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With all the challenges we faced so far in 2020 no one could have predicted that we would have produced more tech advancements in the last six months than we have in the last decade! With the “new normal” of remote working we obviously had a need for more reliable connectivity, and the tech industry answered with an accelerated move towards 5G, amongst other things. 

To keep up-to-date on emerging technologies and digital transformation here are the major tech-based predictions for 2021.

5G becomes a reality?

5G has been on our radar for years now, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 forced remote work to become a part of our daily lives that reliable connectivity became imperative to us all. Our reliance on all forms of productivity devices, not only laptops and desktop computers, simply put our need for faster and more dependable connectivity in the spotlight. Something that telecommunication companies already knew we would need as technologies advance.

Plans for the infrastructure changes that are needed have already been put in place for early 2021. And with the uncertainty of when remote work, and remote learning, will simply be a distant memory the value of getting everything setup has increased dramatically. Our livelihood quite frankly depends on it!

Initially the COVID-19 pandemic halted work on new 5G network deployments earlier in 2020 but thankfully work has resumed, and some of the largest markets like China is said to meet their deployment goals for 2020. In other great news, practically every major handset manufacturer has already (or soon to be) released 5G phones in all price-points, making it somewhat affordable for everyone. From Samsung to Apple, and Xiaomi to Motorola, have been exceptionally innovative this year with their handset technology. 

The importance of cybersecurity

Along with many other challenges brought on by the worldwide pandemic this year hackers have mercilessly exploited the situation and have expanded their attacks against businesses. 

There has been a 238% rise in attacks on banks, and a 600% increase in attacks on cloud servers observed from January to April 2020 alone. With more employees working remotely on the same secure networks, it has become imperative that companies ‘beef’ up their networks and upgrade their cybersecurity strategies to expand them to include home networks and mobile work-from-home devices.

Privacy and confidential computing

Another approach to improving cybersecurity is confidential computing. When it comes to addressing communications and data privacy, especially in the age of GDPR and POPI regulations, confidentiality is key. The idea around confidential computing is the encryption of the entire process, not just the data, creating additional layers of security around sensitive information. The technology that will make this a reality is still in the early stages, but we should begin to see confidential computing become mainstream in 2021.

Remote working rules

Thanks to COVID-19 and strict lockdown restrictions working remotely became the ‘new normal’ in 2020. Even after economies have reopened and employees are allowed to return to work, most companies have continued allowing employees to work from home. Many big tech companies like Google and Facebook have extended their work from home policies through to, or for parts of, 2021. Even smaller companies are keeping this newfound flexibility as an operational option.

Part of what made this possible has been the rapid deployment and development of smart work from home technologies. I’m sure we’ve all been utilising Zoom and Microsoft Teams a lot more this year. Those platforms have seen explosive growth in use and development to make them both easier and more secure. Now that companies have better equipped employees with tools and technology to be more productive despite physical distance, we will see more of this for the next few years at least.

The coronavirus pandemic caught most companies off-guard, but it also proved that work can still happen effectively with remote employees, and sometimes can result in improvements in productivity and lower operational costs. 

Flip phones are making a comeback!

Instead of carrying several devices, users are increasingly interested in hybrid devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 that can double as phones or as tablets, depending on your needs. 2021 will see the return of folding smartphones, only these will be able to provide the same high quality and connectivity as non-folding phones. The idea is to allow phone form factors to unfold into small tablets when a user needs a bigger screen, then fold back into a smaller form factor for storage or basic phone use. Devices like the Galaxy Z Fold2 are taking off, for instance, now that companies have made folding screens tougher and more reliable. 2021 should see a lot more folding and unfolding devices challenging the flat screen status quo.

Everyone is awaiting 2021 with bated breath hoping for a better, and more stable, year than 2020. Either way Christmas is coming fast and digital transformation will continue to be the focus of organizations wanting to go into the new year prepared.

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