Five ways tech will change your life in 2021

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Chris Schulz

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From electric cars to ticketless events and contactless payments, here are the tech advances that will grow in 2021.

When casting an eye across the next 12 months, it’s impossible to ignore the previous 12.

That’s because Covid-19 changed everything. In the blink of an eye, offices were shuttered, cities were closed and lifestyles were upended to stop the spread of a deadly disease.

New Zealand’s back open for business, but much of the rest of the world is still struggling with the fallout of a worldwide pandemic, and the tech innovations being made after all those stay-at-home orders are already filtering down our way.

Here are the predictions were see coming to fruition over the next year.

Electric cars will be everywhere

Tesla’s stock is soaring, wait times for a brand new Toyota Rav 4 hybrid are months-long, and second-hand EVs are selling in days. Electric cars are already popular, but in 2021, they’re set to explode. I should know. Recently, my family tried to buy a second-hand Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, a family-sized SUV that can travel up to 50km without using gas. When we enquired with a local car yard about two models that had been posted on TradeMe the previous day, one had already sold and the other was out for a test drive. At Toyota’s Lincoln Road car yard, a salesman told us we wouldn’t be able to get into a new hybrid Rav 4 until May. There are close to 20,000 electric cars on New Zealand roads right now, but the Ministry of Transport has set a target of 64,000 by the end of the year. That means the quiet hum of an electric car passing by is going to increase, and charging stations will be taking up more space around town. It also means your next car, like ours, is likely to be a hybrid.

Expect to do even more from home

Thanks to Covid-19, you may already be working from home much more than you used to. Perhaps you don’t eat out much anymore, and subscribe to multiple food delivery services. Maybe you buy all of your clothes and shoes and furniture and gadgets and toiletries online now. You might have  a yoga mat permanently set up in the corner of the lounge, or a cross trainer in the garage. You’re probably already doing a lot more in your lounge than you used to, and that’s going to continue. Feeling poorly? Online doctors are here to help. Need to get on your bike? Zwift will let you race others through the French Alps. Enjoy bingeing TV in the same room as your buddies? Netflix Party will let you do that online with your friends. Your home is everything now, so you’d better make sure it’s a good one.

Ticketless events, and contactless payments

When you do go out, expect to do much less touching of things. Since Covid-19, a disease that can remain active on surfaces for long periods of time, passing a physical ticket back and forth for entry seems silly and reckless. When you board a plane you use the pass on your Air NZ app, so expect to be use your phone for many more things: like attending live concerts, theatre shows or movies. The same thing goes for Eftpos and credit cards. While New Zealand has been slower on the uptake for mobile banking services like Apple Pay and Fitbit Pay, demand has only risen over the past 12 months. Soon, you may even be able to pay for your kombucha and artisan cheese at the farmers market using your smartwatch.

Streaming services will explode

Do you already have Netflix, Neon and Amazon Prime? Do you think you already own too many TV streaming subscriptions? Think again. In the past month, several major industry changes have taken place. Warner Bros confirmed all of its 2021 slate of films will be placed on the American streaming service HBO Max at the same time as theatres. Disney is doubling down on its TV slate, announcing a dizzying array of TV shows – including multiple spinoffs from hit The Mandalorian – in a move that confirmed its preference for TV shows over movies. Niche services will expand as well. Shudder offers an all-you-can-binge horror buffet for fright fans, and Acorn delivers an all-British slate of viewing options. In the future, your movie money will probably be spent adding another TV subscription service to your library, and improving your home theatre hardware. That’s sad for movie theatres, but good for your lounge.

Speed, speed, speed

Connection times and video quality on your Zoom calls will improve. Cloud services will expand, grow and become the norm. Algorithms, already in heavy use on music and TV streaming services, will get much more intuitive, knowing what you want and when you want it. Forget about buffering issues and connection problems. In 2021, everything will speed up. What’s making all this happen? Better Wi-Fi, improved AI, and the growth of 5G. All in all, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2021.

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Chris Schulz

Chris Schulz has 20 years experience writing about New Zealand's technology and entertainment industries. He lives in Auckland.

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