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NEW DELHI : As governments worldwide prepare to regulate new technologies, tech firms are already plotting ways to extend their dominance over the digital economy. Evolving tech such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), and emerging ones like blockchain and the third generation of the internet, called Web3, are disrupting our notions of what online life is or should be. We have listed 10 such trends we believe you should keep an eye on next year.

Smarter algorithms and machine language: AI has been the driving force for most products, applications and even devices that we use today. On 22 November, Gartner predicted that the total revenue in the AI software market is expected to hit $62.5 billion in 2022, an increase of 21.3% from 2021. “The AI software market is picking up speed, but its long-term trajectory will depend on enterprises advancing their AI maturity," said Alys Woodward, senior research director at Gartner.

AI deployment in 2022 will be in knowledge management, virtual assistants, autonomous vehicles, digital workplaces and crowdsourced data, Gartner said. In addition, companies like Google are developing newer language learning models like LaMDA—Language Model for Dialogue Applications—which, the company claims, can hold their own in natural conversations.

Faster networks with bigger bandwidth: 5G has been in the works for what seems like years now, but 2022 may finally be the year we see these next-generation networks rolling out. India has already approved trial spectrum for telcos such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio. The 5G spectrum auctions are expected in the first half of next year. 5G networks will start rolling out to the public next year if all goes well. In short, 5G means lower latency, which is what users perceive as speed. The new networks will allow new use cases for enterprises, enable smart city implementations and more.

Intelligent cloud and edge computing: The new use cases with 5G networks are heavily dependent on 5G. For instance, in September, Airtel tested India’s first cloud-gaming session in a 5G environment at its Manesar facility. The company’s chief technology officer, Randip Sekhon, said cloud gaming would be among the “biggest use cases" for 5G networks. The dependency on the cloud will only increase among enterprises.

Moreover, edge computing is finally set to flourish. It is helping enterprises bring the data and computing requirements closer to the user’s device. This trend will help make products like driverless or autonomous vehicles more efficient.

More interconnected devices that talk to each other: Earlier this month, Airtel, Invest India and the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency announced a Startup Innovation Challenge. The challenge asks early-stage startups to create new use cases involving IoT. As data flows faster and computing power comes from large server farms using the cloud, more devices can start connecting and working as one. A June report by Gartner said the IoT endpoint electronics and communications market will touch $21.3 billion in 2022, increasing its forecast by 22% against the 2021 predictions. This is driven by governments using IoT for surveillance, enterprises using connected devices for everything from banking to communication, and delivering new products.

Privacy gaining ground: After about two years of deliberation, the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on the Data Protection Bill was finally able to table its report on the bill during the ongoing winter session of Parliament. The JPC recommended that India have one bill to regulate personal and non-personal data and stop companies from profiling children’s accounts and using targeted ads for them. The bill also gives consumers rights over their data. But India isn’t the only country looking into such data regulations. India’s bill borrows heavily from the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and governments worldwide are also considering such regulations. Big Tech firms are fighting lawsuits against government bodies, competition regulations and more. The outcome of all these cases will impact how our data is used in the future.

Mixing and blending realities: In 1964, an animated science-fiction franchise called Jonny Quest imagined a virtual world called QuestWorld. The protagonists would put on futuristic virtual reality (VR) headsets and fight battles in a virtual world. It was futuristic then, but VR and augmented reality (AR) headsets are all too familiar now. In fact, they have been for almost a decade now. But in 2021, Facebook launched a product called Ray-Ban Stories, partnering with eyeglass maker Ray-Ban for a pair of smart glasses that look and feel almost exactly like regular spectacles. Tech firms aim to make these devices ubiquitous and reach economies of scale that comes from selling millions of devices worldwide.

Immutable and interconnected ledgers: If AI was the key change maker over the past decade, blockchain might well enable the next step in the technology. According to many estimates, India has become one of the top players in cryptocurrency adoption worldwide, but what’s seen as a trading asset today has more significant implications. Cryptocurrencies are powered by blockchain technology, and in April, the International Data Corp. said that organizations would spend as much as $6.6 billion on blockchain solutions in 2021 alone—a 50% increase from 2020. The market researcher also predicted an annual average growth rate of 48% between 2020 and 2024. India’s second crypto unicorn, CoinSwitch Kuber, has said that it aims to support other blockchain firms in India. Industry stakeholders and experts understand that blockchains will power cross-border payments, banking and much more in future. Even the Reserve Bank of India’s upcoming Central Bank Digital Currency, or a digital rupee, will be powered by blockchain technologies.

The third generation of the internet: The hit HBO show Silicon Valley has imagined a ‘new internet’ void of dominance by Big Tech firms, governments and more. The idea may sound utopian, but that’s exactly what companies building apps for the third generation of the internet (web3) are building today. Companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and others benefit greatly from the fact that most of the world’s data flows through their servers. However, with web3, the power is handed back to the users in a way. It runs without servers, depends on a network of phones, computers and other devices, and bars any one person or entity on the network to wield control on data—in a word, decentralization. For instance, Noida-based Ayush Ranjan has built the world’s first decentralized video chat app. Unlike Google Meet, Zoom, the Huddle 01 app doesn’t require users to create an account, and the company doesn’t have its own data centres to store your data in or record calls. Instead, it stores all the data in a decentralized manner and uses computing power from users’ devices to power the calls.

Rise of the metaverse: 5G, cloud computing, IoT, web3 are all tools in a larger vision that technologists and technology leaders have right now. And that’s called the metaverse. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is so confident that the metaverse is coming that he rebranded his company, one of the most valuable in the world, to Meta as an effort to show where his focus is today. Author Neal Stephenson is often credited with coining the term in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, and it has also been explored in contemporary movies like Ready Player One. The metaverse is not a technology; it is a concept. Zuckerberg and others expect that we will do everything from conducting meetings to hosting parties in a virtual space and through very realistic looking avatars. Instead of shopping on an e-commerce store, the avatar will walk into a virtual store, try on a product and have the physical product delivered to our homes too. However, hardware veterans like Intel’s Raja Koduri have warned that the computing power we have today is nowhere close to being sufficient for the metaverse Zuckerberg imagines.

Quantum computing: That brings us to what could be the most transformational trend in technology—quantum computing. Any country with aspirations to be a leader in technology has its sights set on quantum computing. While web3 is a new internet, quantum computing establishes a whole new computer. Our traditional computers can take information in 0 and 1, and their computations are limited by this. Quantum computers, on the other hand, use concepts of quantum physics to enhance the amount of computing power we can use. A quantum computer is far from reality right now, and it could be the kind of computing power Koduri says we need for the metaverse. In the 2020 Budget, the government had allocated 8,000 crore over the next five years for developing quantum computing tech. It has also launched a Quantum Simulator, which allows researchers to build quantum applications without a real computer.

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