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Top 10 technology trends to watch for in 2021

Top 10 technology trends to watch for in 2021
What are the technology trends 2021 and how will they be shaped by COVID-19? How will they influence our new normal? We explore what is security technology scene for next year.
What other topic has dominated our everyday life this year more than COVID-19? The disease has not only killed more than 1.66 million in the world but also changed the way people live, work and do business. Amid the pandemic, end user entities are turning to new technologies – or new applications from existing technologies – to meet new demands and requirements. In this article, identifies the top 2021 technology trends that are shaped by COVID and how they will be part of our new normal.

Cloud - VSaaS + Access Control as Service

Cloud has been a popular topic before the pandemic, but its momentum only grew in our new normal as we follow social distancing guidelines and remote work practices. This is where cloud can come in handy – since the video surveillance or access control service is hosted in the cloud, personal visits to the user site for maintenance and upgrades are no longer needed, and operations for example enrolling and revoking access rights can be done remotely instead of physically on-premises. Further, with end user organizations suffering financially due to COVID, the cloud’s subscription model, rather than an upfront cost, may be more appealing to end users post pandemic. Read about video surveillance technology trends expected in 2021 here. 

Thermal imaging

Thermal cameras have long been used for defense and industrial purposes; examples include night-time surveillance in dark, lightless areas, as well as monitoring for overheated machines in factories. But now, and likely so in the post-pandemic era, thermal imaging is heavily used for checking elevated skin temperature, a sign for infection, and this is done not just in airports but also in train stations, retailers, restaurants, government offices, enterprises and other end user entities. This has prompted a great number of camera vendors to roll out thermal solutions which, when paired with a blackbody device, can even achieve greater accuracy.

Contactless biometrics

One of the top technologies now and what’s set to be a major 2021 technology trend is contactless biometrics. Indeed, while fingerprint is still the predominant biometric technology, COVID-19 has forced people to look for alternatives that do not require the act of touching, which has been suggested as one medium for the coronavirus spread. Contactless, then, becomes an ideal option. One example is facial recognition, which has become quite advanced and accurate – some systems allow recognition of multiple individuals in the same camera view, allowing speedy access while using the user’s legacy video surveillance system. Beyond facial recognition, palm vein technology is also picking up traction, allowing the user to make a hand gesture and get into a building.

Video analytics with the machine learning/AI

In video surveillance, analytics, more and more of them powered by machine learning and AI, are nothing new, yet COVID has surely triggered new applications to meet user requirements. One of them is mask wearing – whereby someone not wearing it or half-wearing it will be detected and alerted to the operator. Another application is ensuring that social distancing, which is now in place in various retailers, public spaces and other facilities across the globe, is followed; the analytics will detect if two people are too close to each other and sound an alarm accordingly. This can not only keep people socially distanced but also reduce manual labor needed for enforcement. These new usages of video analytics are expected to remain popular in our new normal day-to-day life next year.

Alexa, what should I do during my stay-at-home time?

Needless to say, more and more people are spending more time at home, and, with less budget devoted to traveling, dining and other outdoor activities, for them the next logical place to spend money on is the home. This, then, is expected to accelerate demands for DIY home security products and solutions, including smart Wi-Fi cameras, video doorbells and smart locks. But the trend definitely extends to other smart home paraphernalia – sensors and wearables to monitor our loved and more vulnerable ones, as well as sensors that help save energy, water and electricity while we stay home longer. Vendors who seize these opportunities, of course, will win out. Indeed, as Dean Klobucar, Export Director at Alarm Automatika told me: “What we have noticed is that people are investing more resources into their homes and their safety. Simple and fast solutions for DIY systems are increasingly being sought in the area of protection and security. Furthermore, we are witnessing that more and more sales are taking place online. Due this fact, we have started this autumn the new sales channel and launched B2C platform which offers exactly such DIY solutions.”

Remote work and cybersecurity

On a related note, COVID has sent millions of people working at home, which has proven to be an effective method to curb the spread of the disease. However, with telework on the increase, cyberattacks and hacking have also risen. According to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, “telework and remote access technologies often need additional protection because their nature generally places them at higher exposure to external threats compared to technologies that are only accessed from inside the organization.” That said, NIST has listed several guidelines for telework security, including plan for telework-related security policies and controls; develop a telework security policy that defines telework, remote access, and BYOD requirements; ensure that remote access servers are secured effectively; and secure organization-controlled telework client devices against common threats.

Mass screening technologies for big crowds

To combat terrorism and screen people for guns and weapons, traditional metal detectors have worked for quite some time. But with COVID-triggered social distancing guidelines, operators are looking for alternative solutions to mass-screen people at a rapid pace. In this regard, radar is one solution. As my colleague Prasanth Aby Thomas said in his report, “one of the most significant benefits of human security radar in light of the coronavirus pandemic is that it is low contact and allows people to socially distance as they pass through the inspection zone. In contrast to traditional security checkpoints, which some of the highest risk locations for the cross-infection of diseases like COVID-19, HSR requires the minimum of contact and enables venues to get back to business securely and safely.”

Drones and robots

During the pandemic, drones and robots are seeing their roles increase significantly amid stay-home orders and manual labor shortages. Certain hotels suiting what is security technology trends now are more and more relying on robots to clean and disinfect their facilities. In some hospitals, to avoid too much interactions between hospital staff and patients infected with COVID or other diseases, robots are deployed to deliver the much needed items for example food, drugs and other medical supplies. Finally, with some truckers and deliverers subject to stay-home orders, drones can now come in handy to deliver items to those who cannot go out to shop amid COVID. Earlier this year, (Google-owned) Wing Aviation and UPS have obtained certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for drone deliveries, and recently Amazon also obtained this certificate, paving way for them to create a 30-minute-or-less delivery option via Prime Air. These services are all expected to be part of our new normal, even after the pandemic finally ends.

Renewed interest in cold chain for vaccine deliveries

Speaking of the end of the pandemic, the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines by different manufacturers offers a glimpse of hope that finally, the end of the COVID-19 is in sight. However, the distribution of vaccine doses is no easy task. For starters, they need to be stored in an ultra-cold temperature range. Take the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for example; it will arrive at a temperature between -80°C and 60°C, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. Making sure that the doses are kept in that environment from the warehouse to the end user site, then, requires advanced cold chain technologies, which are all about IoT: GPS and sensors are employed and transmit data back to the monitoring center to track and ensure that the vaccine doses are properly temperature-controlled. With mass inoculations expected for next year, cold chain will definitely be a 2021 technology trend to watch for.

Acceleration of industry IoT to respond to COVID

The so-called Industry 4.0 or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was already taking off prior to COVID, and the pandemic will only accelerate its growth in our new normal. IIoT has to do with connecting machines with industrial sensors, which transmit data to the backend for analysis and management. With this digitization of factory operations, machines that are overheating, for example, can be alerted to a manager or team leader who may otherwise be working remotely or from home, and he can then fix the problem with fellow workers over videoconferencing or virtual reality which are also part of the IIoT scheme. From an employee safety perspective, sensors can placed throughout the factory to monitor for social distancing, and contact tracing may be possible should an employee get infected. IIoT is definitely the way to go post-pandemic.

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