Next year could be uncomfortable for the bosses of the world’s biggest technology firms. Efforts are accelerating to curb the power of Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google owner Alphabet.
Authorities, particularly in the US and Europe, are already getting tougher over competition issues and that is likely to be a key battleground in 2021.
However, if your technology concerns are a bit closer to home, next year might also have developments for you. Get ready for more technology and services to make homeworking easier and more secure.
For more on that, and tech trends in aerospace and retail for 2021, read on.
Big Tech crackdown
In the final weeks of 2020 large clouds rolled into view for Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, which could make 2021 an uncomfortable year.
Earlier this month, US federal regulators and more than 45 state prosecutors sued Facebook, accusing the social media company of taking illegal actions to buy up rivals and stifle competition.
Also in December, the European Commission revealed its Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act – draft legislation that would completely overhaul the way Big Tech is regulated.
In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority proposed a legally binding code of conduct and recommended that a new Digital Markets Unit be given the power to impose significant penalties.
The tech sector will be very keen to see how the administration of President-elect Joe Biden handles Big Tech.
In the past Mr Biden has been extremely critical of big tech firms, in particular Facebook.
In a New York Times interview in January he said that a key piece of legislation that protects social media firms, Section 230, should be revoked. Section 230 says that social media platforms are not generally responsible for illegal or offensive things users post on them.
In addition, some would also like to see the big tech firms broken up, in particular Amazon, Google and Facebook. Google is already under pressure. In October the US government filed charges accusing it of violating competition law to preserve its monopoly over internet searches and online advertising.
In their defence the firms say they operate in competitive industries and supply services that are only possible from very big firms.
As well as competition, the US could see action on data privacy. California already has a data privacy act, but there is pressure to have a national policy.
It has been a horrible year for the aerospace industry. One of the industry’s biggest customers, the airline sector, is cancelling or delaying orders as carriers cope with a collapse in air travel.
Despite that horror show, both companies say they are committed to research and development, in particular developing planes that have a much smaller impact on the environment. In September, Airbus unveiled three concept hydrogen-powered designs.
Next year should see Airbus sign an important deal with Germany, France, Spain and Italy to develop a large drone – the Medium Altitude Long Endurance unmanned aerial system.
The so-called Eurodrone is due to start flight testing in 2025.
Also in 2021, watch out for an electric aircraft from Rolls-Royce called the Spirit of Innovation. The company hopes the sleek machine will break the world speed record for an electric aircraft by flying at more than 300mph.
It’s also been a disastrous year for many retailers. The trend towards online shopping went into overdrive, as customers were stranded at home during lockdowns.
Retailers that survive may face a new technology in 2021.
It’s been reported that Amazon will expand its Go store chain – shops that don’t have a checkout.
For customers it would speed up shopping as they can pick up the products they want and just leave the store. A clever combination of cameras and artificial intelligence tracks what they have taken and bills them when they leave.