Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
What do the next 12 months have in store for the Metaverse, deep fake tech and standalone 5G?
What about digital wallets? Or AI chat bots. Let’s look ahead to the tech trends of 2023…
#1 - The Metaverse: still waiting for a breakthrough
What a fascinating year 2022 was for the “Metaverse”. It was certainly the breakthrough tech term of the year. Visitors to the annual Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona in February could have told you that. It seemed as if every exhibitor had a Metaverse product to sell.
But by the end of the year, the idea was in a bit of trouble. This was mostly because of Meta/Facebook. The company had pledged its future to the Metaverse, but it struggled to make progress. Sales of its VR headsets were modest. It admitted that even its own employees don't use its Horizon Worlds work metaverse service. And it faced a shareholder revolt for investing so much in the tech.
It's unlikely that 2023 will be much better for the Metaverse. The concept is still nebulous. It’s looking for a really compelling application beyond gaming. This will surely arrive. So many talented people are working on the tech – and so much R&D money is being invested in it. Experts say the Metaverse will add $5 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
#2 - AI chat bots: from text to video?
AI has been a topic for tech communities for many years. The mainstream public have been less interested. In 2022 that all changed. Why? Because of ChatGPT, a generative AI bot gives well-written and lengthy text answers to just about any question.
In 5 days, ChatGPT had one million users. It also became the subject of articles, podcasts, radio phone ins and more. People were asking questions such as: will ChatGPT kill Google? What does it mean for school work if pupils can generate full essays from the tool? Is this the end of creativity (ChatGPT can write poems and short stories)?
ChatGPT is being updated regularly so it looks set to become more sophisticated in 2023, and to offer more intriguing features. But it’s not the only product out there. Others are working on even more dramatic ideas. For example, how about generative AI video? Imaging being able to write a few prompts into a search box in order to generate a short video reel? Imagine the implications. It could happen in 2023.
#3 - AI as a service: off the shelf AI to start a new industrial revolution?
One way to think about AI is to see it as horsepower for the brain. Two hundred years ago machines replaced horses and manpower as a way to move things and do heavy work. This produced the huge gains that make the modern world possible. AI does the same thing but for cognitive work. The machine learning algorithms in AI tools can be trained to spot patterns and arrange data in a way that would take humans years or even centuries.
But how can enterprises easily apply these features to their everyday operations? The answer is with user friendly AI-as-a-service tech. In 2023, we will start to see this proliferate across a range of verticals. There will be more no-code products, with easy drag-and-drop interfaces, that will enable any business to leverage the power of AI. The financial services industry is an early adopter, applying no-code AI to credit risk, trading algorithms and more.
#4 - Geo-digital twins: fusing geography and technology
For most of its 30 year history the digital revolution has been concerned with information and bits. But more recently the emergence of connected objects has changed the narrative. Now the smartest minds are thinking about the connection between the digital and physical worlds – and how to make ‘things’ in the real world more efficient through connectivity.
The digital twin is a good example. It is a virtual simulation of real-world processes, operations or products that designers can use to test new ideas in a digital environment. They can can recreate physical objects inside these virtual worlds, and then put them under stress safely. Companies already use digital twins to test manufacturing equipment, cars, healthcare and more.
In 2023, we could see more so-called geo-digital twin tech. More 5G launches will drive the fusion of geography and technology, which will help companies understand patterns and relationships in the physical world
#5 - Green tech: more breakthroughs in energy-saving
Much of the discussion around climate change focuses on changing people’s lifestyles. But history suggests that human beings are much better at innovating around problems than changing their habits. Huge improvements have already been made in renewable energy for example. And there are exciting developments in green hydrogen, nuclear power and battery tech too.
But for the tech industry, there is a big drive to make their existing products and processes more sustainable – and to reduce their footprint on the planet. This is a commercial opportunity. A recent report predicted the Green Technology and Sustainability Market will grow from $17.8 billion in 2022 to $60.7 billion by 2027.
How will the green tech space evolve in 2023. Well, to take one example, expect to see plenty of progress in the development of decentralized smart power networks. Smart grids have the potential to make power distribution much more efficient – reducing costs and environmental impact. There is real momentum in the space. There could be nearly 250 million of these intelligent energy devices installed in the EU alone by 2026.
#6 - Quantum computing: gathering momentum (and qubits)
Quantum computing really does seem like something that could only work in sci-fi novels. The tech uses the ‘spooky’ principles of quantum physics to compute data. Specifically is uses quantum superposition, which describes the ability of a quantum bit (qubit) to exist in an on and off state simultaneously.
But for all the strangeness of the theory, there is progress being made. In November 2022, IBM unveiled a quantum computer called Osprey. It has 433 qubits – the highest qubit count to date. Others are in the race. Microsoft, Google, Toshiba, Honeywell and others are all in the market. It’s no wonder. QC can perform astonishing computational feats.
It won’t go full-scale commercial in 2023 (GlobalData predicts that will begin in 2027), but tech progress on QC will continue to fly in 2023. IBM expects to unveil a product that can support 1,121 qubits by the end of the year.
#7 - Standalone 5G: more deployments delivering on the promise of 5G at last
During 2022 5G came of age, with one billion consumer users. But the truth is that the vast majority of these subscribers are not accessing ‘true’ 5G yet. They are connecting to non-standalone 5G networks, which use existing 4G infrastructure. Standalone 5G is different. It is based on a cloud-based virtualised core. Standalone 5G will deliver the lightning fast speeds, huge capacity and deep reach that has the power to transform existing industries – and facilitate new ones.
In 2023, standalone (SA) 5G will properly gear up. Trade body GSA says 36 operators in 21 countries and territories had launched public 5G SA networks in 2022, but that 111 are engaged in trials and partial deployments. More network launches will mean more network slicing. This will give enterprises the ability to set up high speed, low latency connections in a self-contained environment.
While private 5G mobile networks are already here, they are mostly run by large companies with significant CAPEX budgets. More public 5G SA networks will enable smaller enterprises to explore the potential of network slicing that requires little or no upfront investment.
#8 - VR, AR and extended reality: still waiting for a use case
When will extended reality (virtual reality and augmented reality) live up to the hype? Almost certainly not in 2023. Meta is all over VR with its Oculus headsets, while Google, Microsoft, Snapchat and even IKEA have tried AR.
Yet so far, most efforts have failed or have found only niche use cases. A recent report from CCS Insight revised down its market forecasts, and said just 10m devices were sold in 2022.
Many people are looking to Apple to revive the market. There have been rumors of an Apple AR headset for years. But there seems little indication that this magical device will emerge in 2023.
#9 - Cyber security: new year, new threats
Cybercrime keeps on coming. Every year the number of attacks appears to grow. In 2021, the FBI 2021 Internet Crime Study reported 847,376 complaints in the US alone. Meanwhile the Anti-Phishing Working found that in Q1 2022 there were 1,025,968 attacks — the worst quarter for phishing to date.
Unfortunately the attackers have the incentive of millions of dollars to devise new schemes. What form will they take in 2023? Well, there could be more cybercrime-as-a-service, a rise in zero-day attacks, the targeting of IoT devices in shadow IT systems, possibly the first big space tech attack and new EDR evasion techniques. See more detail on cybercrime in 2023 here.
#10 - Digital wallets: paving the way for data self-sovereignty?
Data privacy used to be a non-issue. Then small groups began to complain about it. Later, the issue went mainstream. Big companies like Apple even began to see the potential of better data privacy as a commercial feature.
In 2023, we might see a new trend come to prominence: giving people control of their own data. This concept has been around a while. The problem was always: how to make it practical. Digital wallets offer a potential solution. People can use digital wallets containing tokens (representing payment methods, ID, loyalty cards and more) to decide how much data they share with organizations. This takes the place of those organizations merely collecting that data in the background with or without consent.
The EU, for example, wants to give every citizen a set of strong digital identity credentials that will be recognised anywhere in the zone. It has already selected four proposals for large-scale pilot programmes.
#11 - Deep fake detection tools: beginning the fightback
It’s nearly two years since Tom Cruise freaked out TikTok users by performing magic tricks and practicing his golf swing. Why ‘freaked out’? Because he wasn’t Tom Cruise. He was a deep fake imitation. So-called ‘deep fake’ tech uses artificial intelligence to create convincingly lifelike photos and videos. It has very worrying implications. And concern is growing now that the software needed to create deep fakes is becoming affordable and easy to use.
That said, deep fakes often have subtle signs of manipulation, which bespoke software can sniff out. In 2023, we can expect better detection tools to emerge.