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Six Tech Innovations to Keep an Eye on in the Coming Year

From NFTs to the metaverse, technological advances in 2021 marked a shift in consumer products and consumer knowledge. That shift is carrying into 2022, so here's a list of six tech innovations to watch out for in the next year.
Two sets of stairs leading to two different doors

The future of tech heading into 2022 is bright, in part because a lot more people are staring directly at it. This year, everyone and their parents asked what NFTs are, what products semiconductor chips are used in, how to trade cryptocurrency, and most recently, what a metaverse is. Interest in difficult tech concepts became coffee shop chatter, and the average consumer became a more well-informed user of technological products and services. 

That know-how sets companies up to make big and bold technology innovations in 2022 — because their core customer expects more from them than just an improved phone camera.

Here are the six areas that 2022 technology updates could make a big impact on.

1. The metaverse

Companies will continue to make announcements with “metaverse” in the headline. While these could pave the way to build a true Wreck It Ralph 2-style metaverse in the future, more likely they’ll mean more products that integrate avatars and interactive, multi-dimensional elements. For instance, this year, Facebook announced Horizon Workrooms to let users hang out with other coworkers in virtual offices, and Microsoft said it’s planning something similar on Teams. The latest to hop on the bandwagon was Tinder’s parent company, Match, which said it’s creating a dating “metaverse” where people can go on virtual dates as avatars. 

Basically, companies with digital components could become more Fortnite-like in the next year. That also means they’ll incorporate a lot more...

2. Augmented and virtual reality

Many metaverse experiences have virtual and/or augmented reality as an option for how users can participate, and it’s a much more realistic way to fully inhabit a virtual world than watching through a 2D screen. These new offerings are creating an onramp to virtual reality adoption among the general public that hasn’t existed before: Users can first try products using 2D, then dip their toes into augmented reality, and finally get a headset and fully dive in. 

VR’s biggest challenge for scale is people buying the tech, and it has traditionally depended on gamers to do so. New metaverse experiences will widen the audience that’ll be tempted to purchase a headset (or AR glasses), especially experiences that are geared toward a pandemic-inflated audience of WFH’ers.

3. Privacy 

As major cybersecurity breaches leak the data of millions (T-Mobile, Twitch, and more suffered big data breaches this year), consumers are understandably tired of how much personal information companies keep on them. To give users back some control, major tech companies came out with new security-focused features this year. To name a few, 1) Google rolled out a password-protected photo album, 2) Facebook did away with its facial recognition tagging, and 3) Apple asked users’ permission to track their activity across the internet in order to personalize their ads. Heading into 2022, expect more companies to re-evaluate how much data on their customers they need to store, and to tighten up the lock on pre-existing data by a few turns.

4. Decentralized finance

Everything seems to be going on the blockchain, including financial transactions. As a quick refresher, DeFi cuts out the middleman that traditionally facilitates consumers making digital purchases, trading stocks, taking out loans, and more by running the transactions on a blockchain that automatically executes them. The market for DeFi exploded this year, from about $15 billion in January to $65 billion in May, according to JPMorgan Analysts.

The space will become increasingly valuable as more people use crypto for financial transactions, too. While DeFi platforms can and often do operate with standard money, it’s a go-to for cryptocurrency—which makes sense, since they’re both blockchain-based.

5. Autonomous technology

Self-driving cars are the obvious autonomous tech we’ll see more of in the coming year. Hertz acquired a fleet of Teslas that could bulk up its rental car repertoire, and most recently, Waymo announced it would start testing its vehicles in New York City. But cars aren’t the only tech in this space. Hyundai acquired Boston Dynamics late last year, which will, yes, help them build self-driving cars. But the company known for its Black Mirror: Metalhead dogs is working on a lot more than just automobiles. Its technology (and other robot-focused companies) could help improve smart factories, in which robots perform assembly tasks, as well as healthcare capabilities such as transporting fragile medical instruments.

6. Cloud computing

The last 2022 tech innovation in this list is the cloud, because it’s what supports all the other digital applications mentioned so far. At a certain point, the quality of the technology consumers and businesses are trying to use outstrips the capabilities of local hardware, like when more than one person in a household tries to download a top-tier video game at the same time and the whole Wi-Fi network grinds to a halt. 

The cloud circumvents that limit by tapping servers outside the home to do all the bandwidth-intensive processing work. So as technology becomes more advanced, the need for cloud-based applications rises in turn. Because of that, Gartner estimates spending on cloud services will hit $482 billion next year, over 50% more than its 2020 total.

In customers’ everyday lives, cloud computing could translate to cheaper virtual reality headsets and game consoles (because they don’t need the hardware for heavy lifting anymore), as well as the ability to engage with high-bandwidth experiences on any device, anywhere, anytime. Want to virtually join a meeting as a 3D avatar from your mobile phone while on a roller coaster? Probably not recommended, but it could soon be possible.  

December 22, 2021tech