The central theme of this year’s World Economic Forum is how history is at a ‘turning point’, based on the era-defining impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This moment is not just a turning point in history, but also for technology: businesses and society are in the midst of a digital revolution.
To underline just how much change is afoot, Gartner says worldwide IT spending will increase 5 percent this year, hitting $4.5 trillion. With so much going on, it can be hard to focus on what the key technology developments are, meaning there is a risk of spreading yourself too thinly. To help cut through the noise and prioritize the biggest technology trends, here are five key technology trends that look set to define the next decade, and beyond.
1. Green IT
Technology is one of the biggest contributors to global energy consumption, and based on the high computing power and storage processing power of Graphics Processing Units, the amount of energy required to power our digital ecosystems will grow over time. This means the technology industry must focus on moving to net zero, and adopt a green footprint across all aspects of organizations, from physical infrastructure and data centers to the cloud.
In light of this, organizations must bake sustainability and energy efficiency into software, hardware and hybrid products. From now on, every business is becoming a technology business. By the end of the decade, technology will be one of the biggest factors impacting an organization’s green credentials, and will also have a key role to play in driving the adoption of sustainability across enterprises.
2. Distributed cloud
Now that many businesses have adopted cloud, many of them are getting increasingly focused on asking themselves specifically ‘how do I use it?’. This is not only thinking about the technology itself, for example, how do I choose the provider that is the best fit for me, but also what am I using it for — how can I use it to drive business outcomes?
To answer these questions, enterprises are moving towards a distributed model, which can overcome latency issues. With this model, enterprise cloud use is moving towards on a path similar to energy supply, where providers generate power from a distributed ecosystem across the grid.
3. 5G and edge (hyperconnectivity)
Distributed cloud is pushing cloud services to the edge, where businesses can process distributed data. However, this is only possible through a highly efficient, high bandwidth, low latency connectivity that is built around 5G.
The promise of the edge will only be unlocked when 5G happens at scale, because you need to process data at very low latency in a distributed capability. In this scenario, the capability of the network is crucial, which is why there’s a big push towards fiber broadband, both at home and on-premises.
4. Immersive reality — the Metaverse
In this hyper-connected world, pretty much everything that you have in the physical world is getting mirrored into a digital avatar, or a twin or coexistent version.
The Metaverse, the latest development in this new immersive reality, is being used in both B2C and B2B environments. This includes virtual reality, augmented reality, and extended reality (XR).
There are three significant use cases in the Metaverse. The first of these is consumer-related, influencing how people engage, interact and collaborate in a virtual space (e.g. in retail) . The next use case is for education, providing an opportunity to learn in an interactive, spatial environment. Finally it can also be used for business or talent acquisition purposes, creating a workplace that reflects the next generation of workers and their expectations.
Every business that exists in the ‘physical verse’ will have its footprint and Metaverse. Digital assets are going to be a very important part of this ecosystem, and new (or existing) digital currencies that map to real world currencies will be needed to transact in the Metaverse.
5. Quantum Computing
Quantum uses physics and quantum states of subatomic particles to create incredibly powerful computers that store data and perform computational tasks on a huge scale. These quantum computers can solve problems at almost-unimaginable speeds, while also consuming significantly less energy than traditional computers.
There are already so many applications, such as optimization, machine learning, cryptography and simulation, and this is just the start — new use cases are emerging on a daily basis. Quantum computing’s power could solve and support transportation problems, route optimization, traffic congestion, and even drive important medical research to help cure diseases like cancer. In doing so, quantum will fundamentally shape the future of human existence, creating completely new possibilities that change the way we live and understand the world.
Delivering on the promise of technology
The level of investment in these five technology trends has already hit about half a trillion dollars to date. The job is not yet complete, however: now businesses need to deliver on the promises of these technologies, solving the world’s most pressing challenges and driving human progress.
Both private and public sector organizations are also responsible for ensuring this digital revolution is inclusive. As we form the foundations of Web 3.0, the next iteration of the internet that is based on blockchain with decentralization at its core, technology needs to remain open. At this time, the industry must come together, from a grassroots level, to shape the adoption of technology and make sure that we bake in trust, transparency and flexibility while building the next generation of platforms and products.
Kaylan Kumar, CTO and Head of Ecosystems at HCL Technologies