Ericsson Senior Vice President Erik Ekudden and Group CTO, listed “the realization of zero touch” as his top tech trend in 2018. We didn’t know how true those words would turn out to be, though they were not as true as we thought. After the global pandemic, people and businesses quickly adapted to the new reality. It ravaged health systems, and most importantly, it isolated us from our normal lives.
However, technological innovation has also been a major driver of these gaps over the past year.
The tech trends radar already saw advances in artificial intelligence, ecommerce, and the Internet of Things. We didn’t anticipate that healthcare and education, which are the most conservative when it comes to the adoption of technology, would suddenly become the center of attention. They would make significant progress in just months, in ways that usually take many years. We’ve known for decades the importance of digital connectivity. We never imagined it would be the central point of our daily lives, almost overnight.
As vaccines are being introduced and we eagerly wait for the return to gossip and hugs over the office watercooler – I wonder which new technologies will last the test of time. Experts believe these five technology trends will be around for many years.
Trend 1 – Digital workplaces
At the end of June 2020 42 percent of the US labor force worked from home full-time. Collaboration software exploded as we struggled to find the best remote work methods. The global video conferencing market grew more than twice as fast in 2020 to USD7.87 Billion.
Employees generally respond positively to the convenience of “WFH life”, but employers also see the benefits, such as lower office rent and upkeep costs. Our Future of Enterprises report shows that 60 percent of decision-makers are satisfied with the possibility to reduce office space. Only 43 percent believe they will not need any office by 2030. Early signs show that remote workers are 40 percent more productive then their in-office counterparts.
Step into my virtual office
Our IndustryLab report, which explores the future of the workplace and provides insights into the 2030 work environment, found that half of respondents would like a virtual presence to work. Imagine digital workspaces that allow you to wave to colleagues across the room, handover important documents or share coffee and cake with your coworkers (completely digitalized and with delicious digital aromas and flavors) without ever leaving home or your favorite getaway spot.
Many tech giants, such as Facebook and Twitter, have announced plans to work from home more permanently after COVID. It’s widely agreed that there is no future for work and that business as usual will not be the same.
Trend 2 – Online Learning
The benefits of digital workspaces and dematerialization are not limited to those working in the workplace. Over 1.6 billion children from 195 countries were evacuated as schools closed during the COVID pandemic.
Other digital services like language learning apps and virtual tutoring have also seen significant increases in demand. However, initiatives like Keep America Running have demonstrated how quickly society can connect digitally and empathically for a common cause. For example, giving remote learning access to more students and narrowing the education gap.
Quality education is key to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) and the Human Development Index, so it’s clear that education must be accessible and well-resourced.
According to OECD 95 percent of students in Switzerland and Norway have a computer they can use for schoolwork. In Indonesia, only 34% have a computer. In the US, almost all 15-year olds with privileged backgrounds said that they had a computer to use for schoolwork, while only 25% of those with disadvantaged backgrounds did.
We must ensure that we are reducing inequality in education as we continue to work hard to improve educational opportunities via technology.
Although it is still unclear how e-learning will continue after students return to school, it is clear that connectivity is essential for education. These possibilities will only increase as 5G networks allow for faster internet and more reliable connectivity than ever before, even in remote areas.
Trend 3 – Telehealth
Healthcare has been traditionally one of the most resistant to digital technology adoption. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated telehealth technology’s real-world utility and potential as vital tools for preventing the spread of virus through testing, tracking, and treatment.
Ericsson and Telia, a research innovation team that began in September 2020, used AI to monitor and manage demand for healthcare resources. They created and refined advanced AI analysis models and insights models for planning and predicting healthcare resources.
Ericsson, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London collaborated on 5G Connected Ambulance, a revolutionary new way to connect patients with ambulance workers and remote medical specialists in real-time. This innovative innovation allowed healthcare workers to perform the UK’s first remote diagnostic procedure using 5G. It demonstrated its transformative potential to allow clinicians and paramedics, even from miles away, to collaborate haptically and help patients even if it’s not possible to get to a hospital.
Telehealth offered other innovative ways to solve the problems of home health care, such as video conferencing, email, telephone or smartphone apps.
These advancements have been especially beneficial for seniors. An Ericsson ConsumerLab survey revealed that the internet and devices had assisted 90 percent of the surveyed seniors during the pandemic. Technology’s benefits aren’t just for medical care. They can also be used to improve your quality of life by allowing you to move around, stay safe, and interact with others.
2020 also found that the COVID-19 epidemic had prompted significant changes in healthcare, which could help establish telehealth more solidly in the future. This is a crucial step in building trust for technological literacy and preparing patients for the revolutions that are set to change medicine’s future.
Trend 4 – Contactless convenience
Contactless technology is changing the customer experience after COVID. It’s enabling touch-free payments, ‘just walk out shopping’ and biometric check in for travel and accommodation.
Nearly 90 percent of Americans now prefer touchless checkouts or self-checkout when shopping in-store. Facial recognition security systems are increasingly common in an increasingly globalized world where security is a top priority.
These are five predictions for a world post-COVID.
Thanks to more advanced processors, memory chips, better image sensor technology, and faster communication networks, these innovative and safe solutions are possible. All of these improvements will continue in the future.
This is combined with the expectation of virtual and augmented realities fundamentally changing our daily lives in education, work, travel, and retail. We’ll soon see a true digital and physical mix – no touching required.
Trend 5 – AI-generated Content
Recent machine learning innovations such as Generative Adversarial Networks, (GANs), have attracted a lot attention, often due to some shockingly funny celebrity deep fakes. These clever generative models employ training data to “learn” patterns and generate new data that is similar to the original input. One example of the output is the ability create digital images that look just like real photos, as in the case with the disturbing website This Person Doesn’t Exist.
You can now look into the eyes and wonder if a stranger really does exist. These are artificially generated images of human faces via thispersondoesnotexist.com.
This technology is mostly used to filter and entertain and is constantly learning. It is also being fed more of our personal stories, history and personal information. It is well-known that half of Americans are not comfortable with being unable to distinguish between humans and machines. This concern was raised in 2018, in our 10 Hot Consumer Trends. (See trend six on uncanny communications). But how does it end?
One possibility is that artificial Intelligence may grow in power over time because of media’s changing nature and consumption.
How can AI be creative with the human touch? The AI text generator wrote the paragraph you see above. Did you notice a difference?
Who is the line anyway?
The Associated Press has used AI to report on Minor League Baseball for years. Last year, Guardian published an op-ed article entirely written by OpenAI’s GPT-3 language generator. Even researchers have trouble distinguishing between language generators and machines.
Adaku Uchendu is a doctoral student at Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology, where the research was carried out. “[As] more languages models are made… it will be harder to determine if a machine created an article.” “So, we need to improve our detection methods even more.”
What does it mean to be called an AI? Is it worth making any distinctions if we all use AI to write our texts in the future? Look at the way that our devices suggest what we should write next. It isn’t easy to distinguish between AI-generated text and future author if the future author is a type of human-machine symbiosis.
Uchendu says, “The ultimate goal would be to enforce some type of disclaimer on articles that state that they were machine generated.” People will be able to do more fact-checking when an article has been machine generated if they are aware.
Rebecka Cedering Angstrom is Ericsson’s Principal Researcher. She presents another perspective and raises deeper questions about how we can live in harmony with AI technology in future.
“Why do we think machine writing requires more fact checking?” Humans can also be biased. They can make mistakes and write with an ulterior motive. It is important to pay attention to who is writing and who is communicating the message. You can also ask yourself who we will allow to make the biggest mistakes. Is it more likely that we will forgive a fake article written by an AI or a human? What about an AI diagnosis or missed diagnosis by a human doctor? These are crucial questions that we as society need to address.
While the debate over the future of content will continue, we will likely see more AI-generated content, regardless of whether we are aware or not.
Disclaimer: This blog post wasn’t written by a computer (except where indicated). Human error is the sole reason for any errors or flaws.