Technology change has always been about people. And in 2022, that will be truer than ever in the era of hybrid work. I predict the biggest trends in tech will be about the new ways in which we work, connect, create, and support one another—and how technology will enable them.
Tech change accelerated during the pandemic, as we quickly adapted to unexpected challenges. But this year, I think we’ll be taking things to the next level. That will mean creating digital experiences that are more immersive, inclusive, secure, and simple to use than ever before.
Here are what I believe will be the most impactful technology trends over the next 12 months.
1. COLLABORATION WITH PHOTO-REALISTIC HOLOGRAMS
Imagine having dinner with a friend or colleague who’s 10,000 miles away, but appears for all intents and purposes to be sitting across the table. Holographic technologies can make that a reality. Despite all the talk about the unreal metaverse, I believe people want an experience that’s more real. And unlike a metaverse avatar, hologram technologies project a hyper-real, three-dimensional representation of you and your dinner partner that transcends geographic barriers.
At the same time, holograms can transform collaboration in the business world. A design prototype, for example, could be viewed from all angles by real-time collaborators who appear all-but-physical—even if they are from different continents. I expect this trend to begin driving real-world use cases in 2022, while giving us a clear picture of what’s to come in collaboration.
2. THE INVISIBLE USER INTERFACE
Complexity is the enemy of progress, especially when it comes to user interfaces. As brands and vendors continue to pile on new capabilities, consumers can reach a saturation point. So, rather than adding new features, I expect smart designers to subtract them. At least as far as we can see. Because many of those new features will be invisible.
As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to transform industries and technologies in myriad ways, we won’t even have to think about those features, even to switch them on. The technology will just “know.” Hybrid work is one example. Our collaboration platforms will likely be able to anticipate our needs in new ways, enabling even smoother, seamless, and intuitive interactions, from anywhere and with anyone—with everything from automatic noise reduction to real-time translations.
3. PLATFORM TO PLATFORM, WITHOUT A HITCH
Today, many consumers want the freedom to move from one platform, product, or experience to another, with zero friction. So, no company can innovate in a vacuum. I believe the most successful tech companies will understand this dynamic and build interoperability into all their offerings. Because people will care only how easily and effectively technology works, not where it comes from.
The pandemic highlighted the importance of simplicity and ease of operation. In 2022, I expect to see even greater integration across multiple platforms, apps, and services.
4. A SHIFT TO MULTI-CLOUD SECURITY PLATFORMS
Given the mounting complexity of cybersecurity in a multi-cloud world, I see a major shift from point solutions to consolidated platforms in 2022. With the sheer number of security vendors in the market, this will greatly simplify security—as well as policy and governance—for many organizations. I also expect this streamlined, integrated approach to security to raise the relevance of the major security platform players, including Cisco (the company I work for), Microsoft, Zscaler, Palo Alto Networks, and CrowdStrike.
5. MIXED MODE FOR A DIVERSE, GLOBAL, AND FLEXIBLE WORKFORCE
The “great resignation” has driven home that people want to work in new ways, and the traditional 9-5 model will never fully return. That doesn’t just mean giving people the option to work at home a few days a week. It means creating a work experience that’s exceptional—in the office, at home, or in a mountain village on another continent. To the point where there’s simply no difference in how or from where you choose to work. Because human potential is global, but so far, at least, opportunity is not.
In 2022, I expect great collaboration tools and innovation to continue to drive the global culture change that brings us closer to an ideal in which the playing field for opportunity around the world is leveled.
6. THE SKILLS GAP WIDENS, BUT SOLUTIONS LOOM
In cybersecurity alone, there are nearly 500,000 unfilled jobs, and I expect that number to rise. An obvious solution is to simply train more people for cybersecurity jobs. That means making these skills available to a more diverse pool of potential talent.
Online platforms, like the Networking Academy we offer at Cisco, are likely to reach many more people in overlooked and underserved regions. But we can further close these gaps by simplifying and automating technology, thereby eliminating many onerous and time-consuming manual tasks in security and IT. AI will need to play an increasing role in this evolution, especially in security.
On the leadership front, I expect to see more women executives in technology in 2022. I’d like to see more people of color as well, but I fear that may take longer. That said, changes are ahead in 2022, particularly in the ways we work, connect, create, and support one another, and technology is driving these evolutions.
Jeetu Patel, EVP and General Manager, Security & Collaboration, Cisco