In 2021 we will see rapid changes in top technological and business innovation - all based on people's experience during the pandemic. Here are a few technology and business trends we will see in 2021.

 

Drug development revolution with advanced Covid-19 testing and vaccine development

Covid caused a major shakeup in the drug industry, making it quicker and easier to trial drugs. Researchers have put many traditional clinical trials on hold, or they have shifted to a virtual structure by performing consultations online and collecting data remotely.

 

Continued expansion of remote working and videoconferencing

This area has seen rapid growth during the pandemic, and it will likely continue growing in 2021. 

Zoom, which grew from a startup in 2011 to going public in 2019, became a household name during the pandemic. Other existing large corporate tools such as Cisco's Webex, Microsoft's TeamsGoogle HangoutsGoToMeeting, and Verizon's BlueJeans are also providing state-of-the-art videoconferencing systems, facilitating remote work across the globe.

Many new ventures are emerging in the remote working sector. Startups BluescapeEloopsFigmaSlab, and Tandem have all provided visual collaboration platforms enabling teams to create and share content, interact, track projects, train employees, run virtual team-building activities, and more. 

These tools also help distributed teams keep track of shared learning and documentation. Users can create a virtual office that replicates working together in person by letting colleagues communicate and collaborate with one another easily. 

 

Contactless delivery and shipping remain as the new normal 

No-contact delivery is the new normal. DoorDashPostmates, and Instacart all offer drop-off delivery options, reportedly borne from customer desires to minimize physical contact. Grubhub and Uber Eats also grew their contactless delivery options and will continue to do so in 2021. 

China is not the only country looking to push robotic deliveries into its next phase. U.S.-based startups MannaStarship Technologies, and Nuro are tackling this problem using robotics and artificial intelligence-based applications.

 

Telehealth and telemedicine flourish 

Institutions, especially in health care, are working to lower the exposure of Covid-19 to patients and workers. Many private and public practices have started implementing more telehealth offerings such as doctor-patient video chats, A.I. avatar-based diagnostics, and no-contact-based medication delivery.  Beyond telehealth, in 2021 we can expect to see health care advancements in biotech and A.I., as well as machine learning opportunities (example: Suki AI) to support diagnosis, admin work, and robotic health care.

 

Increased development of 5G infrastructure, new applications, and utilities

There is no doubt that demand for higher-speed internet and a shift toward well-connected homes, smart cities, and autonomous mobility have pushed the advancement of 5G-6G internet technology.

Many telcos are on track to deliver 5G, with Australia having rolled it out before Covid-19. Verizon announced a huge expansion of its 5G network in October 2020, which will reach more than 200 million people. In China, 5G deployment has been happening rapidly. But Ericsson is leading the charge globally. There are more than 380 operators currently investing in 5G. More than 35 countries have already launched commercial 5G services. 

Development of 5G and 6G technology will drive smart-city projects globally and will support the autonomous mobility sector in 2021. 

 

A.I., robotics, internet of things, and industrial automation grow rapidly

In 2021, we expect to see huge demand and rapid growth of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and industrial automation technology. As manufacturing and supply chains are returning to full operation, manpower shortages will become a serious issue. Automation, with the help of A.I., robotics, and the internet of things, will be a key alternative solution to operate manufacturing. 

 

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies usage rises

Augmented reality and virtual reality have grown significantly in 2020. These immersive technologies are now part of everyday life, from entertainment to business. The arrival of Covid-19 has prompted this technology adoption as businesses turned to the remote work model, with communication and collaboration extending over to AR and VR.

The immersive technologies from AR and VR innovations enable an incredible source of transformation across all sectors. AR avatars, AR indoor navigation, remote assistance, integration of A.I. with AR and VR, mobility AR, AR cloud, virtual sports events, eye tracking, and facial expression recognition will see major traction in 2021. Adoption of AR and VR will accelerate with the growth of the 5G network and expanding internet bandwidth.

Companies like MicrosoftConsagousQuytechRealWorld OneChetuGramercy TechScantaIndiaNICGroove Jones, etc. will play a significant role in shaping our world in the near future, not only because of AR's and VR's various applications but also as the flag carrier of all virtualized technologies.

 

Continued growth in micromobility

While the micromobility market had seen a natural slowdown at the beginning of Covid-19 spread, this sector has already recovered to the pre-Covid growth level. E-bikes and e-scooters usage is soaring, since they are viewed as convenient transportation alternatives that also meet social distancing norms. Compared to the pre-Covid days, the micromobility market is expected to grow by 9 percent for private micromobility and by 12 percent for shared micromobility.

 

Ongoing autonomous driving innovation

We will see major progress in autonomous driving technology during 2021. Honda recently announced that it will mass-produce autonomous vehicles, which under certain conditions will not require any driver intervention. Tesla's Autopilot not only offers lane centering and automatic lane changes, but, from this year, can also recognize speed signs and detect green lights.

Ford is also joining the race, anticipating an autonomous driving cars ridesharing service launch in 2021. The company could also make such vehicles available to certain buyers as early as 2026. Other automakers, including Mercedes-Benz, are also trying to integrate some degree of autonomous driving technology in their new models from 2021. GM intends to roll out its hands-free-driving Super Cruise feature to 22 vehicles by 2023. 

The fierce market competition is also accelerating self-driving technology growth in other companies, including Lyft and Waymo. Billions of dollars have been spent in acquiring startups in this domain: GM acquired Cruise for $1 billion; Uber acquired Otto for $680 million; Ford acquired Argo AI for $1 billion; and Intel acquired Mobileye for $15.3 billion.

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