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Second Life Wimbledon, sponsored by IBM/LTA
Second Life_Wimbledon_IBM/LTA

Stagnation and hype: Tech predictions for 2022


Bill Mew looks back at the past year and shares his reflections on some of the technology lessons learned as he looks ahead to 2022.

5th Jan 2022
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A year ago, in my tech review of 2020 I asked, “Did we change course, change speed, or both?” I  predicted there would be little real change and that the same themes of AI, 5G, cloud, privacy and cybersecurity would continue to persist.

The pandemic may have caused progress to speed up or slow down in certain areas, but the overall direction of travel remained the same.

I would say this prediction came true and that we are still heading in the same direction, but if anything during the continued pandemic, progress has slowed and possibly even actually stagnated. There is a reason for this. For some time the consumer tech sector has been dominated by Apple and Google on the device side and by Google and Facebook on the services side.

As more and more businesses migrated to cloud services, the enterprise tech sector has been dominated by the public cloud giants like AWS and Microsoft. This kind of Big Tech market dominance is why there has been stagnation and why innovation has been limited. It is also why we are in a world where politics and regulation have captured the headlines.

2021: Year of ignoring rules

After the 2020 pandemic panic and lockdowns, by 2021 we were accustomed to working from home, but also somewhat tired of the restrictions on our liberties. Even those who did not rebel against vaccines, masks and lockdowns started yearning for a partial return to normality. In addition to protests, a growing level of defiance made restrictions progressively more difficult to impose.

Rule-breaking was not just restricted to societal unrest. It also became a wider theme in tech with large corporations brushing aside repeated fines and defying regulators in an ongoing spree of privacy incidents. Meanwhile cyber criminals continued to whip up a storm of security breaches and ransomware attacks, with apparent impunity.

Some regulators have now been implicated in the rule breaking and were accused of being complicit in aspects of the data abuse. The Irish DPA not only appeared to turn a blind eye to GDPR breaches by Big Tech firms, but actually coached Facebook, one of the worst offenders, as they lobbied for favourable reforms.

Meanwhile the Government and HMRC appear to be breaking all the rules of common sense. Not only are they floundering with Making Tax Digital (MTD), but they are embarking on a new digital identity program when it is far from clear that a new system is needed or that they are taking the right approach.

A year of metaverse hype

We have all lived through various waves of 3D hype. There was much hype around 3D TVs. Pundits predicted that 3D TVs would be the central entertainment medium in every living room. This future was always just out of sight and 3D TVs remained a regular prediction for a number of years, until reality finally set in. Ugly 3D glasses that were uncomfortable and provided an experience with limited added value to a limited array of material.

The next wave of hype was for 3D printing. Again, every home and business was about to get one. Having built and programmed one myself, I can attest to how difficult it all was. There are niche applications where 3D printing has been embraced, but like second hand 3D TVs, there is little demand for used 3D printers. Until the price and usability improve dramatically, they will remain a thing of the future.

The latest wave of hype is for the 3D metaverse (with our old friends at Facebook seeking to rebrand as Meta). Again we will see vast investments in early prototypes and expensive advertising campaigns. However, I suspect that when I am asked in twelve months time to review the year in tech yet again, I will be remarking on a great deal of noise and not much progress. I predict though that the metaverse hype will continue on nevertheless - for a few years to come, at least, accompanied by another 3D sequence: doubt, delusion and disappointment.

What’s so new about the metaverse?

I have the advantage of experience, having been here before. In 2007 while in charge of promoting IBM’s sponsorship of Wimbledon, I hosted a press conference in Second Life, the 3D metaverse of the time. The scene was a tennis court, pictured above, with an animated ball passing backwards and forwards across an artificial court mirroring exactly what was happening on centre court.

Avatars representing members of the press representatives appeared courtside alongside avatars created for the Wimbledon CEO, the head of sports science at the Lawn Tennis Asssociation and one of the men’s top 10. It was quite an event. Amid the hype, millions of pounds were invested in vast and intricate infrastructure in Second Life. Now little more than a historical footnote, Second Life limps on in almost total obscurity.

On a more positive note, we will see further enhancements in less high profile areas. Early in the New Year I will focus on how collaboration, integration and automation will start to change the way that we work.

To date we have seen a level of in-silo integration, with accounting solutions all integrating with the main accounting platforms like Sage or Xero. In the next phase we will see more cross-silo integration with CRM and collaboration packages becoming better integrated with accounting applications and other business solutions in the cloud. This will come hand in hand with greater automation and efficiency.

While it is all too tempting to use WhatsApp for client communications, the lack of an audit trail or corporate-wide integration, represents a significant risk for all advisory professions. We may not be fined $200m for conducting business on WhatsApp as JPMorgan Chase has been, but if a client disputes or misinterprets any advice we give then tamperproof records will be essential.

Predictions are always risky, but I’m fairly sure that this time next year we will still be talking about the Metaverse, but with little to show for all the hype, while many of us will have made steady progress starting to integrate and automate more, with many moving away from WhatsApp for client communications having become aware of the risks involved.

Replies (2)

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By Hugo Fair
05th Jan 2022 18:00

So, to summarise, what matters (and actually happens) is driven by real needs (personal or business) not the technology (bleeding-edge though it may be!) ... and the rest is hype. Well who knew?!?

It must have been fun at your Wimbledon event in 2007. I'd have enjoyed it as either an observer or a participant ... but not as an investor. And that's what most of us are - even if the investment is indirect via business infrastructure etc.

Thanks (2)
By rememberscarborough
06th Jan 2022 09:56

There is a school of thought that our current "reality" is already part of a game akin to the likes of the Truman Show. Maybe the real reason 3D technology has always been so bad is that they don't want us realising this....

Thanks (1)