The Tech That Will Invade Our Lives in 2021

Here’s what that means. Let’s say your family owns smartphones, several computers and a game console. If all of them are being used to consume heavy amounts of data — to stream video, for example — Wi-Fi 6 does a better job at providing bandwidth to all the devices at the same time as opposed to letting one device hog most of it.

Efficiency is especially important because more of our stuff connects to the internet, from watches to television sets to bathroom scales to thermostats. On average, the number of internet-connected devices owned per person is expected to climb to about four by 2023, up from two in 2018, according to research by Cisco.

Last year was an inflection point for mobile payments. For safety reasons, even cash-only die-hards, like farmers’ market merchants and food trucks, started accepting mobile payments.

Over all, 67 percent of American retailers accept touchless payments, up from 40 percent in 2019, according to a survey by Forrester. Among those surveyed, 19 percent said they made a digital payment in a store for the first time last May.

Hands-off technology doesn’t end with mobile wallets. So-called Ultra-Wide Band, a relatively new radio technology, may also find its moment this year. The technology, which uses radio waves to detect objects with extreme precision, has not been used much since its debut on smartphones about two years ago. But the need for contact-free experiences could change that, said Ms. Milanesi of Creative Strategies.

So how might Ultra-Wide Band be used? Let’s say you have a smartphone and a coffee shop has a tablet, and both are equipped with the radio technology. If you’re standing in front of the tablet, it can sense your phone and accept a payment from you (and not the person behind you in line). The technology could also be used to allow employees into buildings and start up cars without physical keys.

The pandemic has made it clear that virtualized experiences, like video meetings and Zoom yoga, are viable substitutes for the real thing, whether you embrace them or endure them. In 2021, expect more products to offer to digitize the way we work and stay healthy.