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Tech trends endure –

The pandemic has been a technology accelerator for businesses, municipalities, schools, healthcare and homes. Internet service providers, such as Cox, experienced the equivalent of two years of traffic growth in the first few months of the pandemic, and it has remained constant at those new levels.

As we work with our customers in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith metro, we’ve seen worldwide trends changing how we live, work and learn right here at home.

The cloud moves closer to the edge. Greater demands on bandwidth and latency issues have placed a greater spotlight on edge computing — or as Gartner defines it when information processing is located close to the edge, where things and people produce or consume that information.

Analysts last year forecasted that edge computing would experience significant growth, especially since cloud vendors deployed more edge servers in local markets while telecom providers moved forward with 5G deployments.

Before COVID-19, Forrester predicted that the edge cloud service market would increase by a minimum of 50%. IDC’s worldwide IT predictions for this year include that the pandemic’s impact on workforce and operational practices will be the driving force behind most edge-driven investments and business model changes — well beyond 2021.

School and work will continue to stay home … somewhat. Remote work and school are not going away anytime soon, making broadband connectivity essential. Many employees who were forced to work from home last year may continue to do so permanently.

On the education front, Rand Corp. researchers found that approximately 20% of public school district superintendents and charter school leaders said they plan to continue online schooling as an option once the pandemic subsides — or are considering the online option for families and students who want the choice.

Whether teaching or learning from home or in the classroom, data-driven insights improve the classroom experience. Apps empower teachers to digitally administer homework, quizzes, tests and have one-on-one face time with students and parents. And through artificial intelligence and machine learning, automated technology allows teachers to monitor and evaluate the progress students are making and better understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Provider adoption and investment in telehealth grows. Finding ways to connect virtually with your healthcare provider is getting easier, too. According to a Cox Business survey, only 28% of respondents said their healthcare service provider offered telehealth before COVID. Now, 68% can access telehealth services through their healthcare providers.

McKinsey reports that more than three-quarters (76%) of patients said they are either likely or very likely to continue relying on telehealth. Providers, too, gave telehealth a thumbs up, with 57% viewing it more favorably than before the pandemic and 64% feeling more comfortable using the technology.

Further, the same report shows up to $250 billion of current U.S. healthcare spend could go virtual — up from $3 billion pre-COVID.

Smart communities keep getting smarter. Smart communities are increasingly becoming a priority nationwide — and worldwide. Going smart enables municipalities to make more effective data-driven decisions, decreases inefficiencies and streamlines and automates processes. It also enhances citizen and government engagement, improves infrastructure, and provides new economic development opportunities.

And the trend toward just-about-everything-smart is taking place inside the home as well. According to Statista, North America in 2023 is expected to have 40% of the worldwide market of consumer spending on smart home systems like smart assistants, smart speakers and smart door locks and light switches.

One thing I know for sure, these technology trends that have come to the forefront are here to stay, and technology companies will continue to invest in connecting people better and bringing critical technologies to life.

Mat Mozzoni is the director of sales for Cox Business Arkansas. Cox Business provides voice, video, data and cloud services to commercial businesses. The opinions expressed are those of the author.