A decade in a year may be the best way to summarize 2021. While 2020 saw rapid shifts in how we work, shop, and interact 2021 became the year of explosive growth in the technology space as companies innovated to meet user needs in an increasingly virtual world. As the year comes to a close, we asked the Shockoe team to reflect on their biggest surprises of the past year – here’s what we heard.

Surprises in how we work

  1. Sustainability in tech – The team was pleasantly surprised at the increased focus in the tech space on sustainability this year. It’s important we all play our part in creating a more sustainable future and tech stepped up in 2021, including opportunities like our work on a digital platform for farmers in South America.  
  2. AI at work – AI has long been heralded for the opportunities it represents in the customer service space, but this year the biggest surprise in AI was its role in helping developers. We were most surprised by the GitHub Copilot, an AI for programmers which suggests line completions and entire function bodies as you type.

An AI that writes code for you, a change that could change the work of developers forever.” – Alejandro Estrada

3. Data privacy – Who has access to user data, for how long, and how they got it has long been a concern in tech, just look at the whistleblower reports from Facebook to see why. But this year our team was most surprised to see coverage of anonymous data from mobile apps used against people. With companies making data privacy a priority in 2022 we’re looking forward to a more secure data future for all users.

Surprises in how we live

4. The Resurgence of QR Codes – In 2021 retailers turned to QR codes to offer menus and forms in a safer digital space. We’ve been pleasantly surprised to see QR codes back in the mainstream and used so effectively.

Just as Redbox and early Netflix mail-in subscriptions laid the foundation for instantaneous streaming services, QR codes are establishing a new behavior for people to use their phone and physical-world queues to initiate digital experiences.” – Chandler Tyler

5. App downloads – This year users around the world downloaded nearly 140 billion apps on the Google Play and Apple Store. That’s 10 billion more than 2020. As the world has become increasingly mobile first app downloads have continued to grow, but just how rapidly surprised us all.

6. NFTs and Cryptocurrency – By this point who hasn’t heard of NFTs and crypto? We were surprised this year at the sudden proliferation of NFTs into mainstream culture, and that cryptocurrency saw huge successes through countries like El Salvador, who began accepting it as a legal tender. Businesses big and small are turning to both as ways to stay connected with consumers.  

 Surprises from Big Tech

7. Facebook name change – Hear us out, our team wasn’t surprised after the bad press that Facebook changed its name, we’re surprised at the choice of Meta. With increased focus already on the metaverse, and Facebook’s new play in the space the name change felt too on the nose for our team.

I was surprised because others have used Meta in the AR space and it felt like a very poor choice given the conflicts.  It also was not very creative other than an attempt to hijack the Metaverse name.” – Dan Cui

8. Metaverse – Not to be confused with Facebook’s name change, the metaverse became the hottest topic in tech this year. Our team was surprised and excited at the focus on an AR/VR opportunity and we’ve seen more buzz from clients around immersive technology.

9. Space Travel – No longer the final frontier for everyone, the billionaire space race moved from sci-fi to reality this year. Star Trek puns aside, this year space travel became a story arc not just for its achievement, but for the investments made to make it a reality.

Biggest surprise of 2021:

10. Humanizing tech – This year technology became a little more humanized. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated tech in a way no one expected and in 2021 it became more apparent than ever – usability and the human element will win out. On top of that, tech benefited from an increased focus on talent diversity that will only make the space and its offerings more inclusive. We have no doubt that in 2022 and beyond tech will continue to meet its users’ needs and humanize in a way that benefits us all.

From everyone at Shockoe we’re excited to see what surprises lay in store for us all in 2022. Have a happy holiday season and we’ll see you in the new year! 

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