The year ahead: Privacy, connectivity will define our tech interactions
The long-term nature of the Covid-19 pandemic we are living through will define a lot of how the development, and our interface with technology, will take place through most of 2022. The themes will revolve around the work-from-home (WFH) lifestyle, and tools that make things simpler on that front. Since it’s all online, security and privacy will remain in focus.
Artificial intelligence all around
The definition of a smart device has changed. Earlier, a smart TV was that because it could connect to the internet, compared with one that couldn’t. Now, anything tagged as smart must have a mind of its own. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes into the picture.
The cameras in your computing device can track your face and swivel to keep you in the frame. Netflix can predict what you want to watch next. Your phone has AI to determine which apps you use when and prepares them for better performance. Your car can tell you when you’re inattentive and alerts you. AI will continue to be everywhere, even more so. Be it your Android phone or iPhone, the apps in your phone, a smart speaker, your TV and the car you drive will have greater infusion of AI.
Need for data privacy
The wheels of change are in motion. Facebook has decided to remove facial recognition from its platform. WhatsApp is giving us powerful encryption for backups. Android and iOS as smartphone platforms are making it more difficult for you to be tracked by advertisers and are restricting apps from sending out your data without your permission.
“As companies have to comply with stricter and more diverse privacy regulations worldwide, they are giving users more tools for controlling their privacy as they use their services,” says Anna Larkina, a security expert at Kaspersky. But do not for a moment expect big tech to make it easy for users — data collection continues to be critical for most tech companies as a source of revenue, and they would want that drip feed to not completely dry up.
Your phone, all powerful
It is expected that semiconductor shortages will ease off in H2 2022 but expect no let-up in phone launches. Phone companies appear well stocked. Everyone will be at it. OnePlus and Samsung usually launch flagship phones in the first few months of a new year — the OnePlus 10 and the Samsung Galaxy S22 series should make their debuts then.
Digitimes Research expects smartphone shipments to increase around 7% in 2022, compared with the year before. Smartphone makers including Xiaomi and Realme will launch phones in different price bands through the year. And that’s before we get to the annual updates from Apple and Google for the iPhone and Pixel phones later in the year. Could we see a more affordable iPhone launched before the summer? That could well be the next generation iPhone SE.
Internet that connects you
The very basis for WFH is reliable internet connectivity. The home broadband as well as 4G mobile networks have held up well over the work and video streaming rigours of the last two years. Home broadband tariffs have remained stable while the speeds on offer are between 30Mbps and 1Gbps. In 2021, broadband will have its newest cutting-edge iteration — satellite broadband. Alongside, we’ll have the next evolution of mobile networks with 5G.
Satellite broadband simplifies things — beaming down internet via a satellite dish installed in your balcony or rooftop, from a constellation of satellites in the sky. Much like a direct to home (DTH) TV network. It is expected that Elon Musk’s Starlink will launch services. Expect OneWeb, which is owned by Bharti Airtel and the Government of UK, to be in play. Make no mistake, satellite broadband will add another option to the connectivity spectrum, but it’ll not be cheap — Starlink’s monthly subscription is expected at $99.
Work and education, from home
Alongside work-from-home is the very important dimension of online classrooms. In India, affordable computing is crucial, that is PCs and laptops which are priced around ₹30,000. Microsoft’s big focus for 2022 is education and Windows 11 SE has been tweaked to put the education apps front and centre while streamlining a lot of other functionality to make it work on PCs around the ₹20,000 price point (and beyond).
There are also the new education-focused PCs which the likes of HP, Lenovo and Dell will be rolling out in 2022. Ketan Patel, managing director at HP India, points out while speaking with HT that from a state of panic caused by the low PC penetration at the beginning of the pandemic, we are now seeing a 45% year-on-year growth for PCs, with WFH and online classrooms driving sales.