Top 4IR trends in 2022

The unexpected switch to remote and hybrid working has also fueled some of the progress in the tech world. Even though the limitations on movement and assembly brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic hampered tech projects, there are still many innovative technologies to look out for in 2022. Companies have become more agile, adapting to the new normal and releasing upgraded technologies to help other businesses manage their work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on technological advancements in the last two years. People have become more conscious of improving healthcare and access to treatment, boosting e-commerce and digital payments, and enhancing online security. Furthermore, protecting the environment and encouraging the use of sustainable technologies bodes well for the planet’s future.

Educational and collaborative technologies will continue to change how we learn and work, and AI may help to analyze the best way forward. At the same time, we must find a balance between innovating new technologies and regulating them to protect privacy and security.

Metaverse Illustration

Metaverse is one of the hottest buzzwords of the moment. It’s basically a virtual world created by combining different technologies, including virtual and augmented reality.The metaverse is a virtual, three-dimensional space that people can log into as avatars to socialize, work, shop, collaborate, or play games together.

Facebook’s name change to Meta put a spotlight on the metaverse, described as the next evolution in social connectivity. While it doesn’t technically exist yet, companies like Facebook hope the metaverse will become a place where we go to meet, work, play, study and shop.

This ‘extended reality’ is predicted to be the next evolution of the internet and will blur the lines between physical and digital life. Think in-game purchases, where computer gamers can buy virtual goods and services using real money. Jobs in the metaverse might include personalized avatar creator or metaverse research scientist.

Market capitalization of the metaverse, Facebook and gaming worldwide as of October 2021.The metaverse may be young, but it’s already attracting vast amounts of capital.

Companies are investing in novel technologies to bring the metaverse to life, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). For example, VR headsets enable people to explore and immerse themselves in digital worlds and share experiences.

Metaverse real estate sales reached $501 million last year and have already topped $85 million this year, according to Meta Metric Solutions. Thanks to blockchain technology, people can own these virtual assets or even make in-game purchases.

Self-fertilizing crops

Fertilizer containing around 110 million tonnes of nitrogen is used in global crop production every year. This accounts for 1% to 2% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But plants like soy and beans – from the legume family that also includes peas and lentils – use a “clever way” to produce their own nitrogen – according to the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2021 report, created by popular science magazine Scientific American and the World Economic Forum.

Scientists now hope to “coax” other crops like corn and other cereals to self-fertilize.

3D Printed Houses

Feeding materials like concrete, sand and plastics into a massive 3D printer to print homes is a “relatively simple and low-cost construction method,” the Forum says in the report. But lack of infrastructure to transport materials has precluded the use of 3D printing for the remote and emerging regions where it could have the most impact. This could change if more companies follow the lead of Italian 3D printing company WASP, which has demonstrated how to print housing components using local materials like clay soil.

Low-carbon shipping

Today, 2% or less of road transport fleets produce zero emissions. But, as a result of bulk shipping – both rail and seaborne – low-carbon solutions have emerged, says Bernard S. Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer Emeritus at IBM and Vice-Chair of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies steering group. These include a CO2-emission-free passenger train, the Coradia iLint, and the development of alternative shipping fuels like green ammonia, a carbon-free gas produced using renewable energy.

The challenge is getting these technologies applied at scale, Meyerson says in the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2021 report. “The barriers are not just technological but also political, given that such transformational programmers require significant capital investment,” he adds.

Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrency is moving from the “fringes of finance to the mainstream”, according to Thomson Reuters Foundation, the global news and information services company. El Salvador in Central America became the first country to make bitcoin – the original and most popular cryptocurrency – legal tender in September 2021.

Meanwhile, central banks in Sweden, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom are among those considering their own digital currencies. Not all, however, are embracing this development in the future of finance. Concerns about potential risk and fraud have seen countries including China, Bangladesh, Qatar, Egypt and Morocco ban cryptocurrency.

Using vastly powerful computer systems to ‘mine’ for new crypto is also bad for the environment. But there are tech industry experts who believe that, with regulation, it will become a more sustainable legal tender of the future.

AI-powered Cybersecurity

The steep increase in cyber attacks, email phishing scams, and ransomware is forcing cybersecurity firms to search for tech solutions to address the vulnerabilities. Criminals are hacking individuals’ accounts, countries’ critical infrastructure, and businesses of all sizes, causing millions of dollars in losses.

Workplace digitization and remote working in response to the COVID-19 virus made it a priority to retrain employees on online safety to reduce data breaches and losses.

Businesses are also adopting new cybersecurity technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), to monitor and guard networks against hackers in real-time rather than responding to the threat after the damage is already done. Moreover, cloud storage companies are offering end-to-end encryption for online data storage and data transfers.

5G technology adoption

According to Ericsson’s Mobility Report, published by Statista Research, 5G technology subscriptions will surpass one billion this year. While 4G brought significant improvements, for example, in streaming videos seamlessly, 5G has 100 times the speed, meaning that uploads, downloads, data transfers, and streams will be much faster.

5G Image

5G will boost the Internet of Things (IoT), which involves internet-powered smart devices linking and operating together. Unlike with 4G, many devices can connect to the 5G network without a significant drop in speed, latency, and reliability. That’s because of the network-slicing feature that creates independent networks offering different services for each device.

Furthermore, while 4G mobile networks struggle with connectivity in a crowded location, 5G can transmit its radio waves to as many as one million devices per square kilometer.

Internet of Behaviors (IoB)

A lot of customer data is collected by service providers through IoT devices in the home. Businesses are using analytics and big data techniques to determine the data’s value in what is now known as the Internet of Behaviors (IoB).

By reviewing this customer information, businesses can personalize their services, market their products, and improve a customer’s experience with the company.

While personalized solutions are important, companies face an uphill battle convincing users to share personal data with them to develop these solutions.

Website hacking and other cybersecurity challenges also make customers uncomfortable about risking their privacy in return for valuable services. A different approach to data collection will be vital for businesses’ data analysis needs.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI use will continue to grow in 2022, in areas such as health, security, and education. Artificial intelligence is one of the most consistently evolving technologies in the world. Its widespread use symbolizes its potential to provide solutions in multiple industries, from health, security, and education to logistics and information technology. For example, navigation apps use AI to guide drivers through various locations, while machine learning technology ranks online search results and predicts what a user is searching for by offering suggestions. Other uses for AI include automation in manufacturing, guiding self-driving cars, operating as smart online assistants such as Siri or Google.

Plus, AI is helping with airline reservations and hotel bookings. However, perhaps its most potent power is in analyzing large chunks of data and providing reports that can be used by organizations to develop strategies and solutions.

Blockchain technology

After years of uncertainty, blockchain technology is now establishing itself as a viable solution to many tech challenges. Blockchain is a distributed ledger of decentralized data, and it underpins cryptocurrencies, digital payment technologies, encryption technology, and blockchain gaming. A rising trend is for content creators to use non-fungible tokens (NFTs)—blockchain data units that are not interchangeable–to create digital work, sell it online, and earn cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain’s ledger feature is making the technology applicable for storing medical data and other personal records, protecting copyrights, listing title deed owners, tracking digital transactions, trading in NFT marketplaces, and supply chain monitoring.

Clean technology (Cleantech)

The desire for sustainable living is influencing the development of new technologies known as clean technologies–or cleantech, in short. Cleantech reduces the environmental impact of products or services while optimizing the use of natural resources. Renewable energy has been the most notable attempt at developing sustainable technologies, with wind, hydroelectric, and solar power having a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels.

Currently, the top cleantech trends include rechargeable batteries, electric vehicles and motors, solar panel development, biofuel-powered turbo generators, and waste management technologies. Since mining cryptocurrency is harmful to the environment, some businesses are offering alternative crypto coins, such as Chia and Cardano, which are less energy-consuming than the likes of Bitcoin.

Educational technology (edtech)

The COVID-19 pandemic fuelled school closures worldwide, hurting the educational sector and class learning for billions of students.

Educational technology (edtech) companies have emerged to provide solutions by creating digital platforms for remote learning. Investments in the e-learning industry are increasing as startups form to innovate online education software and video conferencing technologies to give students access to teachers and courses.

Online classes can be made fun and engaging by gamifying the experience. Integrating AI into the teaching platforms personalizes the coursework, tracks students’ learning styles, provides reports on their progress, and automates grading.

In addition, AI simplifies the curriculum-creation process by reviewing the educational content available and highlighting what should be included in the lessons.

Collaborative technologies

Office workers were restricted from going back to the office due to the COVID-19 safety guidelines. Thus, companies shifted to remote working, using collaborative technologies to recreate office settings, employee engagements, and workflows.

Companies that design collaborative tools went back to the drawing board, upgrading their services to meet the new and unexpected demand for shared online work spaces.

The most common collaborative technologies come from Google Workspace and Microsoft Teams. Both offer proprietary project management apps, third-party integrated apps, messaging apps, voice calling, and video conferencing tools for their digital workspaces. The primary benefits of collaborative technologies are document synchronization and employee communication in real-time, ensuring work can be completed efficiently.

Telehealth

Another outcome of the pandemic has been the increased investment in telehealth services, which encompasses remote monitoring, diagnoses, evaluations, and doctor–patient consultations. People with mental health concerns can also reach out to online counselors for guidance and support.

Innovative telecare health monitoring devices track lifestyle changes and internal body states, thereby predicting potential health emergencies such as heart conditions. Other technologies improving contactless patient interactions include telemedicine robots and surgical robots.

1Machine learning algorithms are also being applied to the telehealth field. The AI can scan data to select patients who should enroll in telehealth programs and send alerts if a patient’s health metrics exceed a predefined threshold. As a result, doctors can have better control over a patient’s day-to-day treatment.

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