The global challenges caused by the pandemic over the last two years has required rapid adoption of novel technology, after working from home, remote learning and reduced contact became a priority almost overnight.
It caused a sharp increase in demand for certain products, constrained supply and logistics challenges. Although digital tools such as video communication, e-learning and remote working software have all existed for a long time, they have now become part of everyday life across the globe. It has led to a massive surge in demand for data infrastructure and bandwidth.
Although it feels as though we are now returning to a fragile semblance of normality, the same global challenges linger on as we enter 2022. What began as emerging technology trends now appear to have become mainstream.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of this new technology, and the areas of our lives that it is changing, along with some of the major developments we expect to see in 2022 that will continue to reshape our relationship with the technology world.
The idea of a “hybrid” work life has now become part of mainstream culture, where some or all of a job role is spent working remotely from home rather than in an office, or a shared workspace. Even though some companies are now eager for staff to return to offices, in many organizations that requirement may only be for a few days a week.
Hybrid working offers added flexibility that reduces commuting time and costs for staff as well as relieving pressure on commitments outside work life. It has also forced some sectors to modernize quickly, bringing added benefits for some sections of society. The standardization of digital appointments with your GP has made life easier for those with mobility issues, for example, while adoption of technology in education has only accelerated.
It’s no surprise that the jobs market has swung towards the needs of workers. The so-called ‘great resignation’ highlights the slow response of some firms to react to these changes.
Technology and digital services have been the engine that has made this lifestyle possible, and since employees now expect support for hybrid working, it makes sense for companies to continue to invest in tools to enable it, to ensure the best possible productivity and attracting skilled staff.
The rollout of 5G mobile technology and edge computing may have a big part to play in this future, enabling high bandwidth applications that aren’t dependent on fixed physical locations. Offices could adopt more IoT sensors for safety, limiting the number of people in a building for example.
However, hybrid working has presented numerous challenges that cannot be ignored by organizations. Training and preparation are needed, while old security models have been challenged, with workers no longer guided by an all-encompassing office cybersecurity policy, facilitating a greater demand for encrypted data and VPN technology to ensure security is not compromised by remote work.
And a switch from in-person working culture and away from direct engagement has created problems for team cohesion, work/life balance and switching off outside work hours. Simple changes to operating system interfaces that limit or turn off notifications received at certain times are becoming increasingly important, such as Apple’s Focus mode.
Immersive digital experiences
AR and VR are set to grow in 2022, with increased interest from the biggest technology companies who have new headsets planned and continue development of new software features.
These areas could combat an unforeseen consequence of hybrid work - the fatigue of engagement via constant video calls, by offering a more personalized approach to remote communication.
In retail, this kind of immersion can transform virtual shopping experiences, while reducing risk by removing the need to be in the same physical space as a product. AR provides the ideal means for customers to interact with products, offering more of a virtual hands-on experience than is possible with current web technology.
Following a tough few years due to restrictions, travel, tourism and music gigs may also be the first benefit from new technology that allows audiences to experience events remotely.
But there are also opportunities to expand remote working, with potential benefits for virtual training, manufacturing and remote product development.
Investing in this kind content is unlikely to come cheap though, and despite the widespread availability of AR on phones, relatively few people make the most of AR and VR. While that trend continues, the primary focus for most brands will continue to be on ensuring experiences are exciting and compelling for their biggest audiences.
The shift away from offices and towards hybrid work poses new security challenges, in an IT environment where cybersecurity is already one of the biggest issues any business faces.
As organizations increase reliance on resources hosted in the cloud, zero trust authentication security models are growing in use, following recommendation from the UK’s NCSC in 2019.
Quicker responses to zero-day attacks and data breaches is key to limiting the fallout from security incidents, so a need for improved response times driven by increased adoption of AI in 2022, with companies relying on analytics and machine learning to help trace the source of leaks.
But despite new challenges, the basics of threat prevention: education, encryption, antivirus and anti-malware, are both straightforward steps that will continue make a big difference to an organization’s security.
Encryption is a key technology for keeping data safe. Hardware-encrypted devices like USB are certain to remain best practice for endpoint cybersecurity, as the encryption process is kept separate from the rest of the machine.
But technology can only go so far, and cybersecurity should be about people, process, and proper governance first, rather than relying on tech to provide a panacea. Invasive technology solutions can be counter-productive, with regular raising of security issues and appropriate training being preferable, putting people first.
Major supply chain problems are likely to continue for at least the first quarter of 2022, and probably longer. The lack of availability of basic technology products could make life harder for any business trying to expand, or delay new innovations that rely on certain products.
Driven by multiple economic factors, the technology world will continue to see disruption caused by shortages of commodities, increased costs, shipping delays and logistics problems. While the root cause of these issues was driven by the pandemic, new issues such as staffing challenges and lack of skills exacerbate existing issues.
Memory and storage
As key components for all computing devices, memory and storage continue to play a critical role in new technologies, particularly as demand increases. Faster performance is needed for more complex machine learning algorithms while improved storage security via encryption is major factor behind secure remote working.
Data demand has increased dramatically with the switch to online services, with ever-increasing consumption of online content. This has put strain on datacentres and requiring increased throughput and capacity. Increased datacenter capacity and expansion is likely to remain a continuing trend in 2022.
But with the move to remote work, removable storage and the role of encryption is likely to become an even bigger focus, in the cloud and on personal computers.
Further trends for 2022
In all these areas of technology, AI, machine learning, 5G and Edge Computing are recurring themes that could help solve issues with security threats and data demand. With the proliferation of IoT devices, and blockchain technology placing even more demands on data capacity.
Additionally, following growing interest in the environmental impact of the world’s data demand, sustainability of datacentres, resource-efficient hardware and green approaches to coding and datacentre configuration could be emerging trends in 2022, with the possibility that regulation could force companies to adapt greener ways of handling data.
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Rob Allen is the European Director of Marketing & Technical Services, Kingston Technology