Tech That Will Change Your Life In 2021 | Kanebridge News
Kanebridge News
Share Button

Tech That Will Change Your Life In 2021

New ways to work, exercise, see the doctor, watch movies and sanitise every surface in sight will continue to proliferate. So will monthly subscription fees.

Wed, Jan 13, 2021 2:43amGrey Clock 7 min

A pandemic that ravaged the world and accelerated the digital transformation of, well, everything? Not even the best of futurists or Magic 8 ball-shaking psychics could have predicted the year that was 2020. And yet while we may have missed the biggest news, our predictions for what would occur in the tech world held up decently. (OK, fine, we didn’t think Quibi would die that quickly.)

Now, 2020 has become the lens through which all our 2021 predictions are glimpsed. As we continue to live in a pandemic-fighting world, innovators will aim tech solutions at our personal and professional lives, from at-home streaming movie debuts to an overdue evolutionary leap of the laptop. But we will also strive to reach a new normal, and you’ll see technology helping us there, too, from new hybrid work practices to high-tech masks. And accompanying each new product or service: yet another monthly subscription fee.

Now that we’ve rung in the new year, here’s what to look for.

Pandemic-Inspired Innovation

Masks, webcams and sanitisers for our bodies… and our gadgets. The pandemic sparked a reliance on things our 2019 selves couldn’t ever have imagined. With marketers keen to capitalize on the new interest (and anxiety), 2021 will likely be full of new gizmos that boldly promise to improve it all.

One key area: better webcams for our constant video calling. Samsung has already announced that its forthcoming Galaxy smartphone, expected in early 2021, will improve video recording and calling. We anticipate laptop makers will do the same and finally ditch their crappy, low-resolution webcams.

Portable versions of UV sanitisers for cleaning your phones and gadgets are on the way to keep in your car or your pocket. Another thing we may eventually never leave home without? High-tech masks. Expect a range of built-in features: Bluetooth and microphones (see Maskfone), a fan-powered wearable air purifier (see LG PuriCare), a mask with a UV LED (see the UV Mask). Look for air-quality sensors, contact-tracing assistance and more.

You may even end up wearing a social-distancing sweater. SimpliSafe, a home-security company, made a version that sounds an alarm when someone comes within 6 feet of you. Intended as a fun prototype, the sweater sold out immediately.



Laptops Arm Up

Suddenly, laptops aren’t the most boring gadget in the world. Our reliance on them for at-home work and school spurred demand the category hadn’t seen in years. (“Children, let me tell you about the Great Chromebook Shortage of 2020.”) Then, in November, Apple released a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro that ditched Intel inside for Apple’s own M1 chips. The result? Machines that have never been so quiet and cool, and lasted so long on one charge.

The move from chips based on Intel’s x86 architecture to ones based on lower-powered Arm technology, like the ones inside phones, is setting the entire computing industry on a new course. Lenovo, Acer and Microsoft have begun releasing Windows or Chrome OS laptops with chips from Qualcomm, whose processors power the most popular Android phones. This will only accelerate in the coming year, with nearly every major Windows PC maker working with Qualcomm on laptops and some models even gaining 5G, said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon.

Apple, which plans to transition its entire Mac lineup to its own processors by 2022, is also expected to release a long-anticipated new iMac, among other things. And it won’t come as a surprise when more tech giants, including Amazon and Microsoft, embrace their own custom chips in everything from laptops to servers to wearables.



Hollywood at Home

Many of this year’s top films are hitting living rooms at the same time as theatres. Yep, that means watching “Dune” opening weekend in your PJs. (Woohoo!)

In April, Universal Pictures made “Trolls World Tour” an online rental as theatres closed. Unexpectedly, it broke digital records, racking up US$100 million through platforms such as Apple TV. Then Disney made a big bet on “Mulan,” launching the title on the company’s Disney+ streaming service for an additional $30 a pop. Following the Christmas release of “Wonder Woman 1984” to all HBO Max subscribers (with no extra fees), WarnerMedia plans to release its entire 2021 slate on the online platform.

Netflix has long adhered to this model, and now Hollywood is catching on, more out of necessity than out of desire. AMC reported attendance is down 85% year over year and Regal Cinemas, the second-largest theatre chain in the U.S., closed all of its locations nationwide.

The director of “Dune,” slated for an HBO Max debut in the fall, wrote a scathing op-ed about how streaming alone can’t sustain the film industry. Yet the studios’ digitally minded parent companies, including Comcast, AT&T and Disney, might disagree, finding themselves in possession of the primary distribution channel for their content—and the valuable proprietary viewer data that comes with it.



Reality: Assisted, Not Augmented

When will Apple release a pair of smart glasses? Probably not 2021. And while Google made a big step in this category this summer by acquiring North, a pioneer in projection glasses, it cancelled the second version of North’s glasses as it plots its future. It’s actually Facebook that declared it will launch smart glasses in 2021—and they’ll be Ray Bans.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in September these glasses will be “the next step on the road to augmented reality.” They won’t feature virtual objects that appear to interact with the real world. AR headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens might deliver an immersive experience, but they’re still expensive and cumbersome.

“Assisted reality” glasses—which project text, images and even video feeds into a person’s field of view—are of more value now, says Brian Ballard, CEO of remote-expertise company Upskill. Businesses have found utility in remote video conferencing that hovers in workers’ field of view, or turn-by-turn directions they don’t have to look down to follow.



More Remote Workouts… and Doctor Visits

At-home health is here to stay. Downloads of health and fitness apps grew by 46% world-wide in the first half of 2020, according to MoEngage, a marketing research firm.

Connected fitness equipment, once considered a pricey extravagance, turned into a no-brainer as gyms closed. Peloton, which makes smart spin bikes and treadmills, said it tripled its revenue in the quarter ending in September. Lululemon Athletica acquired Mirror, a wall-mounted panel that streams fitness classes, in June.

Doctor checkups are changing, too. Hospitals used phone, interactive video and messaging to minimise contact with coronavirus patients, after fast-tracking new telemedicine systems. In March, federal authorities loosened health privacy regulation to allow health-care providers to facilitate visits over FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom or Skype.

PlushCare, a virtual primary care provider, saw a 460% increase in patient signups this year. Ryan McQuaid, the company’s CEO, doesn’t think the bump is a short-term response to a crisis, citing the time-consuming nature of in-person visits. “On average, Americans spend over 20 minutes in the waiting room alone,” he said.



E-commerce ≠ Amazon

The pandemic packed 10 years of consumer e-commerce adoption into a single quarter, and forced every company that wasn’t Amazon—especially those with large retail footprints—to scramble to offer consumers new and better ways to shop from home.

Target saw an explosion in kerbside pickup from online orders, while warehouse retailer Costco reported unprecedented growth in e-commerce. Walmart launched a Prime-like membership program called Walmart+, and rapidly added features to keep up the competition. (Walmart recently eliminated order minimums and shipping fees on orders, and provides no-fee delivery on grocery carts totalling US$35 or more.) Shopify, which powers payments for many small businesses online, expanded its own network of fulfilment centres so those businesses could get goods to customers more quickly and efficiently, without turning to Amazon.

Now that fast, free shipping is table stakes and retailers recognize they won’t see the foot traffic they counted on pre-pandemic, consumers finally get an online version of an old retail staple: comparison shopping. In 2021, Amazon’s value proposition—that if it isn’t always the least expensive way to shop, it’s at least the most convenient—will be tested. Meanwhile, its market power—along with Google’s, Facebook’s and Apple’s—will continue to be the focus of regulatory scrutiny.



Death by Subscription

Everything now has some sort of subscription attached to it. Your 600 video streaming apps, your grocery-delivery service, your cloud storage, certainly, but also your workout bike? Your to-do list app? Your dog food? Everything as a Service (EaaS), as we like to call it, is only going to continue. More things you once bought as a one-time payment will be offered instead as a recurring payment. And expect new sorts of service-focused offerings, too—especially tied to your hardware purchases. If Apple’s Fitness+—a new digital workout subscription that requires an Apple Watch—is successful, Apple and other hardware makers will likely attach more services to their products.

Those subscriptions you’re already paying for will continue to rise. Companies argue you need to pay more so they can add more content and features. In June, YouTube TV raised its cable-like bundle by US$15. In October, Netflix raised its most popular streaming plan from US$12.99 to US$13.99. In November, Google eliminated its free Google Photos storage tier. And Disney announced that in March, the monthly price of Disney+ will go from $6.99 to $7.99.



Return of the Trust Fall

While remote work has many advantages, building trust between employees isn’t one of them. Online, there is no water cooler, no nearby coffee shop for informal brainstorms, no place to grab a drink after work. But companies whose employees worked remotely long before the pandemic already had a solution: the off-site retreat.

Buffer, a fully remote company, gets its entire, globe-spanning team together at least once a year. Dozens of other companies whose employees work mostly or entirely at home do the same thing, which has led to a cottage industry of firms that will plan these retreats for you.

One reason companies have embraced remote work is that it makes employees happier, but another is that it saves companies money on office space. In 2021, expect to see many of the millions of employees who have permanently shifted to remote or hybrid work piling into party buses, doing group yoga and seeking inner peace in the presence of their bosses—for far less than the cost of the rent on the offices they left behind.



EV, American Style

Look, electric vehicles are cool, but few bear any resemblance to good old Detroit steel. That changes in 2021 with the anticipated arrival of some green beasts.

This summer, startup Rivian expects to ship the already-sold-out launch editions of its first-generation R1T pickup and R1S SUV, machines with ranges of over 300 miles and price tags starting around $70,000.

Then there’s the GMC Hummer EV pickup, due in the fall from General Motors. Reservations are already full for the $112,595-and-up Edition 1, which is billed to have a range of over 350 miles and can do zero-to-60 in about 3 seconds. Lower-tier trims will be available in subsequent years, though true to form, the prices will stay on the big side.

Ford expects to have its own battery-powered monster, the F-150 Electric, on sale in mid-2022. Back in pre-pandemic times, the company filmed a prototype towing over a million pounds. And sometime in late 2021 or early 2022, we might even see Tesla’s Cybertruck.

Those may be the biggest consumer vehicles coming to market, but they’re not the only ones working to up the EV’s average size. This past year brought battery-powered SUVs from the likes of Toyota, Audi and Jaguar, and the trend will continue: In 2021, more than half of the battery-electric and plug-in hybrid options on the U.S. market will be SUVs—82 models total, as opposed to 66 passenger-car models, according to forecasts by AlixPartners, a global consulting firm.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup
By ERIC SYLVERS 04/10/2023
Jean Arnault Has New Goals for Louis Vuitton Watches. Profit Isn’t One of Them.
By NICK KOSTOV 03/10/2023
Love Patterns? Try This Design Trick to Pull Any Room Together
By KATE MORGAN 02/10/2023
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup

At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

Wed, Oct 4, 2023 4 min

GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
The insurance product giving Australian property buyers surety
By Corey Nugent, CEO Resilience Insurance 22/09/2023
The Sustainable Living issue
By Kanebridge News Staff 21/09/2023
Smart Saunas Are Picking Up Steam Around the U.S.
By J.S. MARCUS 24/09/2023
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop