As we close out the craziness that 2020 has been for many businesses and individuals, we’d like to take a minute and look over the horizon. There are some obvious items that transcend IT and business—not the least of which include COVID-19 vaccines and, with them, a hopeful return to normal life in the not-too-distant future.
But what awaits businesses when it comes to IT?
- Increased Expansion of Work-from-home and Remote Technologies
A very visible effect of COVID-19 on many businesses was (and is) the expansion and exploration of work-from-home solutions for tasks previously limited primarily to office environments. We’ve all experienced the often-funny effects of this (here’s possibly my favorite pre-COVID example) from dogs barking to children invading the workspace. However, a very serious and in many ways beneficial result is a freedom from geographical limits that formerly would have kept employees from applying to a particular position or a business from chasing opportunities in an out-of-region place.
As Zoom/Webex/Teams meetings and interactions become more common and accepted for business–primarily as a result of necessity for social distancing—many entrepreneurs have adapted, and will continue to do so. The increased ability to work-from-home will no doubt change the landscape of commercial real estate, hiring, and, overall, the importance of technology to the everyday functions of small- and medium-sized businesses.
Alongside, the video conferencing platforms will continue to expand their capabilities. Functions that seemed unrealistic just 12 months ago will likely become reality in 2021.
- Development and Expansion of Telehealth Technologies
In a similar vein, telehealth will likely continue to boom. While a much more niche health product prior to COVID, telehealth has found its way into the offices HIPAA compliance conscious professionals in many ways. As explored further in this article from AMA, medical professionals are finding ways to use telehealth to increase efficiency and earnings. Additionally, COVID-related necessity has driven technology to increase approachability of the platforms for many patients who may not be technologically inclined.
Where 2020 has allowed telehealth to “work out the kinks”, 2021 will likely allow for increases in in-home patient monitoring and more strategic and frequent interactions with medical professionals.
- Increased Opportunity for Remote Education
The field of education has seen vast growth in remote learning solutions. This will likely continue into at least the early parts of 2021, where K-12 education will continue to rely heavily on technology to keep young minds engaged. However, in our post-COVID future, the greatest gains may be seen in secondary education where remote learning was already popular. Increases in efficiencies can help to drive down costs (that have steadily increased for decades) and promote educational opportunities to those who may not have previously seen college as a realistic option.
- Increases in Availability of Broadband
Communications companies have borne the brunt of the sudden onslaught that remote work, health, entertainment, and education have introduced. This will continue to develop into the future as demand for broadband connections, deemed essential for these activities, continues to increase. Areas where broadband was not easily accessible—rural, remote, or low-income areas, as some examples—will see heightened exposure and availability to internet speeds that were previously impossible to achieve.
While I will not delve deeply into some of the more advanced ideas, such as SpaceX’s Starlink system and Amazon’s Project Kuiper, these services as well are feeling the push to serve the public with efficient, cheap, and available broadband. As well, wireless technologies including advances in 4G and 5G will continue to grow in 2021.
- Broadening of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a broad idea, but one that 2021 (and beyond) will likely continue to embrace. Defined by Wikipedia as “the network of physical objects—’things’—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet”, IoT brings immense possibility to home and work, often at our fingertips via apps on mobile devices. Already we have options to control our home and business lighting, heating/cooling, locks, cameras, and other appliances from our phones. 2021 will likely see advances in control of Industrial applications in transportation, energy, agriculture, and more via remote A.I., predictive analysis and evaluation, and data-driven manufacturing and management software.
- Move Toward Mobility-based Customer Interaction
Devices are shrinking. Most of us carry in our pockets more computing power than lead to Neil Armstrong to crunch his space boots on the moon for the first time. (In fact, something around 120 million times the power of the computer that landed the first astronauts on the moon.)
This massive amount of computer power that many of us consider a daily device is used in many ways: data-driven marketing, convenience in purchasing, and ease of communication to name but a few. The options for businesses to connect with customers will continue to grow in 2021 as interactive apps become more common and are incorporated into new facets of our entrepreneurial ventures.
With this, business owners need to be prepared for the future. We are experiencing a revolution of the importance technology that is exponentially exploding and will continue to speed up. If you’re not sure how you can better serve your customers in the cyber-world—or protect your business from bad actors within it—get in touch with us and see how we can help you to find the right path forward!
We also want to take a moment to thank those who have worked with us in 2020. We’ve truly enjoyed helping you through the challenges that this year has had for all of us. Here’s to a bright 2021!