top 12 technology trends to watch closely in 2021 using data and insights from the respected industry leader, CB Insights. The top 2021 tech trends in the 58-page report cover everything you need to know about the technology that will shape us in 2021
Before we dive in, we would like to thank CB Insights for the report and also give you a quick overview of what CB Insights is and does. CB Insights is a New York-based business analytics and research platform that provides market intelligence on private companies and investor activities. Its technology Insights Platform provides companies with comprehensive data, expert insights, and work management tools to drive growth and improve operations with technology.
Using its emerging tech insights platform, CB Insights analyzed signals like patent and investment activity, executive chatter in earnings transcripts, media mentions, and more to identify the top 12 tech trends to watch in 2021. They profiled innovations from futuristic tech havens, the quantum time bomb, psychedelic medicines, and AI that can read your emotions. Without further delay, here are the top 12 tech trends poised to reshape industries in 2021.
1. Chief prepper officer: Resilience will become a more prominent corporate function as anxious companies steel themselves against unprecedented external disruptions. Persistent threats like climate change, cyber warfare, and much more could turn the world upside down — again. Companies shaken by the pandemic will start prioritizing resilience and turn to emerging tech as they look to onshore operations, build robust supply chains, and ready themselves for the next big crisis.
2. The quantum time bomb: As powerful quantum computers emerge, businesses will be forced to secure data faster than these computers can decrypt it. Quantum computers are becoming exponentially more powerful and more widely available. In 2019, Google became the first quantum computer maker to achieve “quantum supremacy,” which refers to running a calculation on a quantum computer dramatically faster than any conventional computer could ever manage.
Though quantum computers could soon transform industries like healthcare, finance, and logistics, the industry’s rising momentum is creating an arms race to secure data faster than quantum
computers can decrypt it. This is because a powerful enough quantum computer could quickly overcome common internet encryption protocols like RSA, which use prime factors of large numbers to protect online data.
3. Simulating empathy: Businesses will prioritize building AI technologies that can interpret and respond to human emotions as they look to connect with consumers. Over the last decade, artificial intelligence has gone from buzzword to a must-have business competence. From retail to healthcare to financial services, AI is penetrating nearly every industry, with advances in deep learning, computer vision, and more paving the way.
The tech could also change how companies interact with customers. Companies like Behavioral Signals and Cogito use emotion AI to analyze elements of speech, like tone and vocal emphasis, to best match service agents and customers across industries
4. Trip treatment: Technology will help usher psychedelic medicines into the mainstream. The so-called “psychedelic renaissance” is gaining momentum across the US, as regulators, investors, and the public increasingly embrace psychedelic medicines as a promising treatment tool for
patients who haven’t had success with traditional drugs.
5. The rise of exclusivity: Exclusivity networks will become the future of social media. Exclusivity drove Facebook’s early viral growth, with access open only to students at certain elite colleges. Later, early experiments in creating VIP tech-enabled communities, such as Ello, flared and failed. Now, exclusivity seems to be making a comeback and is poised to be central to the next wave of social networks. Already we have seen Discord chats and other private venues flourish, and partially private apps like Clubhouse are gaining popularity. But this is just the beginning.
6. Society-as-a-service: Silicon Valley types will move beyond dreams like smart cities to the literal creation of communities built from the ground up. Silicon Valley is at once celebrated and ridiculed for its future-forward culture and tech-centric ethos. But that tech-enabled existence has often been tacked onto preexisting and old-fashioned urban environments. Now, as the Silicon Valley true believers migrate from their namesake home in California to burgeoning US tech hubs like Austin and Denver, some are looking at building a true tech paradise from scratch.
7. The metaverse mall: Shared virtual spaces will redefine how we shop and interact with people and businesses. As malls flounder, metaverses — or the underpinnings of such — are flourishing. Malls are meant to be social and a form of entertainment; now, virtual worlds are fulfilling these functions more than ever, spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather than shopping through a specific retailer’s website, imagine rendezvousing with a friend in a Minecraft-like world to hang out and shop at digital storefronts.
Though the complete metaverse appears to be years away, in 2021, look for further convergence of the online and offline amid technological advancements that will enable the build-out of the
metaverse. In the meantime, retailers should look beyond the near-term and strive to experiment with VR/AR (including the use of virtual humans), games like Fortnite, or various other existing
tech capabilities. Offering virtual goods may be trendy for 2021, but in the next 5 years, the trend will likely evolve toward designing fuller, more fleshed-out virtual universes that offer an immersive shopping experience.
8. Clipping crypto: Crypto rewards will reshape how brands, loyalty programs, and payments companies offer cashback. Cryptocurrencies are back in the spotlight as some, like bitcoin and
ether, hit new all-time highs. Retailers & payments companies are looking to cash in by rolling out rewards and loyalty programs using blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies as an alternative to traditional points or cash-based systems. The crypto reward trend is not just impacting cryptocurrency users or crypto-focused companies — some of the largest payments companies are also developing new crypto-based offerings.
9. Repurposing physical space: From fulfillment centers to mall health clinics to vertical farms, reimagining spaces will create an unprecedented opportunity. With record-level departures from urban hotspots, a pivot to remote working, and the closure of many physical retailers amid stay-at-home orders, space itself has become one of the most pressing considerations for companies and individuals. As restrictions ease, commercial vacancies and people located away from city centers will reshape how space is utilized going forward. The emphasis will shift to flexibility and versatility.
10. Hotelization of the office: As office culture returns, spaces will be less populated and personal, and the aesthetic will shift away from the collaborative “campus” model. Over the next year, workers will find themselves returning to an office very different from the one they left last year. In the short-term, employers are focused on cleaning, sanitization, and air quality, and may look to disinfection startups, self-cleaning tech, and an array of other solutions to help keep air and surfaces clean and germ-free. But the effects of the past year of lockdowns will extend beyond cleaning and social distancing measures.
Ultimately, vaccines and cleaning tech may make offices safer in coming months. But as working remotely proves to be just as (or even more) productive as office work, many companies will see
an irrevocable shift in office culture in the coming years. They will need to be prepared for a future where employees treat going into the office less like showing up at their home away from home, and
more like a special occasion, like checking into a hotel.
11. Ambient wellness: The continued convergence of health and self-care will unbundle the spa and bring it into homes, shops, and beyond. The idea of embedding health-boosting tech into consumers’ environments to improve their wellbeing isn’t new. Anyone who has ever visited a spa knows that the right combination of light, sound, and fragrance has a big impact on mood and relaxation.
Even as the pandemic subsides and restrictions lift, wellness enhancing fragrance products will likely continue to gain momentum and become more personalized for a given room and its intended use. Going forward, look for products that release scents based on consumers’ dynamic needs or to create a more enhanced shopper experience. In 2021, look for smart lighting
to become more popular in homes and offices. This could include LED circadian lighting, which is designed to support the body’s natural rhythms.
12. Hospital-at-home: To fill the gaps in telehealth, expect more healthcare services in the home, from house calls to remote patient monitoring to at-home lab testing. After 2020 forced medical providers to go virtual for a range of services, the value of keeping people out of the doctor’s office has become evident: the shift to telehealth has enabled shorter wait times, reduced risk of infection, and enabled more affordable care. In 2020, annual funding to private telehealth companies grew nearly 70% YoY, surpassing $10B.
But the limitations of telemedicine also require a broader reimagining of what medical-level monitoring in the home should look like. As a result, 2021 will be a turning point for the US hospital-at-home movement — 26 years after the model was first conceived.
To read the full 58-page report, please visit CBInsights.com