The march of technology has always been relentless, but some years see a bit more progress than other years. That’s especially true when something happens that fundamentally changes our lifestyles, and in the past year, that “something” was the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic changed life for everyone – suddenly and without warning – and forced people around the world to alter their lifestyles. You’re probably spending a lot more time at home these days, and that fact has driven the development of some exciting new technologies over the past year – but it hasn’t been the only driver of technological development. These are just a few of the exciting new technologies that you should watch in 2021.
Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology
Even if you aren’t interested in technology at all, there’s no way to avoid reading about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in the news. You’ve almost certainly heard about Bitcoin, the most famous cryptocurrency. Bitcoin’s value is notoriously volatile in the short term, but it has continued a steady upward march over the years. Most recently, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that his company had purchased $1.5 billion in Bitcoin –and the value of the currency jumped almost $11,000 as a result. Musk also announced that Tesla planned to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment.
What does that mean to you? Bitcoin has long been a favorite vehicle of speculators. It has no intrinsic value or government backing, so it’s only worth as much as people are willing to pay for it. However, Bitcoin’s underlying technology – the blockchain –is here to stay and will only increasingly become a part of everyday life. In short, blockchain technology involves using a massive computer network to maintain a ledger of transactions. For a transaction to occur, the majority of the computers on the network must agree that the transaction took place. Once that happens, the transaction becomes permanent. The appeal of blockchain technology is that it eliminates the need to use a central computer to maintain a financial database, thus making it extremely unlikely that the network can be hacked or the records modified. Although it’s not likely that your local bank will allow you to make withdrawals in Bitcoin any time soon, businesses throughout the financial sector will be looking for ways to adopt blockchain technology for security purposes in the very near future.
The vaping industry is nothing new. It’s been around for well over a decade at this point, but if you have never been a smoker or vaper yourself, you may not have noticed how quickly vaping technology has evolved over the past several years. The industry’s many manufacturers have never stopped working to deliver vaping solutions that are more satisfying and easier to use. One day – and it may happen sooner than you think – tobacco use will completely become a thing of the past. That’s especially relevant right now because the high stress of the current pandemic – and the boredom of lockdowns – have combined to cause a spike in smoking rates. That’s deeply concerning from a public health standpoint because some of the people who have started smoking or have increased their smoking as a result of COVID-19 may never quit and are thus more likely to die prematurely.
Meanwhile, the vaping industry continues to work hard to develop and deliver compelling alternatives for smokers – and the most important vaping technology in 2021 will be tobacco-free nicotine. As you may know, the nicotine for most nicotine replacement products like gums, patches and Vape Juice is extracted from tobacco leaves. However, it has always been the long-term goal of the vaping industry to create products that aren’t just smoke free but actually contain no tobacco at all.
Tobacco isn’t the only plant that contains nicotine. Other plants such as tomatoes and eggplants also have nicotine in small amounts, and it is even possible to synthesize nicotine in a laboratory setting. Until recently, though, synthetic nicotine and tobacco-free nicotine were simply too expensive to use in commercial products. That began to change in 2020, and you’re going to see the result of that change in 2021 as all the vape juice companies of the world slowly convert their product lines to the new tobacco-free nicotine.
You’ve been seeing headlines about drone-based package delivery for years. It’s been so long since major shippers like Amazon began talking about drone deliveries, in fact, that you may have actually reached the point at which you’ve dismissed drone deliveries as something with too many legal, financial and technical hurdles to ever actually happen. For a long time, the biggest hurdle preventing drone deliveries from happening was the fact that Federal Aviation Administration rules required each drone in the air to have a single human operator, thus effectively eliminating the benefit of reduction in manpower required to deliver packages. That hurdle was finally cleared in August 2020 when Amazon was granted FAA approval for drone deliveries. UPS and Google have been given similar approval.
One of the reasons why the idea of drone deliveries has begun to pick up steam is because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more people than ever to order most of their everyday goods online. Ever since then, all of the world’s package carriers have been completely overwhelmed by the volume. At the same time, the desire to limit personal contact with strangers has resulted in increased demand for no-contact deliveries. There is real demand among consumers for drone deliveries, and in some areas, they’re going to begin happening very soon.
This year has been – and will continue to be – the year of the retail investor. The short squeeze that sent the stock values of downtrodden businesses like GameStop was only the beginning, and although there may not be another stock that rockets out of nowhere and causes the immediate transfer of billions of dollars in wealth as GameStop’s stock did, everyone around the world has now seen what’s possible with retail investing. For many people, the biggest barrier to investing was the idea that, in order to get started, you already had to be wealthy. Commission-free retail trading, however, has made it possible for anyone to buy stock using virtually any amount of seed capital. The hedge funds may continue to run the market, but from now on, the average person will have an opportunity to come along for the ride.