Over the last two years, we’ve seen a surge in technology trends such as digital workplaces, online learning, and contactless convenience. Enforced lockdowns were put in place to slow down the spread of the pandemic. This allowed the world to adapt to existing technologies, even new ones.
The question is – Did these technology trends create an unstoppable cultural shift, or will we see a return to pre-pandemic norms?
We’ll take a closer look at the three major technology trends that gained pace during 2021. We’ll try to consider them in a wider social context. We’ll also see how they’ll impact our lives over the next few years – and into the next decade. Because whether we like it or not, we might be on a cusp of a new technological revolution, one that will transform all our lives!
The typical workplace has undergone a massive transformation over the last hundred years, certainly greater than at any time since the industrial revolution. It is only a few generations ago that most people did not own cars and worked within walking distance of their homes, or even worked at home. Public transport and the mass production of cars introduced the concept of the daily commute, transforming the economy, and allowing for real social mobility. We may now be closing that circle and returning, at least in part, to home-based working.
In the Western world, we saw a post-war transformation from an industrial economy to a service economy. In Western societies, very few of us actually physically produce goods or process the raw materials to manufacture goods.
Modern companies concentrated their employees in office buildings, much as previous generations of workers worked together in factories or mills. Open space offices and cubicles replaced factory floors. Instead of lathes or looms, we have laptops and telephones.
COVID-19 and the global lockdowns mandated a work from home policy, shattering the long-standing assumption that employees can only function effectively in centralized corporate offices. Niche technology trends like Zoom became mainstream overnight and millions of people discovered that they could function effectively without leaving their homes.
Video conferencing became the new office norm in 2021. Zoom allows for convenient high-quality video meetings with multiple participants. There are three basic rules to follow if you want to get the most out of video conferencing.
As with offline meetings, you will save time and get better results if you have a focused agenda for the meeting. People should log in knowing exactly what they are discussing, and for how long. It’s easy to fall into the trap of recording the meeting with the intention of reviewing it later. This is a good backup, but it’s better to take notes as you go along.
When you plan a video conference, set clear time limits. Your goal is not just to manage your own schedule, but to retain participant attention and engagement. Unless there is an emergency, no conference should continue for more than 3 hours. Schedule regular short breaks e.g. 5 minutes every half hour and a 15 or 20-minute break in the middle of a longer meeting.
Online learning was a niche activity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was mainly restricted to younger people or professionals who wanted to learn specific skills. Courses like Udemy were popular with online learners but didn’t have mass appeal. Enforced isolation during the lockdowns has driven an online learning boom. This was partly enabled by the sudden popularity of Zoom and other communication technology trends, as well as faster internet connections.
Online learning became the only way for most university students to continue with their courses and was also a vital tool for high school students in exam years. We saw the limitations of Zoom-based online learning when teachers tried, less successfully, to teach remote classes of younger children. Millions of people who found themselves confined to their homes rediscovered a passion for learning – or at least tried to.
A common lockdown resolution was to learn a new language. Zoom, and online payment systems, made it easy to connect with native-speaking teachers around the world for one on one tutorials. There was also an explosion in online yoga and sports classes, and activities as diverse as singing, chess, and gardening classes as people tried to beat the lockdown blues.
The COVID-19 pandemic started a generation of kids who missed out on schooling. The net result may be an overall improvement in teaching methods and access to greater educational resources. Obviously, much of this will depend on the willingness of governments to identify opportunities and create the necessary investment.
As Israel rolls out the new national 5G internet infrastructure, Israeli schools are set to benefit. Instant access to wider resources may allow a more flexible, tailored, and individualistic approach to learning. Brighter and more motivated kids may be able to work more independently, undertaking enhanced online studies and advancing at their own pace, within the class framework.
The quality of teaching materials is also set to improve. An old-fashioned textbook might contain a few basic diagrams and photos of a subject. An online module can easily contain interactive animations, films, and a wealth of detailed explanations and relevant material, as well as links to additional learning resources.
Educators and government strategists have identified an urgent need to increase the number of Israeli science and engineering graduates. Online learning and inter-school and university collaboration on projects can drive that goal. Promising students can easily connect, not just with expert teachers, but with mentors in high-tech industries.
There is also an exciting opportunity to transform language teaching in Israeli schools and to move beyond the current choices of English, Arabic, and French. Again, students will be able to learn at their own pace and in a more natural way. Possibly the biggest advantage is that multimedia online learning resources are more likely to capture the imagination of average or previously unenthusiastic students. There is a real potential to transform the language skills of all Israeli kids.
The COVID-19 pandemic generated real anxiety about physical contact with other people. It also created a new awareness of the potential for shared surfaces like door handles and elevator buttons to act as vectors for the virus. Apart from generating massive sales of hand soap and alcohol gels, the pandemic drove the development of contactless technology trends.
Although implemented as a rapid response to COVID-19 health concerns, many aspects of contactless technology are proving highly popular.
If you’re not a tech fan, you might be wondering what contactless technology is, and what relevance it has to your life. Anybody who has traveled on a bus in Israel in 2021 has already experienced contactless technology.
The Rav Kav card that you use to pay for the ride is a perfect example of contactless technology trends. A chip in the card is read by the scanner on the bus and your journey is automatically paid for.
As we move towards a cashless society, contactless technology is becoming a common payment method for all kinds of transactions. Whether you’re using your smartphone to pay for a restaurant meal, or are using Bank Hapoalim’s Bit app to transfer money, you are benefiting from the contactless economy.
Contactless technology also has several workplace applications. A smartcard with a chip is usually issued to office workers to unlock the office entrance door and log in and out of the time clock. A similar device will open doors and elevators, preventing the need to touch door handles and buttons. Where social distancing is strictly required, a chip can create an alert if people approach each other too closely.
The concept of zero-touch customer service is far less popular with consumers. Big companies definitely want to implement fully automated, AI-driven customer service systems. The potential savings on human employees are potentially huge. All the current research shows that customers find automated customer service models frustrating and even infuriating. They particularly resent wasting time negotiating the systems and trying to get answers to specific non-listed questions. There is minimal enthusiasm for dealing with AI bots and voice recordings. People might be happy to open doors and pay for meals with a smart chip, but they don’t want to interact with one. Over 90% of smartphone users would prefer to connect directly to another human being when they contact a service provider.
As 5G internet becomes widely available in Israel, virtual reality VR and augmented reality AR technology will impact our lives. The first practical developments are likely to be affordable VR/AR glasses and headsets. Tech commentators expect these to hit the high street via the multi-billion dollar gaming industries. This is a logical assumption, but much of the core technology may originate with the defense industry. Fighter and helicopter pilot headsets were already exploring early concepts a generation ago.
The IDF is already looking at 5G AR/VR technology to create innovative battlespace training tools. Even infantry and armored recruits may benefit from new high-tech simulators. The IDF urgently wants to cut costs and to improve both the standard and availability of training. Playstations, Xboxes, and other gaming technology may be obsolete in just a few years. Gamers may soon have the option to completely immerse themselves in an alternative reality.
You might find this interesting, but not see any real applications to your life. What if you need to pay for your kids to take driving lessons? A VR/AR vehicle simulator, in conjunction with on-road lessons, might turn them into safer drivers at half the cost to your wallet. If you need to learn a new skill for professional development or to get a pay rise, new learning technology could really expand your career horizons.
Like our 15th century ancestors who saw their world change with the invention of the printing press, and the generation that experienced the introduction of the internet, AR and VR technology will utterly transform our lives. The iconoclastic trends in digital working and online learning are also here to stay. Either we will adapt, or we will struggle with new daily routines and basic realities.
TCS is already committed to connecting customers to 5G infrastructure whenever and wherever there is network coverage. The company is closely following all the new trends and technologies that are emerging. If you have a business or home office and are interested in digital working, TCS will be happy to talk to you about the benefits of a tailored business plan. These include a VIP customer service number, dedicated out-of-hours coverage 24/365, ultra-fast broadband and fiber optics, virtual local numbers, and deals on cell phones, landlines, and TV packages.
If you love online learning, we’ll get you connected with a flexible high-speed internet plan and any other communications resources that you need!