The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies in almost every industry sector. Investments in digital transformation, in fact, are projected to surpass $1.8T by the end of 2022, and over $2.8T by 2025.
Following are six areas of innovation that are already impacting, or are soon likely to impact, how business is managed and accomplished in our increasingly digital world:
1. Cybersecurity. As organizations deal with the risks and vulnerabilities posed by digital transformation, cybersecurity is required to continue to advance to keep pace with continually evolving and increasingly sophisticated cybercrime methods. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA) can help detect malware and ransomware. For instance, advanced algorithms are aiding in tighter security, especially when combined with automation tools.
2. Wireless 5G technology. 5G is a prerequisite for our continued digital transformation, with global 5G smartphone subscriptions anticipated to reach 1B in 2022, and over 3B by 2026. 5G allows for 10-20 times higher data speeds, significantly greater device connectivity, and a greatly improved user experience with little to no lag times. 5G is also essential for supporting the continued advancement of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), which are destined to be game changers for how we work, live, and play.
As an example of 5G’s value, manufacturing companies are utilizing it to create “smarter” factories that use sensors, mobile robots, advanced automated tracking, and wireless connection of machines for greater productivity, accuracy, and cost efficiency. As another example, in the logistics and transportation sectors, containers, cars, cranes, and ships can seamlessly connect to one another on 5G to provide greater visibility throughout the end-to-end shipment and delivery process. And in retail, smart screens and the omnichannel customer buying experience will be greatly enhanced through 5G.
3. Artificial intelligence. Already a component of the aforementioned cybersecurity, AI’s footprint is much broader and with equally deep impact in other business areas, with the market projected to reach over $126B by 2025. At a high level, AI-based business tools allow organizations to forecast more precisely, in turn helping to improve operations, project sales and revenue more accurately, and recognize market trends much faster.
4. Natural language processing. Centered on interactions between computers and the human language, NLP is one of the most interesting and widely used AI technologies (think Siri and Alexa virtual assistants as well-known examples). However, NLP is still formative, and as advancements continue, companies will create machines with the ability to engage with humans in a way that will disrupt multiple aspects of our business and personal lives in ways many might currently deem unimaginable.
5. Metaverse. The virtual world where people can work, play, and interact with one another through immersive online experiences will continue to see its popularity and sophistication grow. AR/VR gaming and digital marketplaces that include livestream shopping, virtual art galleries, and digital real estate (the latter alone surpassing over $500M in 2021 and expected to more than double to over $1B in 2022) will continue to expand and integrate with social networks over the next several years. Again, AI and ML technologies will assist with powering the metaverse forward.
6. Web3. Something of a rebrand of blockchain technology, Web3 offers benefits to businesses and individuals, including complete ownership of data, the ability to allow users access to their data across multiple apps, and full data encryption allowing for enhanced security and greater transparency. Decentralized systems enabled by Web3 are also benefiting creators and artists who can leverage non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to market their products for fair earnings, shared ownership, and autonomy. As the “creator” economy grows along with Web3, more people will be enabled to build and create.
As digital transformation continues to disrupt how we do business, organizations must be constantly aware of new technologies in order to learn what to adapt and when, as it makes the most sense for their organizational roadmap and vision.
Of these technologies, advanced cybersecurity solutions are already a “must have” to ensure full customer data protection. Other technologies, such as 5G and AI/ML, are also becoming more widely available and may soon join the category of innovations that organizations must integrate in order to thrive from a competitive and customer satisfaction perspective.
While the universal hope is that the pandemic will one day be an event of the past, the effects of the digital transformation it helped catalyze will certainly remain with us and continue to inspire future forward momentum and innovation.