It’s a risky job, predicting tech trends - even without the turbulence of an ongoing global pandemic. 24 months ago, nobody could have guessed the spike of Zoom’s stocks, the uptake of VPNs or gaming consumption exploding into every screen. A year ago, you would have laughed if someone told you Gucci was minting its own NFT and you would likely have scoffed at the idea that Facebook was changing its name.
Yet while Omicron assures us that Covid-19 is desperately working hard to stay ‘relevant’, there are still plenty of technology trends to keep your eyes on in 2022. Here are just five meta-trends we can reliably expect to take a front-seat over the course of the next 12 months.
AI with a conscience
For decades, technologists, the entertainment industry and consumers alike have been obsessed with the idea of ‘conscious’ artificial intelligence. However, off the back of increased scrutiny into data privacy, racial biases and obscure transparency, it is now more likely we’ll see more AI with a ‘conscience’.
At the risk of incurring regulatory intervention or reputation risk, businesses will need to pay attention to the ethical consequences of using AI and the data that drives it, either in decision-making or privacy and compliance.
Setting in place some basic standards and an ethical framework should be a no-brainer for 2022.
A sustainable future
Off the back of last year’s COP26, the convergence of technology and ethical backbones will see more technology players touting their sustainability credentials, with likely mixed results. Global powerhouses like Microsoft, Salesforce and Amazon Web Services have already either ramped up or pledged their commitment to net zero. This comes amid concern about Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency market’s enormous carbon footprint, as well as that of the world’s data centres.
Whether technology providers’ efforts can balance out the seemingly insatiable demand for crypto-mining isn’t apparent. However, we will no doubt see more and more tech providers try to play up their sustainability credentials.
A mission to the metaverse
So for all those unable to afford a place on Elon Musk’s mission to Mars, is the metaverse our final destination as humans? Well perhaps for Mark Zuckerberg, who, in rebranding Facebook to Meta, now claims that a single virtual universe is the future of extended reality.But for the rest of us mere mortals, the metaverse will very much remain in the realm of gaming in 2022, especially given the popularity of competitive gaming and socialising in deeply immersive virtual environments. E-sports and “play to earn” models in Asia will also play a significant role in the rise of non- fungible tokens – aka NFTs –, likely carrying on 2021’s gold rush. Artists like Grimes or Kings of Leon may be dominating the NFT media headlines, but it is with gaming where the biggest potential lies for digital ownership and a blockchain metaverse.
Whether you agree with Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse or not, the convergence of gaming, blockchain and the metaverse will likely have an equal or greater impact on the next 10 years than social medial did on the last 20.
5G gets real
5G has come on in leaps and bounds over the past two years, evolving beyond a PowerPoint buzzword to tangible reality across many ASEAN nations. Singapore in particular is expecting to see 5G networks covering over half the island by the end of 2022, as others like South Korea and Malaysia making penetration headway.
Eagerly awaited by telcos, businesses and consumers alike, the next once-in-a-decade wireless upgrade will provide speeds multiple times faster than an average fixed-line network.
Able to process vast volumes of data with minimal delays, 5G will enable governments and businesses to fully harness their internet of things (IoT) deployments, bringing nations one step closer to that coveted ‘smart city’ status. It’s been on the horizon for several years but 2022 will likely be the transitional year from emerging technology into mainstream adoption.
Does it come with [as-a-]service?
First, it was software, then came infrastructure and now just about anything; from devices to call centres the as-a-service moniker is becoming a given in tech purchases. Thanks to the continuous growth of cloud, monthly subscription billing has redefined how businesses consume technology across Southeast Asia.
Now with the dawn of ‘everything’-as-a-service – or XaaS –, Southeast Asian businesses are rapidly pivoting from traditional and legacy models to those based on operational expenditure.
Although this may not dominate headlines in the same way as the Metaverse and NFTs, this is a big shift for the technology industry, with older established players continuously finding themselves challenged by nimble, born-in-the-cloud start-ups. With flexibility now effectively ‘normal’, rigid, traditional business and technology models will no longer hold sway with enterprises and consumers alike.
The contributor is Oliver Budgen, founder of Bud Communications.