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Tech Trend Forecasts And How To Get Ahead Of Them
Although the “Top Ten Technology Trends for 2022” and “Guide to Technology and Innovation – 2022” type listicles do serve a purpose, I would favor a way to enhance those listicles using additional data and insights.
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Predicting the technologies that will dominate the future is an activity everyone enjoys. In another 3 months, towards the end of December, this activity will reach a fever pitch. All over, from mainstream media to analyst reports, from television to bloggers, everyone will put out their lists. Headlines like “Top Ten Technology Trends for 2022” and “Guide to Technology & Innovation – 2022” will spring up. I will not bore you with an early list of predictions. You can wait for the annual listicle frenzy to satisfy your curiosity. Instead, we will see how to interpret and enhance such forecasts.
First off, making predictions around technology is a risky game. Technology is changing fast and an annual list will always be dicey. A six-monthly, or even a quarterly list, maybe a better idea. These predictions, especially by the analyst community, are made with great care, after deep study and are backed by a formidable understanding of business and industry. So, the forecasts do shine a light on technologies that should be on your horizon. Second, the adoption of a technology depends on several variables. Technology can be innovative and path-breaking, it may capture our imagination, but it may still fail to find traction. Third, even a successful technology may fade away just as quickly as it made the headlines.
I am reminded of the ubiquity of the fax machine in the 80s. These machines had infiltrated offices across the world. They cost around $2,000 each but you could plug them into a phone line and straight away start faxing (no OS, no app to load, no compatibility issues). In the US alone, fax sales rose from 187,500 units in 1986 to 417,200 in 1987, to 785,000 in 1988. At the time, the Internet was not in every office and home. Fax technology was the simplest, quickest and most accurate way to send documents and information across vast distances. Even private documents could be sent from one desktop to another. Then, in the mid-90s the Internet changed that. Email and other online file transfer methodologies (including e-fax) sent fax technology into history. But here is the thing: It took fax technology about 140 years to find commercial success and, even then, that success lasted barely a decade.
Soon after the first “facsimile” or the fax machine, capable of sending an image over a wire, was invented around 1845 it would have qualified to be among the Top Ten Technology Trends of the Year. But, despite the improvements in fax technology in the early 20th Century, it failed to make a mark until the mid-1980s. It tells you that technologies like Analytics, Model Compression, Edge AI, Digital Twins, Augmented Reality, Neural Networks, Blockchain, Low Code Platforms, IoT, Quantum Computing, Cybersecurity Mesh, Video Analytics, Biometrics, 5G, etc., are important to today’s businesses, but they may not necessarily make it to the status of “stars” in the technology firmament of 2022.
Although the “Top Ten Technology Trends for 2022” and “Guide to Technology and Innovation – 2022” type listicles do serve a purpose, I would favor a way to enhance those listicles using additional data and insights. For example, which are the technologies drawing the greatest attention of investors? I am drawn to a list that prides itself in helping predict the next hot startups, the next markets, the S&P 500 of tomorrow, and so on. It is a list of some 800+ unicorns with a cumulative valuation of ~$2,725B. These are tomorrow’s technology guzzlers. Some unicorns, like Bytedance and Databricks, are creating the base technologies of tomorrow. These are indicators of where technology is headed.
Another place to look for footprints leading to tomorrow’s technologies is the 100 startups that have joined the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer Community. How are these startups solving the problems of climate change, helping build a circular economy, and making the world a more equitable place for all? The WEF list is interesting, broken up by business in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, MENA, and North America. The insights contained in this list are waiting to be gleaned—and it is a rewarding and engaging exercise I encourage everyone, who has not tried it, to attempt.
Back in 2018, I was being interviewed by a newspaper in the Middle East about technology adoption. I was asked to make a technological prediction. My response: "Flip phones will be back in fashion with users." And today, three years later, they are making a roaring comeback. Nokia’s 2720 V Flip, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip, and Alcatel’s MYFLIP are just three flip phones among dozens capturing our imagination all over again.
I am tempted to think, in relation to the flip phone prediction, I knew exactly how the future would unfold (if you will forgive the pun). But I guess luck played a major role too in getting that right.
Predictions around technology are based on observation and experience fortified by research. But the future holds an infinite number of combinations and is, truly speaking, unpredictable. The COVID-19 pandemic is one such example. Who could have predicted that a submicroscopic agent would come along and make cloud the hottest technology of 2020?
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.