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2021: when digital met physical

2021 saw our digital and physical worlds truly combine. Digital artwork sold for millions. Privacy matters entered public conversation. And an expansion of the Metaverse ensued.

This blending of worlds could not have come soon enough. As the pandemic continues, the future of the Earth is being brought into renewed focus. Now, the two worlds must work together to save our health, our wealth, and our planet.

2021: All year

Vaccine roll outs prompt faster adoption of new technologies

Vaccines rolled out swiftly and successfully around the world, with Pfizer’s mRNA technology being first to market.

With Pfizer’s adoption of AI, smart analytics and automation accelerating and improving the drug development process, Pfizer’s vaccine proves that emerging technologies can make a critical difference where it matters most.

5G devices hit the mainstream

Having been a buzzword for a decade, 2021 was the year 5G finally achieved widespread adoption. Device vendors released not only new 5G-capable mobiles but laptops, tablets, USB modems, fixed wireless access CPEs (Customer Premises Equipment) and more.

With improved access to the 5G experience, organizations look to accelerate their digitalization plans to transform their own businesses.

One giant leap towards landing a cellular network on the moon

NASA selected and funded Nokia in 2020 to help advance the next phase of lunar exploration by providing technologies for future missions to the Moon.

Four major milestones are now complete including, most recently, the preliminary review of our designs for the base transceiver station, LTE user equipment, and the lander and rover antennas.

At Nokia, our purpose is to help people act together, even if that means leaving for new worlds to do so.

2021 Q1

EU-backed 6G exploration begins

Hexa-X kicked the year off with a pan-industry consortium, led by Nokia. Backed by EU funding, the event saw 25 organizations from nine European countries join forces to position the EU at the forefront of 6G research and development.

Building on 5G-Advanced, 6G promises a sustainable, energy-efficient next generation of wireless networking where, AI and sensing will unify the digital, physical and human worlds.

Digital artwork sold for $69 million at a first-of-its-kind auction

In March, the prolific digital artist Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, sold one of his artworks at auction for $69 million. The sale of ‘EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS’ was the first non-fungible token (NFT) sale at a major auction house and the largest NFT sale ever.

The bid escalated from $100 thanks to over 350 prospective buyers, signalling how virtual currencies are as readily adopted as their physical peers.

Dino giant discovered in Argentina

98 million-year-old fossils of what could be the largest land animal to have ever existed were uncovered in Patagonia, Argentina. Researchers believe the as yet unidentified sauropod could have weighed more than 69 tons.

This discovery reminds us not only of the wonders of our planet but of its immense age. As the climate emergency grows ever more urgent, we need to do everything we can to preserve and protect it.

2021 Q2

Privacy matters enter the public conversation

Outrage spread like wildfire when people discovered that WhatsApp appeared to have secretly changed its privacy policy. The rumour may have been false, but its immense media reaction demonstrates an important truth: with the whole world online, privacy is vital.

The Olympics goes virtual

The International Olympic Committee partnered with five International Sports Federations and game publishers to host a virtual Olympics to reach new audiences and build excitement ahead of the delayed 2020 Games.

The digital games, designed for mass participation from home, included baseball, cycling, rowing, sailing and motor sports. This certainly wins the gold medal for the ultimate blend of physical and digital.

2021 Q3

Facebook unveils its Metaverse

In September, the company formerly known as Facebook announced a $50 million fund to help responsibly build the Metaverse – the “next computing platform” made of “virtual spaces you can create and explore with other people”.

The VR innovation that sits at the heart of this will bring experiences and opportunities to all, with the potential to democratise health, wealth and education.

Satellite images capture ongoing volcano eruption

Since eruptions of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, began on 19 September, satellite imagery has been continually used to capture crucial data. Authorities monitor and manage the situation by tracking lava flow, providing gas emission measurements and assessing the damage from above.

Tech is helping us understand some of our oldest natural phenomena. And it can be a valuable ally when nature decides to display its immense power.

UK court rules AI cannot be the creator of a patent

An appeals court ruled against Stephen Thaler, creator of AI system Dabus. Thaler filed two patent applications in 2018 listing Dabus as the creator. He argued he should be granted the patent, “by ownership of the creativity machine”, but the court disagreed by a two-to-one majority.

Although the digital and physical are now enormously entwined, patents must remain in the human domain. Here at Nokia, we're ranked as number one in 5G standard-essential patents and place all our emphasis on high quality.

High-speed internet delivered across Congo River by beams of light

Data was successfully transmitted across the Congo River in September via beams of light. The novel way of delivering high-speed internet fills a particularly troublesome connectivity gap between two African cities, Brazzaville and Kinshasa.

Overcoming connective difficulties, this breakthrough technology offers faster, cheaper broadband for all, and the exponential opportunities that come with it.

2021 Q4

WHO declares climate change single biggest health threat to humanity

In October, the WHO’s COP26 special report revealed climate change is now the biggest threat to humanity – more dangerous than the pandemic.

The world unites to tackle climate change

Glasgow hosted the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). The summit, which had been postponed due to the pandemic, brought world leaders together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Global problems require global action. This is the world’s opportunity to act together to combat climate change and build a viable future for generations to come.

Our CEO, Pekka Lundmark, attended COP26 with a clear message: “There is no green without digital.”

Web Summit 2021 marks the return of in-person tech events

Held in Lisbon, Web Summit 2021 safely brought together over 42,000 people, policymakers and companies redefining the tech industry to ask one question: where to next? The event marked a triumphant return of in-person tech events.

After a challenging year, it was inspiring to see so many people gathered together in the interests of innovation and creating a better future.

Explore further


Nokia to lead the EU’s 6G project Hexa-X

network on the moon

Network on the moon

CNBC interview with Pekka Lundmark: No green without digital