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Brislen on Tech: The future's so bright

Paul Brislen, Editor. 30 October 2020, 3:37 pm

Before we reach the end of the year and start in with the "Year in Review" columns, let's look ahead to 2021 and think about what might yet be seen.

In the tech world things never stand still for long. Sure, we might have a period of calm but it's usually before the storm and while tech products have kind of plateaued lately, that's sure to change.

Next year we'll see 5G devices and capability really begin to hit its straps. You can forget about Vodafone's premium service fee - that won't survive actual adoption - but you can expect a lot of stories that basically say "is that it?" because users won't necessarily see the difference between 100Mbit/s and 400Mbit/s when they're downloading their cat videos.

Unboxing

The real impact will come later, when the Internet of Things (IoT) market really takes off and we start to see a bunch of real time apps and devices start to have an impact. I'm looking forward to getting rid of my garage door opener and just relying on my phone telling my house I'm in the driveway and it should open the door for me. We shall see.

But that aside, 2021 won't see a major change in telco services I don't believe. We're already commoditising mobile in particular and that's likely to continue. Flat rate, all you can eat plans, with unlimited voice and text messages (that nobody uses any more) will be standard. This is good for consumers.

Of course, to really deliver 5G nirvana we need 2Degrees to get on board as well. Fingers crossed we see that happen early in 2021 before the market moves away from them. They've brought so much competition to bear it would be great to see that continue.

Otherwise, I have to say telco is a bit dull, and I for one am delighted by that.

Of course, now we're all totally reliant on telecommunications for everything - work, television, music, chatting, paying bills, interacting with government, ordering food, buying disposable goods with our disposable incomes and all the rest - so it had better be pretty ubiquitous and consistent. Sadly, large parts of the country (rural and remote) and some tracts of the population (poor and elderly) will remain outliers. This has to be addressed but 2021 will be busy with other things so it might slip off the radar.

What other things? Well I suspect we're all going to be working from home for quite some time to come. The hybrid model of some days in the city at the office and some days at home in the home office are likely to continue until a vaccine is developed for COVID-19.

This vexes me as I have family overseas whom I would very much like to see, but also we have an economy that I'd like to see prosper and tourism plays a large part in that.

But the new hybrid model does help with the stress levels. I've long been a fan of working from home and like the combination of meetings in town/productive hours at home, but the city office spaces aren't really set up for this combination of work-life balance.

Expect to see CBD office space crash in terms of price and to keep tenants happy, watch as open plan pods are ripped out and replaced with floors of meeting rooms with good coffee machines. That way we can come into town, sort out our meetings and then head for home afterwards.

Of course, two other major issues will raise their heads next year as a result of this. The first is that the move to cloud computing will hit warp speed and even those laggard government departments that have never really got the whole remote working thing will have to jump in boots and all. The country will be better for it - think of the resilience that is baked in if everyone is scattered to the winds. When the power goes out your entire call centre will shrug and keep on taking calls. If an earthquake knocks out the CBD you'll mostly be free to carry on.

The second issue is that cybersecurity will become everyone's number one bugbear. From the multi-factor authentication you'll need to log in to company databases to the passphrases we'll use for email to the thumb prints and facial recognition requirements of the devices themselves, we will be inundated with security measures and as annoying as they are they'll be essential. Because we'll also see an inexorable increase in the number of attacks on systems from both script kiddies in their mom's basements right through to organised crime and on to state-level actors in their bunkers who are trying all the doors and windows they can find to see just where they can infiltrate not necessarily to do any harm but to sit and watch and wait for the right moment.

Of course, we won't always get it right - so expect to see yet more mega-breaches where hundreds of millions of email addresses and passwords will be exposed to the harsh light of day for all to see and feast upon. Hopefully we won't see too many but in 2019 we lost control of four billion records, according to one security researcher, so the odds are not in our favour.

All told next year is likely to be a repeat of this year but with less patience (and hopefully fewer patients). We have an opportunity to grow our tech sector by a bigger margin than we have in the past, we'll have the same constraints around employment and getting people into training, and we're likely to see no sign of any real attempt to rein in the social media sector before it destroys what's left of our democracy.

But all that aside, the good thing about next year is it won't be 2020.


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