The Tech to Expect in 2021

Faster, smarter, healthier

Key Takeaways

  • Smartphone users can expect 5G coverage to get even broader in 2021. 
  • Artificial intelligence is set to aid scientists in making further breakthroughs. 
  • Companies will find new ways to monitor their employees who are working remotely, raising privacy concerns.
A robot arm reaching one finger out to touch a human finger.
Yuichiro Chino / Getty Images

Next year’s tech innovations will help us do things faster while closely monitoring our work and health. From mind-bogglingly fast quantum computers to faster mobile phone service, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2021. 

5G Will Take Hold

There are plenty of 5G phones hitting the market, but coverage of the superfast technology is limited. Next year, wireless companies will be expanding their networks and opening a whole new world of possibilities for mobile devices.

"As COVID restrictions ease, video will continue to drive the bulk of data consumption, but fixed-wireless access (FWA) technology, which aims to provide 'fiber-like' connectivity at homes through 4G/5G, will gain more momentum, especially in suburban and rural areas," predicts Marc Serra Jaumot, CMO and head of corporate development at Infovista

Computers Could Impersonate You

Artificial intelligence is getting eerily lifelike. This year, OpenAI unveiled a new system, GPT-3, which can hold incredibly realistic conversations.

When asked what creativity is, the system responded, "I think creative expression is a natural byproduct of growing up in a diverse world," according to The New York Times. "The more diverse the world is, the more you get exposed to different people, to different opportunities, to different places and to different challenges."

Such examples of AI are sure to renew the debate over whether it would be ethical to use computers to impersonate people. 

AI Will Discover New Science

Perhaps this year’s most stunning scientific achievement was the solution of the protein folding problem by Google’s AI and deep learning arm, DeepMind.

"The ability to accurately predict protein structures from their amino-acid sequence would be a huge boon to life sciences and medicine," writes Ewen Callway in Nature. "It would vastly accelerate efforts to understand the building blocks of cells and enable quicker and more advanced drug discovery."

Experts predict that AI will aid more scientific discoveries in the year to come. 

Apps Will Monitor Your Health

There are many new apps in development that can do everything from monitoring your COVID-19 status to checking your red blood cell count. These are just the first wave of a new medical software branch that will monitor your health using just your smartphone. 

Tech Will Monitor Your Work

As more people work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, employers are thinking up new ways to keep tabs on them. There’s all kinds of software available for companies to monitor what employees are doing on company time.

"The technology raises thorny privacy questions about where employers draw the line between maintaining productivity from a homebound work force and creepy surveillance," writes Adam Satariano. While many office workers remain at home next year, expect more surveillance from companies. 

Esports Will Get Bigger

In-person sports are inconvenient and dangerous during a pandemic, so many people are turning to the virtual kind. According to a Deloitte survey, "During the crisis, a third of consumers have, for the first time, subscribed to a video gaming service, used a cloud gaming service, or watched esports or a virtual sporting event." More people than ever will get their games online next year. 

You’ll Stream More Events Live

Live entertainment is so 2019. Or is it? One-third of consumers said they wouldn’t be comfortable going to live events for six months, according to a Deloitte survey.

While a COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, it’s going to be a long time before people feel comfortable cramming into theaters again. But more artists than ever before will be streaming live performances in 2021, which might be the next best thing to holding a plastic cup in a crowd at a concert. 

You’ll Be Able to Store Data on DNA

Forget hard drives. Microsoft and other companies are working to allow you to store incredible amounts of information on DNA. "DNA is an incredible molecule that, by its very nature, provides ultra-high-density storage for thousands of years," Emily Leproust, co-founder and CEO of Twist Bioscience, told Bio-IT World. "Theoretically, 20 grams of DNA would be enough to store all of the world's digital data."

Incredible technology is about to be unleashed in 2021. Personally, I’m looking forward to storing my music collection in my DNA.

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