This time last year, most of us had heard rumblings about COVID-19 – but at the time, it seemed so far away. Little did we know it would become a global pandemic that would bring about broad-sweeping change in so many facets of life – technology included.
The pandemic has been a technology accelerator for businesses, municipalities, schools, healthcare and in homes. As such, Cox Communications, provider of voice, data and video services for 355,000-plus small and regional businesses nationwide, shares its perspective on five technology trends that will continue throughout 2021.
Smart Communities Keep Getting Smarter
From waste management and water meters to street lighting, parking and public safety, communities are getting smarter by the day.
Smart communities are increasingly becoming a priority nationwide – and worldwide. In fact, the pandemic has accelerated smart city tech, and citizens are more open to smart community tech than ever – which is unlocking doors to rapid growth that will continue. Going smart enables municipalities to make more effective data-driven decisions, decreases inefficiencies and streamlines and automates processes. It also enhances citizen and government engagement, improves infrastructure and provides new economic development opportunities.
And the trend toward just-about-everything-smart is taking place inside the home as well. According to Statista, North America in 2023 is expected to have 40% of the worldwide market of consumer spending on smart home systems like smart assistants, smart speakers and smart door locks and light switches.
School and Work Will Continue to Stay Home…Somewhat
Remote work and school are not going away anytime soon, making broadband connectivity essential. In fact, many employees who were forced to work from home last year may continue to do so permanently. Gartner found that 74% of CFOs expect at least 5% of their workforce who previously worked in company offices will become permanent work-from-home employees after the pandemic ends.
Although working from home might have had a rocky start, employees have mastered using real-time chat and video conferencing to stay connected. In fact, interactive video conferencing and chat have enabled teams to maintain cohesion and stay connected while working out of the office.
On the education front, Rand Corporation researchers found approximately 20% of public school district superintendents and charter school leaders said they plan to continue online schooling as an option once the pandemic subsides – or are considering the online option for families and students who want the choice.
Whether teaching or learning from home or in the classroom, data-driven insights improve the classroom experience. Apps empower teachers to digitally administer homework, quizzes, tests and have one-on-one face time with students and parents.
And through artificial intelligence and machine learning, automated technology allows teachers to monitor and evaluate the progress students are making and better understand their strengths and weaknesses. For students, apps enable learning through gamification, which creates a fun and positive learning environment and can make the most reticent student excited about his or her studies.
More Content Means More Bandwidth and Navigation Help
And high-intensity applications aka “bandwidth hogs” like video streaming platforms that make online work and school possible are essential yet difficult to attain without the appropriate bandwidth. Therefore, ISPs have answered this increasingly streaming boom by offering affordable internet packages that take care of all streaming needs – voice, video or otherwise.
Speaking of voice, whether folks are binge-watching Jeopardy! on Netflix or jamming to music from Spotify using their Alexa, the use of streaming services and voice assistants is on the rise. With so many great TV shows to watch, it’s challenging to remember what’s on Peacock, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and so on. But voice remotes allow users to pull up a series, app or movie with just a few words, such as “Find the Discovery channel” or “What should I watch?”
Provider Adoption and Investment in Telehealth Grows
Finding ways to connect virtually with your healthcare provider is getting easier, too. According to a Cox Business survey, only 28% of respondents said that their healthcare service provider offered telehealth prior to COVID-19. Now, 68% can access telehealth services through their healthcare providers.
McKinsey reports that more than three-quarters (76%) of patients said they are either likely or very likely to continue relying on telehealth. Providers, too, gave telehealth a thumbs up, with 57% viewing it more favorably than before the pandemic and 64% feeling more comfortable using the technology.
Further, the same report shows up to $250 billion of current U.S. healthcare spend could go virtual – up from $3 billion pre-COVID-19.
The Cloud Moves Closer to the Edge
Greater demands on bandwidth and latency issues have placed a greater spotlight on edge computing – or, as Gartner defines it, when information processing is located close to the edge, where things and people produce or consume that information.
Analysts last year forecasted that edge computing would experience significant growth, especially since cloud vendors deployed more edge servers in local markets while telecom providers moved forward with 5G deployments.
Before COVID-19, Forrester predicted that the edge cloud service market would increase by a minimum of 50%. IDC’s worldwide IT predictions for this year include that the pandemic’s impact on the workforce and operational practices will be the driving force behind most edge-driven investments and business model changes – well beyond 2021.
“There’s no doubt that the pandemic will subside at some point, but the technology trends that have come to the forefront will continue in 2021 – and long after as well,” said Jodi Duva, Vice President for Cox Business in Orange County, Palos Verdes, and Santa Barbara. “Because Cox is committed to making digital life easier, we’ll continue investing in ways to better connect people and bring these critical technologies to life.”