Telstra News |

Our top 6 predictions for the major tech trends of 2021

By Andrew Scott January 12, 2021

The start of the decade has been challenging for many reasons, and we saw how technology played a vital part in helping us get through it. We’re already looking ahead to what advances in technology may bring in 2021.

Over 11 million Australian households and businesses now have access to the nbn network, all major smartphone brands now offer 5G handsets, and AlphaBeta reports that videoconferencing is now used by more than 60% of Australian businesses.[1]

With fast connectivity and devices in more places than ever, new services and product innovation will thrive in this decade, and we have picked some of the next technology areas that will come to the fore in 2021 that Aussies can look forward to. I know I am.

Faster and better Wi-Fi in the home

It became clear this year how critical a strong home Wi-Fi signal was for remote working, learning and video streaming.

The next generation of Wi-Fi technology will help with coverage, speeds and consistency of performance. Wi-Fi 6 has already appeared in premium devices and in 2021 we will see this technology in more mainstream devices. Many Wi-Fi 6 devices will also support Wi-Fi EasyMesh which repeats the Wi-Fi signal to boost coverage further around the home.

Together, we expect many people to update their home Wi-Fi setup next year, either through purchasing Wi-Fi Boosters to extend their coverage or at a minimum, understanding how slow Wi-Fi signal strength affects their video streaming or gaming experience.

High-end gaming

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the landscape of home entertainment. With the dramatic impacts to live sports, cinemas, and music events, Aussies are used to spending more time getting entertained at home, digitally.

Coupled with the introduction of powerful, next-generation games consoles from the likes of Microsoft with the Xbox Series X, there is a lot of demand being generated for rich, immersive games.

Whether you purely watch gaming streams on Twitch or YouTube, or actively play games, 2021 will be an exciting year. Cloud gaming is one of the hottest gaming trends and Microsoft has already launched its xCloud service in beta locally. We look forward to seeing this trend grow further from customer interest and other vendors in this space. One thing is for certain though, cloud gaming shows the value of having fast and reliable home and mobile networks. And as 5G continues to roll out further, this will allow Aussies to have high end gaming experiences in many more places outside of their home.

5G mmWave

Telstra 5G is already available in selected areas and is planned to grow further to 75% of Australia’s population by end of June this year[2]. But there’s another exciting 5G development happening this year: the first set of new high frequency, or “mmWave”[3] spectrum. 5G can provide incredible performance[4] over short range, so it won’t be available everywhere in the way you normally expect to find mobile coverage. It will have the most use in busy places, like inner city streets or sports stadiums.

New mmWave devices are expected to arrive this year, adding to the Telstra 5G WiFi Pro[5] we’ve already launched. There’s going to be some great examples of companies and brands leveraging the benefits of 5G mmWave which include ultra-low latency, high capacity, and very fast speeds. The other exciting thing is 5G mmWave is coming at the same time as the maturation of AI, IoT, automation, and cloud/edge technologies to create some amazing scenarios.

Social distancing goes digital

As we enter a new phase of the pandemic on the precipice of a vaccine, we all need to keep in mind that social distancing is still on until further notice. But with millions of people moving in and out of public spaces like offices, train stations and shopping malls every day, it’s impossible for COVID-safe hall monitors to keep track of everyone.

As we move back into offices we can expect to see a series of new technologies deployed around us to ensure COVID-safe guidelines are being followed.

With cameras and sensor technology evolving, you can expect the public and private sector to embrace low-impact connected technologies to monitor social distancing and even contact tracing.

We’re already working to forecast passenger numbers on trains, and using thermal cameras to detect people with fevers moving in and out of public spaces. All this information can not only serve to locate a potentially-infected person, but also work to give us all confidence we’re entering spaces that are appropriately distanced and COVID-safe.

Head-up displays (HUDs)

The original promise of Google Glass is starting to come good, but only in a range of specialist environments as this display tech has continued to mature, e.g. motorcycle helmets, vehicle windscreens, ski goggles, and smart hard hats helmets.

The use of these HUDs enables users get relevant data on their task or environment without having to interrupt the activity that they are doing. High-end augmented reality (AR) headsets have been bulky, but the technology is rapidly shrinking in size to fit into “user friendly” wearable form factors (like sunglasses and normal eyeglasses).

In the next 1-2 years, we will see more HUDs incorporated into vehicles and wearables for industrial and sporting use. Within the consumer market, industry websites report rumours that many major brands will bring smart glasses to market in a similar timeframe. Time will tell if that is true, but we are sure to see more products with smart heads up displays in the months and years ahead.

ARM-based laptops

When new laptops come out, the improvement emphasis is usually on either higher processing power or longer battery life – not both. With Apple launching its new MacBook sporting the company’s new in-house developed M1 chip, that equation has been broken.

Based on ARM-architecture, the M1-based laptops have improved dramatically in both performance and battery life. This also breaks the perception that ARM chips mean trading off performance on laptops.

As applications begin supporting the M1 chip, users will experience the benefits the new chip can bring. Throw in the mix the fact that Nvidia is acquiring ARM and we can expect to see high-end, GPU-enhanced ARM devices in the not-too-distant future – having already won the mobile chips, ARM architecture is now well and truly challenging x86 on the laptop side with more to follow.

[1] https://alphabeta.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/200922_australias-digital-resilience_report.pdf

[2] Australia’s best 5G now in more places (telstra.com.au)

[3] mmWave 5G: what you need to know (telstra.com.au)

[4] We’ve smashed another speed record with mmWave 5G (telstra.com.au)

[5] Telstra 5G Wi-Fi

5G | Tech and Innovation |

Our predictions for 2019’s biggest tech trends

By Håkan Eriksson January 7, 2019

As 2019 starts, we are on the cusp of a new wave of high-tech change and innovation. That change will be driven by the rollout of 5G alongside complementary technologies like the Internet of Things, improved artificial intelligence and machine learning. We’ve forecast some of what we think will be the biggest technology trends in 2019, ones that thrive on connectivity.

Vehicle sharing and autonomous cars: Rentable E-scooters will appear in more Australian cities during 2019 making it easy for people to get around – but these services will need to be tracked as they move around to prevent theft and to help business owners operate efficiently. The Cat M and NB-IoT network technologies being used are evolving directly into 5G technologies, and suit the long battery life, deep coverage and meagre data use aspects of this application. E-scooter sharing service Lime has already started operating in Australia.

As we predicted at the start of 2018, autonomous vehicles are enjoying plenty of research and validation both on and off public roads – but these technologies require a huge amount of data to make the decisions that human drivers handle without thinking, and all cars that have access to this data are able to learn from it. Sharing this data in real-time requires high speed, pervasive connectivity – a perfect use case for the extra capacity and performance of 5G services. Autonomous cars alone have the potential to massively disrupt the ‘own to drive’ model of car ownership that has been popular since the invention of the automobile.

‘Pop up’ connected business technology: In 2019, we will see an increasing number of fast 4G and 5G connected devices that will allow businesses to start up without waiting for a wired internet connection or other similar services. Similarly, software as a service (SaaS) and other subscription offerings like Office 365 let businesses spin up digital assets quickly, and easy out-of-the-box payment processing services mean a simple enterprise can start making money quickly. The impact for consumers like you and I may be in greater choice, as it lowers the barrier to entry for new businesses to pop up and test a business concept, or an established business to test out a new location.

Augmented world: Still in their nascent stages, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have huge potential. Like voice control, both provide a different way for users to interact with technology. Wireless headsets are the ‘holy grail’, and as they move out of the games room, they will require high-speed and reliable mobile connectivity to deliver immersive experiences. In the same way that videoconferencing has made remote working easier for us, AR and VR could revolutionise skills training. As well as augmenting our eyes, “hearables” will augment our ears, and these new wearable devices will allow us to listen to both the world around us as well as modify it, removing sounds or adding music and computer speech. The ‘hearables’ ability to unintrusively mix sound sources will also allow people to continually stream music throughout a day, even while for example interacting with people. This type of constant streaming will benefit from the higher capacities of 5G networks.

Game streaming: ‘Game streaming’ usually conjures up images of professional players on video streaming services like Twitch, but imagine using your laptop to play the latest games using the cloud, not just watch them. There’s a new breed of streaming service on the way that lets low-powered desktop and laptop computers play visually rich video games – and even other 3D-accelerated services like Photoshop – by running computing processes and graphics on a powerful server in a data centre, then ‘streaming’ the resulting video output over the internet to your PC. The key to this is fast and low-latency networks – a perfect application for 5G. We may even see this kind of cloud computing come to smartphone gaming.

Smart city cameras: The widespread high-speed connectivity and support for a massive number of devices transmitting up to the cloud simultaneously that 5G and specialised mobile technology like Cat M and NB-IoT make possible will also allow our cities and towns to get smarter. Where traffic intersections detect cars using sensors embedded in tarmac, but don’t detect waiting pedestrians automatically, imagine a city where the number of pedestrians needing to cross a road affects the speed at which traffic lights operate. If you extrapolate that one example to other ways in which smart cameras can be used, like detecting commuter numbers to better influence public transport development, an entire new world of possibilities – powered by 5G – is revealed.

5G and foldable phones: There are more than a few 5G phones on the horizon, and 2019 looks to be the year that they will start filtering out of research and development laboratories into customers’ hands. 5G is faster than the current leading 4G standard, but also allows for many more devices to stream HD video at the same time – especially important when we’re seeing a consistent increase in the number of devices on our networks, even before any of the new use cases for 5G and complementary technology like the Internet of Things have been explored. We’re also seeing a few prototypes and rumours of foldable touchscreen smartphones, with the most straightforward concept being a dual-screen ‘folio’ that only takes up the space of a regular smartphone, with twice the display real estate and the potential for new apps and functions to be developed, and the increased number of pixels will drive even more demand for 5G bandwidth.