1. Quantum Computing Achieves Real-World Application
Quantum computing companies received almost $1.02 billion in VC investment last year. A 68% jump relative to 2020.
Further, the number of QC deals jumped from 37 in 2020 to a record of 54 in 2021.
Here are some of the ways we can expect quantum computing technology to impact our lives over the coming years.
According to Fortune Business Insights, cyber security is a $165B industry (and is expected to double by 2028).
From data breaches at Facebook to high profile government website hacks, cyber security is a growing and increasingly complex problem.
A problem that, in many cases, quantum computing may be able to solve.
The key technology revolves around what’s known as Quantum Key Distribution (known as QKD).
Similar to today’s PGP email encryption technology, QKD involves a “key” that unlocks an encrypted message.
There are two core differences between PGP (and even today’s 256-bit AES encryption) and QKDs.
First, QKDs use cryptographic protocols based on quantum mechanics. This alone means the level of encryption is dramatically stronger than what we have today.
Second, the quantum nature of QKDs means the technology itself can detect nefarious third parties (through superposition, which is one of the core principles behind Schrödinger's cat thought experiment).
Because of this, unhackable keys could be placed on microchips and installed in heavily guarded servers (meaning the hacker would have to physically break into a location to get the data they’re after).
Quantum Computing as a Service (QCaaS)
Quantum computing as it exists today is prohibitively expensive.
According to industry-leading publications, constructing a quantum computer can cost anywhere from tens of millions to tens of billions of dollars (not to mention the costs involved in operating it).
Further, while having such extreme processing power could be handy for planning a trip to mars - or running trillions of genome sequences - it’s unlikely quantum computers will replace everyday PCs and laptops.
Via Quantum Computing as a Service
Similar to cloud-based SaaS, QCaaS would allow corporations to tap into a company’s QC power via an API.
Once again, this won’t be relevant for the majority of small businesses (and is not publicly available as of this writing).
However, for companies dealing with biotech, space travel, big data and other complex problems that require large amounts of processing power, QCaaS could provide exponentially more of that power than what most companies are capable of tapping into today.
2. Cleantech Continues To Grow
Last year an impressive $28.4 billion was invested into cleantech (sustainable technology).
Fast forward one short year and that number skyrocketed to $60 billion, achieving the type of growth many industry insiders thought would take 5-10 years.
In fact, this tech trend has gained so much momentum 14% of all VC dollars now flow to cleantech companies.
Here’s a small sample of how companies in the industry are creating meaningful change.
Eliminating Single-Use Plastics
According to reports, a full 50% of plastic products were designed for a “single-use” purpose.
Because for everyday tasks like email and social media, it's likely a regular computer would load a video faster than a quantum computer could.
With approximately one million water bottles being purchased each minute, and more than five trillion plastic bags distributed each year, the manufacturing of plastic is a hot topic.
To combat this, a company known as Footprint is using technology to create bio-based, 100% biodegradable consumer product packaging.
With more than 90 scientists and engineers, and 30+ US patents, Footprint uses a cutting-edge blend of fibers known as Barrier Technology to mimic the durability, water resistance, and oxygenation-resistance characteristics that have made plastics so popular.
The Electrification of Cars
With electric vehicle sales rapidly closing in on the 25-year-old hybrid car market - and President Biden promising to build 500,000 EV charging ports nationwide - interest in electric vehicles is at an all-time high.
Tesla is the brand most consumers associate with EVs. However, a variety of start-ups are innovating in new and exciting ways.
As an example, instead of attacking the entire car building process, US Company Magna is innovating around the one problem that plagues EV car manufacturers most: powering the drivetrain.
In particular, they work with auto manufacturers to add electric powertrains to the front and rear axles of their existing combustion engine vehicles.
Further innovating on electric vehicle technology is US-based Sonos.
By combining traditional EV batteries with solar panels, Sonos hopes to solve what is arguably the largest problem EV drivers have to deal with: Constantly needing to recharge their car’s battery.
Carbon Capture and Storage
It’s well documented that carbon emissions are one of the largest drivers of modern climate change.
According to the IEA, carbon emissions surged by 1.5 billion tonnes in 2021 (the second largest year-over-year increase on record).
Further, while green initiatives - like planting trees and switching to electric vehicles - will reduce carbon emissions over time, many experts believe the impact of such initiatives will be too little too late.
On the flip side, climate scientists are using what’s known as Carbon Capture technology to make immediate progress toward reducing and even reversing emissions.
The process involves working with super emitters - like power plants and concrete manufacturing facilities - to capture carbon molecules when they would normally be released into the air.
From there, CC companies isolate and extract the carbon through a variety of chemical processes before reselling it or depositing it deep into the earth (where it can be transformed back into stone).
3. Early Detection Technology Advances
While it’s exciting to talk about cyber warfare and quantum computing, the one technology likely to benefit humanity the most is early disease detection.
Mainly because the earlier a disease is detected, the more likely it is the patient survives.
As an example, when ovarian cancer is detected but has not spread beyond the ovaries, over 90% of patients survive five or more years. Once it spreads, however, only 28% survive that long.
The same goes for colon cancer, where early detection boosts five-year survival rates from 11% to 91%.
In fact, according to the Canary Foundation, “five-year survival rates” are substantially higher for all types of cancer when diagnosed early.
Unfortunately, certain types of cancer - like ovarian and kidney - can be difficult to detect early.
Because of that, doctors and scientists are dedicating an increasing amount of resources to cutting-edge technologies designed to detect cancer cells earlier in their development.
As an example, in 2018, a team of researchers from John Hopkins released a ground-breaking study.
In it, they explained how a brand-new technology known as CancerSEEK combined blood tests and MRI imaging technology to detect eight different types of cancer with 70% accuracy.
The study was so impactful that it attracted a record-breaking (at the time) venture capital investment of $110M in Series A funding.
Since then, multiple early cancer detection technologies have been released, including PanSEER and the Burning Rock ELSA Seq method (which was reported to detect six types of cancer with 80.6 to 98.3% accuracy).
Most recently, biotech company Grail attracted over $2B in funding for their pan-cancer test Galleri, which has shown the potential to detect 50+ types with a high degree of accuracy.
And it’s not just cancer.
In the United States, Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death nationwide and the fifth for adults aged 65 and older.
Adding urgency to the need for early detection, it’s expected that as baby boomers age, Alzheimer’s among adults 65 and older will increase from 5.8 million in 2020 to 7.1 million by 2025.
Sadly, because Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease, early “symptoms” involve minuscule changes in the brain that can be difficult to detect.
To address this, a team of researchers from the United States Veterans Association is now combining fiber-optics and spectroscopy to examine how light passes through brain matter.
In doing so, they hope to identify these minute brain alterations in a way that is more affordable, accessible, and easier for medical professionals to use.
And while they’re approaching early detection from a different angle, scientists in Lithuania are now combining AI with Deep Learning to “predict the possible onset of Alzheimer’s with 99% accuracy”.
4. Blockchain Technology Goes Mainstream
In 2021 blockchain technology went mainstream.
In particular, 2021 was the year:
· VCs made record investments (to the tune of $33B) into blockchain and/or cryptocurrency companies
· NFTs (which are based on crypto/blockchain technology) began to go mainstream
· Decentralized Finance (aka DeFi) achieved a $100B (and then $200B) Total Value Locked market cap
· Crypto companies launched aggressive, mainstream marketing
· And more
So, as blockchain technology achieves more practical use cases, here are just a few of the ways it will be used in the coming years.
As today’s global supply chains become increasingly complex, with more parties directly or indirectly involved in transporting goods, logistics companies face an ever-growing number of challenges.
On the tech side, most errors happen as a result of one party’s tech stack not integrating with the tech stack of a second party involved in the chain of custody (interoperability issues).
Also, because many forms are filled out and typed into a computer manually, human error is a serious problem (accounting for approx. 80% of supply chain issues).
Blockchain, however, holds the potential to solve both issues.
First, by requiring participating providers to get on board with a specific, blockchain-based solution, every party involved in the transportation process would by definition be using the same tech stack.
Second, because blockchain technology creates a linear chain of custody, the issue of there being “gaps” in the end-to-end visibility chain would become a thing of the past.
Instead, someone can search for an identifier on the blockchain (similar to today’s tracking numbers) and observe where a shipment is and who came into contact with it (including when, where, who signed off on the receipt/delivery, etc.).
As we’ve seen in multiple presidential elections over the past two decades, voter fraud (more precisely, the perception of voter fraud) has become an increasingly controversial topic.
In particular, the ability of nefarious parties to submit duplicate votes, use the names and social security numbers of deceased persons to vote, etc.
Blockchain’s properties, however, make it a great candidate for reducing - if not eliminating - the possibility of voter fraud.
Mainly because blockchain creates a permanent, publicly visible ledger that cannot be hacked or manipulated by a third party.
Instead, governments could integrate a private blockchain network with the social security administration database to verify every living person over the age of 18 gets one vote (and one vote only).
Admittedly, a blockchain voting system wouldn’t be perfect.
However, by eliminating human vote counters (and therefore human error), and reducing the possibility of both fraudulent and duplicate votes, blockchain-based voting would be a positive step forward towards eliminating voter fraud controversy (while at the same time, delivering reliable results much faster).
In both corporations and governments, the threat of corruption is a constant.
From minor offenses to Enron-level accounting fraud, there’s no shortage of ways bad actors can funnel funds into their own pockets.
However, because blockchain creates an observable, permanent, and linear chain of custody, hiding illegal or inaccurate transactions becomes exponentially more difficult.
Instead, blockchains record everything: the sending wallet, the amount, the date and time, and the receiving wallet.
Because of that, by connecting an employee or politician’s identity to a wallet (say a company treasury or city budget) - in which funds cannot be moved without a secret code - that person would assume full responsibility for each and every one of that wallet’s transactions.
In fact, while some media pundits propose Russian oligarchs could be using crypto to evade sanctions, many have quickly pointed out its public, transparent nature makes it an ineffective vehicle for doing so.
5. Cyber Threats Grow More Advanced
From attacks on random consumers to government-sponsored cyber warfare, cybercrime is a persistent and continually evolving threat.
In fact, virtual crime has become so prevalent the $153B cyber security industry is expected to grow 139% by 2028 (to $336B).
Here are just a few of the ways industry players are using cutting-edge technology to defend against - and get ahead of - cybercrime.
Work From Home Security
Since March of 2020, the WFH/remote work movement has advanced dramatically.
According to one survey, 4 out of 5 remote employees consider the practice “successful”.
And while the pandemic has been a boon for employees, it’s created an unexpected surge in problems for cyber security experts.
Mostly because most home office set-ups are nowhere near as secure as the office.
First, many people are working from home on their own devices.
Devices that may not have the proper firewall and/or malware/ransomware/virus detection protocols in place.
Second, working from home means working over what is likely a poorly secured broadband connection.
From weak WiFi network passwords to insufficient encryption, most people’s home network setups are nowhere near as secure as their company’s office Because of this, and because it looks like remote work is here to stay, 75-80% of security leaders expect to ramp up security spending in 2022.
In particular, spending around the network and data security and protecting “office and remote security endpoints”.
AI-based Cyber Security
Because cyber security involves reacting to new and incoming threats, it is very much a defensive game.
Sadly, this means security professionals are always one step behind attackers.
However, through the use of artificial intelligence, cyber security pros are working to detect - and thwart - attacks much earlier in the process.
A good analogy here is that of an earthquake warning detection system.
By measuring minute vibrations on the earth’s surface, earthquake warning detection systems are able to alert both scientists and the public to an incoming earthquake much earlier than would otherwise be possible.
Along the same lines, AI programs can be programmed to detect the early signs of an incoming attack much more effectively than today’s technology is capable of doing.
The consequences of this for cyber security pros cannot be overstated.
First, in addition to detecting the attack, AI programs can be configured to stop/thwart the attack before it gets out of control.
Second, similar to the earthquake device, the AI can alert relevant personnel much earlier than is possible now.
Because of that, industry professionals can go into defense mode faster, potentially protecting their database from what could become a disastrous attack.
6. Robotic Process Automation Achieves Mainstream Corporate Adoption
As the lines between artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to blur, businesses are finding an increasing number of ways to integrate automation into their processes.
And one of the emerging technologies executives are most excited about is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
RPA involves training software programs to perform/execute mundane, repetitive tasks.
Here are just a few practical use cases regarding how businesses will be integrating RPA over the coming years.
Automating Tech Stack Mergers
As any IT professional knows, many of today’s largest organizations - from corporations to governments - are using highly outdated legacy systems.
And when two companies that have different legacy systems merge, the process of integrating multiple databases can become an IT nightmare.
However, thanks to robotics process automation, software engineers can train a program to both identify and fix any repetitive errors that pop up as part of the merger process.
This, in turn, can save hundreds if not thousands of (potentially expensive) man-hours.
Automating Low Dollar Value Tasks
And it’s not just big data where RPA could prove useful.
Instead, RPA can be used to automate many of the mind-numbing tasks that are currently outsourced to minimum wage employees.
Employees whose skills and talents are most likely better applied elsewhere.
As an example, by training a program to correctly identify form fields and handwritten text, RPA can be used to convert text documents (e.g. paper-based mortgage applications) into electronic files without a human having to manually input that same information.
Automating the Invoice Process
While many of today’s invoices are already automated, others require a human to cross-reference multiple data points (sales receipts, etc.) before an invoice can be created.
On the flip side, software engineers can train an RPA to check those same sources, create the invoice, and send it off (with once again, no human effort required).
As any sales professional knows, having accurate prospecting information is critical to expediting the sales process.
Mainly because time spent double-checking phone numbers (for example) is time that could be better spent nurturing prospects or making pitches.
With RPA, however, a program could be trained to constantly monitor a company’s website (for its address) or an executive’s LinkedIn profile (for their most recent email address).
Improving Employee Happiness
For years, we’ve heard how AI and robotics will replace tens of millions of jobs.
In reality, studies show technologies like RPA are liberating employees from mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on more stimulating (and productive) work.
In fact, 68% of global workers believe RPA will make them more productive while 57% of executives say RPA has increased employee engagement.
7. New Use Cases For Augmented Reality
After decades of hype and promises, both augmented and virtual reality seem to be gaining steam.
According to IDC, global spending on AR/VR in 2020 was estimated to be up to $18.8 billion, up 78.5% from 2019.
Further, demand for AR headsets (which use the same tech as VR headsets) grew a stunning 92.1% YoY in 2021 (with 11.2M units shipped).
And while virtual reality may hold more potential long-term, studies show consumers are adopting AR at a much faster pace.
Here are just a couple of examples of how.
While using GPS to drive has become commonplace, navigating large areas on foot can be daunting.
From amusement parks to airports, and ski resorts to conference centers, augmented reality developers are working to create the equivalent of GPS for foot traffic.
As an example, imagine typing in the name of a product you want at the store and having an app direct you to the precise shelf where that product is located.
Along the same lines, imagine an airport app that shows you where you can pick up your luggage and the fastest route to the Uber pickup area.
In the future, all of this and more will become commonplace. Instead of relying on our phones to guide us, we’ll eventually have foot traffic instructions overlaid on our field of vision thanks to AR goggles.
Test Before You Buy
Let’s face it: Most anyone who’s shopped online has been disappointed once or twice.
From furniture on a professionally designed set to clothes on a professional model, many purchases fail to live up to our expectations once they arrive on our doorstep.
Thanks to AR, however, an increasing number of retailers are allowing virtual shoppers to virtually test their products before buying.
In fact, as of 2020, 61% of consumers said they prefer retailers that offer AR experiences.
To accommodate them, companies like Macy’s and Adidas are investing resources into virtual fitting rooms that allow shoppers to “try on” clothes before making a purchase.
The same goes for Target and Ikea, both of which are investing in similar technology that allows users to snap photos of their rooms so they can visualize what a new piece of furniture would look like before buying it.
Increased Driving Safety
Over the past few years, auto manufacturers have taken steps to introduce more advanced Heads Up Displays (HUDs).
From alerting drivers to obstacles to overlaying directions on the road, using augmented reality to increase safety (while improving the driving experience) is a trend we are likely to see continue.
As an example, Mercedes Benz’s Augmented Reality HUDs not only display information but actually work to control the vehicle as well.
In particular, their Active Lane Keeping Assist technology prevents swerving, while their Active Distance Assist technology prevents rear-end accidents.
Along the same lines, Tesla’s self-driving beta allowed “drivers” to watch as the company’s AI program interacted with nearby obstacles to power the vehicle on its own (via an augmented reality display).
8. Companies Build The Metaverse
While many of the trends above have been percolating for years (if not decades), the idea of a metaverse was virtually unheard of prior to 2021.
Fast forward to 2022 and everyone is talking about it, with Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others making billion-dollar investments into building their own metaverse.
On the one hand, some experts predict we won’t have a fully functioning “metaverse” for at least a decade.
On the other, some argue primitive versions have been around for years already.
Regardless of which way you see things, here are the hottest trends we see playing out over the coming years.
As the COVID pandemic forced large gatherings to shut down worldwide, musicians desperate to generate revenue began exploring the idea of virtual concerts.
And while it's unlikely the v1 experience was anything like the real thing, diehard fans still showed up in droves.
In fact, in what was one of the first metaverse concerts, rapper Travis Scott reportedly earned almost $20M as a result of holding his virtual concert on the insanely popular Fortnite video game platform.
As did Ariana Grande, who had a record-breaking 78 million fans show up to her virtual Fortnite concert in 2021.
Admittedly, most users interacted with these experiences via their 2D devices (computers, phones, etc.).
However, in the future, virtual / metaverse concerts will be fully immersive via Virtual Reality goggles (making them a true “metaverse” experience).
While the fashion industry is not known for being “high-tech,” industry players have warmed up to the metaverse in a big way.
As an example, in March of 2022, dozens of high-profile fashion brands will be displaying their clothing at the first inaugural Virtual Fashion Week (hosted by industry-leading metaverse company Decentraland).
Further, because the metaverse is meant to be an immersive, virtual world, some fashion brands are taking a fully digital approach.
As an example, Nike recently acquired an NFT collectibles studio in a bid to create digital shoes collectors can use to dress their avatars in the metaverse.
The same goes for luxury brand Balenciaga, which recently partnered up with Fortnite (above) to create virtual/metaverse clothes.
In fact, in May of 2021, someone spent $4,100 on a virtual Gucci bag (which is more than the physical item currently costs in stores).
One of the largest problems with industry conferences is the fact they require participants to travel.
Between airfare, hotels and eating out, attending a conference can cost thousands of dollars above and beyond the price of an entry ticket.
Because of this, companies like Orbits and VIBE Agency are taking steps to duplicate the live event experience online.
From virtual networking spaces to corporate-sponsored booths, some players believe the future of industry events lies in the digital world.
9. More Developers Use Low/No Code Tools
Given the constant release of new and exciting technologies, it’s easy to assume tech companies are rolling out new products and services as fast as they can.
In reality, however, there’s a serious shortage of developers.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the industry will face a shortage of 1.2M computer engineers by 2026.
Further, the same report emphasizes that amongst existing applicants, only 39.6% of people will qualify for a given role.
With a persistent and growing shortage of talent, creating solutions that allow developers to work more efficiently has become critical to moving initiatives forward.
Fortunately, that’s precisely what Low-Code and No-Code software programs can help with.
Software Rolls Out Exponentially Faster
By combining visual models with AI-powered tools, software developers will be able to skip (or dramatically expedite) the time-consuming process of writing thousands of lines of code from scratch.
Instead, Low and No Code solutions allow developers to streamline the development of new SaaS applications.
Non-Developers Create Their Own Solutions
And it’s not just full-time software developers that benefit.
Because low-code and no-code solutions are by design meant to be user-friendly, an increasing number of non-developers are able to build software programs they otherwise would not have the skills for.
In fact, one survey shows 60-70% of companies report non-developers using low-code and no-code to build software systems the companies now use internally.
Growth of LCAP Technology
At the core of low-code and no-code solutions are what’s known as Low Code Development Platforms (aka Low Code Application Platforms).
Similar to a carpenter’s toolbox, LCAPs are what enable users to create software using the low / no-code approach.
With an increasing shortage of software developers and an increasing number of people successfully building applications using LCAPs, it's safe to assume LCAP technology will continue to advance at a blistering pace.
As evidence of this, in 2019, LCAPs were a $3.47B industry. Within two short years, however, the industry grew an impressive 66% (to $5.75B).
10. Ambient Computing Integrated Into More Devices
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “ambient” refers to something that is “existing or present on all sides.”
In short, it refers to something that’s all around us.
Which is a perfect term for what ambient computing promises for the future: An AI-driven network of devices and software that runs in the background (all around us) with little to no human intervention required.
With the potential to transform how we interact with everything from coffee makers to freight trucks, it comes as no surprise the ambient intelligence industry is expected to grow at an impressive 33% CAGR through 2028.
Ambient Computing vs AI and RPA
With that said, ambient computing differs from AI, machine learning and Robotic Process Automation.
Mainly because these three trends are - for the most part - entirely software-based (ignoring how they could instruct the hardware to perform certain functions).
On the flip side, ambient computing uses both AI and machine learning to interpret data gathered from physical devices (like smart thermometers) and make decisions on its own.
And it’s this emphasis on interacting with real-world smart devices - known as the Internet of Things - that sets ambient computing apart.
Consumer Use Cases for Ambient Computing
From the Jetsons to Minority Report, many portrayals of an advanced future involve devices that interact with both individuals and themselves.
Some of which - like smartphone-controlled thermostats - have come to fruition. Others, like smart ovens that know precisely how long to cook a turkey for, have yet to be invented.
In the future, however, all of this and more will be possible thanks to ambient computing.
As an example, in the future, it's unlikely you’ll need a garage door opener. Instead, your smartphone will communicate your location to a device in your home, which will open the garage door for you as you approach.
As another example, a smart sensor could alert you to when your pet has a fever or is walking with a slight limp.
Admittedly, this is a young technology and these are hypothetical use cases.
In the future, however, ambient computing will most likely affect every device we interact with (from coffee makers to smart beds and more).
Commercial Use Cases
On the commercial side, many companies have already begun incorporating (primitive) versions of ambient computing into their processes.
As an example, office buildings with advanced LED lighting systems can use sensors to provide ideal lighting for employees while turning off lights in the sections of the building where no one is present (thereby optimizing their electricity usage/carbon footprint).
And in what is yet another fascinating use case, tech company Nuance is using camera-activated smart speakers to transcribe interactions between doctors and patients.
In doing so, they free up the doctor’s attention so he or she can focus on the patient instead of taking notes.
11. Edge Computing Adoption Grows
In 2017, the global data centers processed approximately 100 exabytes of data per month. Last year, that number skyrocketed to 267 exabytes.
As the world becomes increasingly digital - and the 5G Internet enables larger data transfers at faster speeds - today’s IT infrastructure requires more processing power than ever.
In particular, growth in data-intensive technologies like remote health monitoring, telecommuting and long-distance learning is expected to continue pushing global data processing requirements to record highs.
To help process all that data (at faster speeds), companies are pouring more of their budgets into Edge Computing.
With a focus on speed and network distribution, edge computing is designed to “improve response times and save bandwidth” by moving processing power physically closer to the source of data.
The Search for Cloud Alternatives
Over the past decade, cloud computing has gained widespread adoption (as of 2022 it’s estimated 94% of enterprise companies use the cloud).
However, cloud computing is both expensive and resource-intensive. This is especially true for companies dealing with large amounts of data (given enterprise-level cloud storage services base their fees on usage).
Because of this, corporations are looking at ways to reduce their dependency on cloud computing by moving to edge computing instead.
By leaning more heavily on the edge - and in particular its ability to reduce bandwidth transmissions - companies will be able to reduce their cloud computing bill while providing a faster user experience to end-users.
Data Thinning Becomes More Advanced
While the cloud will continue to do the heavy lifting in terms of data storage, edge computing is expected to take care of the data processing and speed issues.
One way edge computing providers are working to enhance processing speeds is through the use of what’s known as Data Reduction (aka Data Thinning).
In simple terms, data thinning involves identifying the importance of a bit of data and moving it to the appropriate place (server) to enhance processing speeds.
The technology behind edge computing is quite complex, however, an example of how data can be moved between servers to reduce speeds can be found here.
Retail Goes Virtual
In 2021, Meta (aka Facebook) sold a record number of virtual reality headsets.
And as concepts like the metaverse gain steam, a growing number of retailers are looking to incorporate augmented reality into their physical locations.
Similar to telehealth and long-distance learning, in-store, on-demand augmented reality applications (like virtual dressing rooms) will require massive amounts of high-speed data processing.
To address this, a growing number of retailers are turning to companies like StorMagic to help them integrate edge computing into their upcoming augmented reality applications.
12. Extended Reality Expands Beyond Entertainment
As the lines blur between mixed reality, augmented reality, virtual reality, etc., the term “Extended Reality”’ has become an umbrella term designed to encompass all of the above and more.
From the metaverse to virtual concerts, here are ways that extended reality is likely to be used over the next 2 to 3 years.
While concepts like the metaverse and virtual dressing rooms are exciting, there are multiple B2B use cases where ER could drive serious innovation.
One, in particular, is the health field. As an example, ER headsets can be used to provide both new and existing surgeons with an upfront, first-person view of surgery.
In particular, this technology may prove highly useful in helping surgeons understand the intricacies of new, innovative surgeries they may not have learned about in residency or have any first-hand experience with.
Automotive and Manufacturing
While there may not be any lives on the line, many manufacturing processes - and in particular the automotive manufacturing process - require highly intricate processes and machine work.
Because of that, ER technology can be used to provide an up-close, first-person view of those processes in a way that is not possible today (similar to providing training to surgeons).
Further, manufacturers will be able to create virtual training environments where technicians can practice assembling something before stepping onto the actual assembly line (thereby reducing human error and even the risk of injury).
Unlike the trends above, the concept of Augmented Reality tourism has already gained traction among end-users.
Here are just a few of the trends we expect to continue gaining steam over the coming years.
Virtual Tour Guides
Over the past few years, a growing number of companies have begun offering Walking Tours via smartphone apps.
Fast forward to today and it’s now possible to tour the streets of Paris, Singapore, London and more without leaving your couch.
Instead, virtual reality headsets now make it possible to see the sights as part of a fully immersive 3D experience.
In fact, in addition to the official Paris City Vision tour (offered by the City of Paris), companies like Booking.com now offer their own Paris AR tour as well (for the price of $21).
Foreign Language Translation
Over the past few years, Google’s Translate app has become well-known for using smartphone cameras to translate foreign languages in real-time.
Sadly, using the app can be highly frustrating (given it requires holding your smartphone perfectly steady and cannot translate fonts or handwritten text it doesn’t recognize).
In the future, ER headsets and glasses will be able to translate foreign languages in real-time with a high degree of accuracy. This, in turn, will allow travelers in foreign countries to more easily translate everything from road signs to menus and more.
13. Wearable Devices Get Smarter
Since the launch of the FitBit in 2007, wearable technology has become increasingly popular.
From sleep tracking rings to niche-specific devices (like Rip Curl’s GPS-based surf watch), consumers have shown a growing interest in wearable technology. In particular, tech that allows them to track (and potentially improve) their health and fitness.
In the early days, most wearables were limited in their abilities. However, as more sophisticated sensors become available, wearable devices are becoming smarter and smarter every year that goes by.
Rings Become Smarter
Up until recently, most smart rings - and in particular the best-selling Oura - were focused on sleep tracking.
Over the past few years, however, we’ve seen a variety of smart rings launched with features that go much beyond sleep tracking.
As an example, the McLear RingPay acts as a contactless payment device, allowing users to swipe their ring in the same way they swipe a contactless cart.
Currently, RingPay is only available in the UK. Given how popular contactless payment became during the pandemic, we expect similar technology to roll out in the United States and other Western economies in the coming months and years.
With built-in Near-field Communication technology, the NFC Opn ring enables wearers to share data (and even unlock smart-key doors) with the swipe of their finger.
In particular, the ring includes two data sensors.
On the outside, less sensitive data (like the wearers' public email) is available. On the inside, a second sensor stores more sensitive data, requiring users to intentionally expose their finger/wrist to the device they’d like to share information with.
Medical Wearables Continue to Grow
In 2021, wearable medical devices accounted for approximately $20B in global sales. By 2026, that number is expected to quadruple (to nearly $84B).
Admittedly, basic fitness trackers account for the majority of health wearable sales. Over the past two years, however, the ability of these devices to track more detailed health measurements has become increasingly sophisticated.
As an example, Apple’s Series 7 Smart Watch now contains an FDA-approved electrocardiogram sensor, the ability to call 911 if the wearer experiences a fall, and even the ability to alert owners if the watch detects atrial fibrillation.
Along the same lines, one study showed that 37% of buyers use their wearable device to monitor their heart health. A practice some are using in conjunction with their doctors to monitor heart issues more closely.
Further, it’s not just consumers that are interested in smart wearables.
A survey of hospital executives found that 47% of hospitals provide wearable devices to patients with chronic diseases (for the purpose of ongoing monitoring and tracking).
Healthy Smart Clothes
While smart clothes as a sub-niche of wearables are very much in their infancy, the fact they have more contact with the body (due to their surface area) opens up a variety of new and exciting use cases.
As an example, the Nadi X yoga pants use sensors and stretch bands to analyze and provide feedback on the owner’s posture.
Similar to how long-distance runners were early adopters of smart fitness watches, they’ve also become early adopters of smart shoes. In particular, high-tech shoes that track impact on a runner’s knees or heels in an attempt to reduce pain associated with conditions like plantar fasciitis.
From labor shortages to a computer chip crisis, tech companies across the globe have faced a variety of challenges over the last two years.
Despite these challenges, however, the tech sector continues to grow at a blistering speed.
With a focus on solving today’s most pressing problems and a seemingly infinite pool of cash available to the companies that succeed, it’s unlikely the tech sector will slow down anytime soon.
Instead, the tech trends we’ve outlined above are set to play a large role in molding our future over the next 5 years.