This feature first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
When I first wrote a “top trends” article for Certification Magazine heading into 2020, the world was our oyster. There were so many exciting technologies and trends to choose from. I wanted one of each and found myself saying, “Please, sir, may I have just a little more?”
All of that happened, of course, before anyone knew that the world as we knew it was about to be dropped through the looking glass into the confounding and destabilizing new normal of COVID-19. Two years later, we are all battle-weary survivors trudging toward a possible exit from a life-altering, economy-changing global pandemic.
Despite the pandemic — and maybe on some fronts because of it — technology is advancing at an almost exponential pace. These new and emerging technologies impact the way we work and live and learn as never before.
In the past 60 years alone, we’ve gone from party lines (no, not a “party” line but a shared phone line that served multiple households) to a cell phone in every pocket, from slide rules to calculators, from the first unmanned flights into space to manned space stations and space shuttles that fly home, and from the first programming languages to artificial intelligence that teaches itself and learns.
What changes will we see in the next 10 years? In the next five? In 2022?
Our world is literally the realm of yesterday’s science fiction come to life and limited only by the imagination of the next generation. Which means that there are literally dozens of mention-worthy technology advances. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most tantalizing technology trends for 2022. I call it our “taste of technology” tour.
Artificial intelligence (AI) remains one of the most transformative technologies of this era in history. We have come a long way since the day (in 1997) when IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat international chess master Garry Kasparov. Today, AI literally permeates almost every aspect of our lives.
AI drives a plethora of “smart” devices such as cell phones, televisions, toys, and appliances just to name a few. Smart assistants such as Siri and Alexa, chat bots, language translation tools, touch screens, and so much more, all have AI at their foundation. Let’s take a closer look at two emerging subsectors within the AI realm that definitely warrant watching in 2022: AI engineering and generative AI.
Artificial Intelligence Engineering
According to Carnegie Mellon University, AI engineering is an emerging discipline “focused on developing tools, systems, and processes to enable the application of artificial intelligence in real-world contexts.” Much of AI today is focused on the development of individual tools and processes.
AI engineering looks at the bigger picture and examines AI in the context of how enterprises can leverage AI to achieve business goals. AI engineers examine limitations of existing AI as it relates to business goals, review ethical considerations, establish best practices, and determine how AI can be optimized and integrated into business areas such as DevOps, DataOps, and ModelOps.
Generative Artificial Intelligence
According to business and technology research firm Gartner, generative AI currently accounts for about one percent of data produced — but that number is expected to rise to 10 percent over the next three years. That is a considerable amount of growth in a relatively short amount of time, making generative AI a technology to watch.
Generative AI is an extremely exciting branch of AI technology. Computers equipped with generative AI technology can take existing data forms such as images (pictures), audio files, or existing text, and then create digital content that is entirely original, new, and in most cases scarily realistic.
Generative AI is part of the technology that enables the creation of “deep fakes.” A deep fake involves replacing the image of one person in a photograph or video with that of another person. Some deep fakes are so good that even ‘experts’ have difficulty identifying which image is real and which is fake.
Generative AI, however, isn’t just about photos and deep fakes. Financial institutes use generative AI to perform tasks such as creating new datasets from real data records, which enables them to create new models to protect consumer identities and better fight fraud. In healthcare, generative AI is able to provide a digital visualization of projected tumor paths, which can be invaluable in selecting treatment protocols.
Hyperautomation is focused on helping businesses identify ways to automate as many processes as possible. Gartner reports that the hyperautomation market will exceed $596 billion in 2022, representing an attention-getting 24 percent increase.
The benefits of hyperautomation to businesses are obvious — improved productivity, reduced overhead, early adoption of new technologies, less reliance on human workers (which has become increasingly relevant as a result of pandemic disruptions).
We introduced hyperautomation in the 2020 top trends article because of its potential to impact the workforce. That hasn’t changed. The impact of hyperautomation on the global workforce will be entirely unprecedented. As in-demand and “good” as hyperautomation appears to be for businesses, however, it does not come without a socio-economic cost. Widespread implementation will carry a toll in both money and lives.
According to Forbes magazine, the World Economic Forum (WEF) anticipates that 80 million — yes, 80 million — jobs will be replaced by some type of AI-driven robotics or automation by 2025. It’s believed that there will be a 50/50 balance of jobs between humans and machines by that date.
Of course, with the rise of AI driven robots and machines, there is bound to be a rise in some technology jobs. Whether existing workers will have the skills required to fill those jobs, and whether there will be enough jobs to meet the needs of the unemployed remains a hotly debated question.
It’s predicted that 120 million workers globally (including 11.5 million in the United States) will need to be retrained over the next three years to obtain the skills necessary to fill these jobs. I am a huge science fiction fan and can honestly say that I never thought I’d be outsourced to work on Skynet — or possibly, who know, go underground fighting the machines.
As we approached 2020, the buzzword on the employment scene was remote workers. Remote employees benefitted employers, who reported decreases in absenteeism, increases in productivity, lower overhead costs, and higher profitability. Employees loved the flexibility that working from home provides in terms of managing that delicate balance between work and home.
Of course, no one could have predicted that 2020 would herald the birth of a pandemic that would still be ongoing across all of 2021, and which appears to be far from over. As a result of the pandemic, millions of workers have been thrust into a remote working environment whether or not it suits them.
One of the unexpected byproducts of the pandemic is a phenomenon that has been dubbed the Great Resignation of 2021. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20 million workers resigned their jobs from May to September in 2021. Resignations in IT-related jobs increased by 4.5 percent in 2021.
What gives? It’s thought that the pandemic provided a time of introspection enabling workers to reevaluate items such as work-life balance, job satisfaction, and personal priorities and values. Couple that with the fact that remote work enables skilled IT professionals to work anywhere without the necessity and expense of relocation, and it’s easy to see why resignations are on the rise.
Today, it’s an employee market. On our neighborhood job board, a prospective employee asked if anyone knew who was hiring. The response? “The better question is who isn’t hiring?” As a result of the Great Resignation, it’s a job-seekers market.
Many employers are desperately seeking workers and are willing to grant perks that almost certainly would not have been offered in the past. That places prospective employees in a great negotiating position to ask for — and receive — concessions of all sorts. (At least least until hyperautomation kicks in and we no longer need human workers for anything.)
Cybersecurity Attacks and Cyber Mesh
Cybersecurity has been and will remain a top concern for individuals, businesses, and IT professionals in 2022. In 2021, we witnessed an exponential rise in cybersecurity attacks across a variety of industry sectors. Check Point® Software Technologies predicts that we’ll see a rise in cybersecurity attacks geared to disruption of the supply chain, mobile devices, election domains, “fake” news, healthcare and vaccines, and cryptocurrency.
We can also expect to see a rise in the use of deep fake technology as a social engineering weapon to illegally gain access to funds, entry into accounts, or access to protected data. “Cold war” tactics are on the rise as nation states and terrorists use cyberattacks to destabilize governments and further their political agendas. (Expect to see many more disruptions like the SolarWinds attack that closed out 2020 and launched 2021.)
As cyberattacks increase, businesses will need to look for ways to tighten security grids along interconnected data paths, to prevent cyberattacks and minimize the financial impact of successful breaches. As businesses become more diverse in terms of multiple asset locations, implement automated business workflows, and increase the use of remote workers and SaaS applications, we can expect to see greater opportunities for attacks.
Cybermesh architecture provides enterprises a way to integrate security data feeds regardless of location, allowing enterprises to implement a consolidated and standardized approach to cybersecurity. Cybersecurity mesh architecture makes it more difficult for hackers to exploit networks. There are also financial advantages to adopting a cybermesh architecture.
According to Gartner, businesses using a cybersecurity mesh architecture “will reduce the financial impact of security incidents by an average of 90 percent.”
It’s hard to talk about technology trends for 2022 without mentioning technology shortages — specifically the ongoing global chip shortages. The world runs on semiconductors. You’ll find them in cell phones, cloud data centers, IoT and “smart” devices, appliances, computers, medical equipment, automobiles, and even cryptocurrency.
Silicon chips aren’t the most “trendy” or necessarily the most exciting technology — but these little chips literally run the world. Demand for chips is high. As a result of the pandemic, we saw an increased (and ongoing) demand for technologies to support remote employees. Couple that with growth in several key sectors such as mobile phones, IoT, AI, for example, we’re likely to see a continued increase in chip demands.
Unfortunately for consumers, the chips needed to drive our tools and devices are in short supply. The impact of the chip shortage is easy to see. Recent demand has far outpaced manufacturers’ ability to deliver. The high demand and low supply equals product shortages. Multiple industry sectors have already been feeling the impact of the chip shortages.
According to CNN, the auto industry is likely to lose more than $210 billion in sales while Forrester reports that the chip shortage may impact IoT market growth as much as 15 percent. Similar economic impacts will be felt throughout other industry sectors as well. While opinions vary, it’s likely that the chip shortage will last at least until 2023.