By Sagi Subocki, VP Products and Marketing, Softil
We see developers and providers of products focusing on improving communications solutions for our remote working world. Hence, the five trends we see for 2021 are as follows:
- Video communications
Often called videoconferencing, video communications, may appear as old news. But, 2020 delivered an unimaginable punch and sent much of the world’s population to work from home. Videoconferencing became the saviour, allowing a degree of normality for hundreds of millions of people.
Videoconferencing capabilities offered today by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, GoToMeeting and others are quite formidable solutions compared to what was available five years ago – ease of use, high quality audio and video, reliability and virtual backgrounds are just some of the features on offer. Yet, the journey is far from over.
Videoconferencing is still a focused activity, requiring preparation, proper setting, scheduling and more. In 2021, expect videoconferencing to become easier to use and more secure. The widespread use of videoconferencing might even bring back some of the old research projects – for example, the EU-sponsored AMI project, where metadata was established during the call to fully analyse the dynamics of conversation for dominance and other essential characteristics.
Voice UI, better presentation capabilities similar to those offered by the mmHmm startup, and AR/VR/MR might be the subject of widespread research and innovation throughout 2021. We may also see some companies building virtual Walls of Presence similar to the one Orange (then France Telecom) enacted between offices, allowing people to meet for coffee without having to travel.
Star Trek’s Holodeck might become part of every house one day and whilst we overshoot 2021 by a few good years in mentioning this, it serves to emphasise that video communications improvements and better functionality are definitely trending and will continue at pace.
Industries across the world have seen remarkable gains in employee productivity this year through home and virtual conferencing, and 2021 may well be the year when it becomes the permanent norm.
- Virtual events
Physical exhibitions like CES, MWC and IWCE are not gone forever. The real handshake is still important, but it will have to wait for the time being. As videoconferencing allows industry executives to “meet” for most of 2021 – and possibly beyond – so exhibition organisers must embrace the virtual world to survive. This, however, could be easier said than done. Physical attendees are much easier to engage once at the event, a format more difficult to replicate virtually. We should see much innovation in this space in 2021.
- Virtual banking
Virtual banking is yet another “old news” topic – or is it? Even in the pre-pandemic days, video had great potential for the banking industry, especially for operations in rural areas. Now that video is universally acceptable, and banking is often done via the mobile phone, adding video to banking applications is an obvious trend. But, exacerbated by the pandemic, new areas will start taking advantage of virtual banking capabilities – look at the mortgage industry as an example. You still need to guarantee security and privacy, and verify and accept electronic signatures – this space is ripe for innovation.
Since the pandemic struck, telehealth quickly evolved to become the best tool for healthcare practitioners to help patients – without the risk of spreading virus. However, current telehealth capabilities are still very limited in standard patient visits and consist mainly of a basic conversation. The capabilities of today’s smartphones and smart watches in terms of obtaining a variety of health care data at any time, is already impressive and should be coupled with emerging telehealth applications in transmitting health data measurements, analysis, alerts and more.
- Automatic translation
Automatic translation solutions now allow books, articles and websites online to be translated reasonably fast and cheaply. The next development is having a little box you can speak into, which will instantly translate your speech into the language of choice. Imagine a conference call where different-language speeches are translated and captioned in real time. Automatic translation could feature in telehealth and virtual banking apps, opening up endless possibilities for innovation.
[Image: Mika Baumeister for Unsplash]