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Big tech trends to watch in 2022

06:00am February 15 2022

Digital twin technology – as used by this boy at the Helixa Experience Centre in Madrid last month – is among the big trends to watch in 2022, says Westpac CTO David Walker. (Getty)

Like most technologists around the world, I spend time contemplating where technology is heading. 

It's an important task, given that tech innovation is moving so fast.

An understanding of tech trends is critical to every large organisation, particularly banks, given how the direct flow through to the way we all live, work and consume, helping us to challenge our thinking and prepare for what's coming.

Among the many technology trends to watch in 2022, here are some with the greatest potential influence.  

Blockchain to firm as Web3

2022 will see consensus grow around the defining characteristic of the next major evolution for the internet, Web 3.0, also known as Web3. 

While Web 1.0 was mostly the ‘read-only’ stage of the Internet from the early 90s and Web 2.0, from roughly 2004, has been the more participatory era that followed, at the core of Web3 will be the wide adoption of blockchain based applications – underpinned by the principles of decentralisation and openness.

Web3 is likely to take a decade to be dominant over Web2 but will shape up to become one of the next general-purpose technologies to have a material impact on future business models and economies. It will see the further rise, among other things, of non-fungible tokens, cryptocurrencies, stablecoins and central bank digital currencies, along with decentralised autonomous organisations, decentralised finance and self-sovereign identification. 

Metaverse hype to grow

Hype will continue in 2022 around the ‘metaverse’ – a digital reality that combines aspects of social media, augmented and virtual reality, and non-fungible tokens to allow digital interaction. 

But it will largely be hype, rather than resulting in tangible inroads, although foundations will continue to be laid in the form of ambient intelligence technologies (electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of people). These include 5G and faster networks, digital twins (a virtual representation of a person or object), conversational artificial intelligence, sentiment detection and artificial reality. 

While the gaming industry will continue to lead metaverse development, the commercial evolution in the years ahead is likely to be the basis of Web4.  

Homes to get smarter

2022 will continue to see many new technologies entering homes, building on advancements of the past five years. We’ll see general purpose domestic robots making an entry this year, along with food-tech innovations to help with meal preparation, eco-friendly innovations, clever sensors for infants, the elderly and infirm, smart couches, beds and baths to rejuvenate tired bodies, and a large range of entertainment and immersion-headsets. 

The real impact will be in the connection of these smart devices, aided by the adoption by all major smart-home technology manufacturers of Matter, an industry-unifying standard that will reliably, securely and seamlessly connect smart home devices. 

New work-from-home technologies will also emerge, as many companies continue to optimise for hybrid working arrangements in the third year of the pandemic. These will range from smart ‘keep hydrated drink bottles’ to combo dining table workstations, along with new tech for better home cyber protection; equal collaboration experiences; faster and smarter connection, including tech to remove background noise and the need for mute.

Adjusting to COVID shortages

The shortage of computer chips created by global supply chain disruptions is expected to continue through to the end of 2022, prolonging the material impact on many sectors, including car manufacturers, phone makers, internet router producers, game console makers and computer data centre operators. 

Similarly, there won’t be enough technologists to meet demand, as the pandemic-induced halt to global mobility continues, while competition for technical talent reaches all-time highs as businesses fast track their digital plans. 

As people mobility resumes as expected during 2022, companies will need to review their tech talent recruitment strategies, including fortifying flexible work arrangements, doubling-down on productivity, utilising alternative recruitment methods, revisiting incentives and clarifying the core values to attract and keep talent. 

Cyber warfare gets nastier

Cyber-attacks are likely to continue to escalate in frequency and severity during 2022, as state-sponsored cyber warfare teams, cyber-gangs and black-hat hackers adopt advanced technologies – including artificial intelligence to generate unique photorealistic faces and mass-personalised phishing campaigns – to defeat defences and avoid detection. 

In preparation, companies will put more energy into establishing their cybersecurity mesh this year, including moving control points closer to the assets they’re protecting. To better secure environments, the cybersecurity mesh will be an important aspect of Zero Trust Security, rapidly verifying identity, context and policy adherences across cloud and non-cloud environments. 

The “mesh” set to grow

2022 will see many companies firming up a ‘mesh’ technology – an assembly of fit-for-purpose capabilities, plugged together and designed to evolve. This will see greater adoption of composable applications – a solution that allows organisation to rapidly scale digital creativity and innovation through the creation of small, agile components that reuse code and accelerate time to market for new capabilities. 

In other words, big businesses will fundamentally shift away from monolithic infrastructure, towards end-to-end modularity.

In 2022, many companies will look develop their “mesh” to bring together business functions, data functions, operational services, cyber detection and protection and more. 

Most will be eyeing contemporary composable applications which are known to be evergreen, having cloud-native characteristics that enable companies to respond to rapid change, that are self-managing, self-healing and listen and learn from their environmental conditions, modifying their own logic, model and algorithms in real-time.

Sustainability gets more tangible

2022 will see sustainable technology choices becoming a major factor in companies’ efforts to achieve environmental and sustainability targets. 

These include more energy efficient applications and storage, the purchase of green energy and greater use of green public clouds, tech to improve building efficiency, reduce physical footprints and go paperless, and favouring suppliers with credible sustainability credentials. 

Data AI takes a sideways step

In 2022, concerns over unintended consequences from bias in machine learning algorithms will continue to grow in the public consciousness, leading to more repercussions for artificial intelligence missteps and calls for regulation.

In response, companies are expected to ramp up their focus on data AI ethics, including adopting explainable AI and privacy-enhancing technology that allow machine learning algorithms to operate on data while still meeting privacy and compliance requirements.

We’ll also see further simplification of the technologies that automate the lifecycle of data AI that will continue to help organisations with large datasets to create the models and algorithms to make impactful decisions. 

Generative AI – which has the potential to create new innovative content to accelerate development cycles and processes across many disciplines – will continue to be mostly hype, but some advances are expected in the next few years. 

David Walker joined as Westpac Group's Chief Technology Officer in 2019. David commenced his technology career in 1987 as an engineer, coding systems for various Australian based companies. After a decade of evolving his software engineering craft, David founded a consultancy specialising in the use of data, in what is now known as data science. For the last 15 years, David has been in large, complex organisations. He worked in ANZ across a number of executive roles, in both Australia and Singapore. It was in Singapore where David subsequently joined DBS, which transformed from a traditional bricks and mortar bank to be recognised as the Best Bank in the World and the Best Digital Bank in the World by Euromoney.

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