The firm predicts five major developments in the coming year ranging from further advances in video communication technology to more progress in telehealth communications and innovation in the hosting of virtual events.
“2020 new reality is making the telecoms industry become more pragmatic and offer better communications solutions,” says Sagi Subocki, Softil’s VP Products & Marketing. “In 2021, Softil expects advances in videoconferencing functionality and healthcare communications to dominate the telecoms landscape helping people to better adapt to our new normal life with restricted mobility and human contact.”
Five trends for 2021:
- Video Communications
Video communications, often called videoconferencing, is old news. Or it was old news until 2020 delivered an unimaginable punch and sent much of the world’s population to work and study from home. Videoconferencing became the savior, allowing some degree of normalcy to continue for hundreds of millions of lives.
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 of audio and video, reliability, virtual backgrounds are among some of the latest advances in videoconferencing technology. But 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 of all sorts was established during the call to fully analyze the dynamics of conversation for dominance and other essential characteristics.
Voice UI, better presentation capabilities similar to those offered by the mmHmm startup, use of 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 a coffee without the need 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 emphasize 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 become 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 some time. Meanwhile, videoconferencing is the way that industry executives will meet for the majority of 2021 and maybe beyond so exhibition organizers will need to embrace the virtual world as much as possible to survive.
For the majority of organizers and participants, this is easier said than done. Physical attendees are much easier to engage with once they are at an event – replicating the same in the format of a virtual event is much more difficult. Is there a concept of a “booth” applicable in the format of the virtual exhibit? How do you have a conversation, make eye contact and gauge interest? None of these questions are easy – but they need to be answered, so 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 with the help of the mobile phone, adding video to banking applications is a no brainer.
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, you still need to ensure privacy, you still need to allow electronic signatures to be verified and accepted – this space is ripe for innovation.
Telehealth was once thought of as a healthcare solution for rural areas, but it has since quickly evolved with the pandemic to become the best tool for healthcare practitioners to help patients – without the risk of catching the virus from them or infecting them.
But 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, all the time, is staggering 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 can be translated at very reasonable times and cost. The next development is having a little box you can speak into, which will instantly translate your speech into the foreign language of choice.
Think about being on a conference call where everything you say is instantly translated and captioned to every participant in their native language. Imagine such automatic translation in the format of the telehealth or virtual banking visits – the possibilities are endless, and we expect to see new applications emerging in 2021 in the instant translation space.
The five trends for 2021 mentioned above build upon those predicted by Softil at this time last year. Despite the pandemic, work within the telecoms industry never stopped this year in our predictions for advanced mobile networking through the roll-out of 5G, virtual networks, AR/VR/MR, Edge computing, and the Internet of Things.
But the need to look beyond those and re-examine existing remote and virtual communications solutions for our new world of limited physical contact is pressing.