• Dean Anthony Gratton

What I wish for in 2021

Happy New Year! (I think.)

Armed with a genie lamp … There have been no celebrations, partying or dancing – it’s been a muted entry into 2021 and, unfortunately, the coronavirus is still with us and has seemingly entered the New Year with a vengeance. Of course, vaccines are being distributed and deployed en masse and I hope this will establish immunity for all and re-establish what was once our norm (keeping my fingers crossed).

Anyway, the telecoms market is still forging ahead despite the pandemic and in this month’s column I promised to bring out my crystal ball, dust it off and to look at the forthcoming technological advancements we can (probably) expect to see this year. Well, I couldn’t find it, so instead, I brought out my genie lamp, which was tucked away under my magic carpet. There are some obvious wishes I could make that you’ll see in the list below, but my first wish would be for us all to return to our past-normal lives, wake up and realize that all this malarkey was nothing more than a dream. My genie is quite a generous, funny old sort and he’s afforded me five juicy, tasty and trendy wishes, each focusing on a topic that has plagued most of the telecoms headlines over the last year.

That 5G thing … First off, and perhaps the most obvious topic I’ll start with, is 5G. Now, I don’t wish to start the year with doom and gloom, since many of us are experiencing that already, but 5G is still enduring its hype cycle, with many companies making promises about how 5G will be everything we need in terms of connectivity. Indeed, the United Kingdom is still quite patchy in terms of 4G cellular coverage. I know that 5G is deployed somewhat differently when compared to other cellular technologies such as 2G, 3G and 4G, so it raises the question for me, as to how we can be confident in the availability for all, especially in more rural areas, where key technological advancements are ripe for the picking, if you’ll excuse the pun (more about this later).

5G has the opportunity to deliver true wireless broadband: So, I wish for these companies to stop talking and deliver on their assurances. No more paperware, and no more empty promises – let’s see something tangible emerging on our streets and elsewhere across the country.

Future of work and engagement I’m not talking about robotics and automation in this instance as we’re all aware how they have simplified many aspects of our work across manufacturing and production, for example. Instead, this wish is about how we choose to engage, work and socialize. I would like to see the shackles of the “physical office” and our enviro-angry daily commutes as being just an option rather than a necessity. In their place will be greater flexibility for much of the workforce – one that is not bound by geography nor the 9-to-5 office hours of days gone by.

Hopefully the new ways of working during the lockdown will have taught us that this can and should be done. Naturally, there will be casualties in the form of the building landlords who will lose out on their often-inflated rents and expenses; and likewise, the local authorities, who will lose out on their business rates – but, bah-humbug, I’ll sleep at night!

However, one thing missing from any virtual Zoom or Teams get-together, as a friend said to me recently, is the serendipity of that casual encounter; that moment when you see a colleague making coffee in the office kitchen, for example, and randomly chat about ideas in the moment, potentially formulating solutions along the way.

This year it is my wish that virtual collaborations further evolve to allow for this kind of spontaneity (perhaps through the use of virtual or augmented reality advances) offering a remote working alternative to compliment those all-important “real” get-togethers.

I would like to see greater flexibility for much of the workforce – one that is not bound by geography nor the 9-to-5 office hours of days gone by.

Agritech and Agriculture Agritech and the potential impact on the agricultural sector is an enormous opportunity for those who are ultimately switched on. From a true “farm to fork” experience, technology can bring this sector to a whole new level, where we can fend off the so-called government regulations. Our supply chains will no longer be affected by lack of workforce because forward-thinking farmers will have embraced technology to enable a smooth and efficient harvest at key times of the year.

I wish for companies and regulatory government agencies to stand smart and proud. Let’s feed our nation, minimize waste and ensure that there is food on our tables for everyone – we have no excuse not to utilize technology for the better in this sector.

The internet of things thing I have some real issues with the IoT. It is something that has endured an incredible amount of hyperbole over the last 10 or so years that I have been working with the concept – yes, it’s a concept and not a technology!

I wish for companies to provide real-world solutions to real-world problems. The IoT as a concept is not new and, let’s face it, we are, to a great extent, recycling something that we’ve been doing since the emergence of the internet. Stop brandishing such technology as something fresh and let’s tackle real-world issues that deliver results.

Healthcare and medicine How topical! With the current pandemic, how can we use technology to fast-forward humanity out of a similar crisis in future years? My wishes here are many! I see assistive technologies and robotics (to some extent) stepping in to help with both diagnostics and the safer treatment of patients. I wish wholeheartedly for this technology to evolve and to, ultimately, save lives.

I began this column with the wish of waking up to find that 2020 was all a dream – but, alas, this only happens in Hollywood!

Now, in the light of where we are and what we’re still facing, with exhausted medial staff, limited resources and the like, my greatest wish is for our essential workforce to remain safe and well.

Until next time … So, this is where an “I really wish I had a genie lamp to make those wishes” Dr. G signs off.



Originally published in Technically Speaking.

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a technology influencer, analyst & futurist 

I dispel the rumours, gossip and hype surrounding new technology

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