By Luca Rossi
As we look optimistically ahead to 2022, we reflect on all that we have learned over the last year in the pandemic and forecast how those insights will impact the technology trends of tomorrow.
We see a bright future ahead – one with more solutions for hybrid work models and a focus on technology as a force for good.
- Work-from-home becomes work-from-anywhere:
Last year we predicted the work-from-home phenomenon would accelerate. We have been focused on mobility, user and customer experience over the last few years, as we expected the momentum around distributed workforces to continue to build, but in the future, we will become smarter and more flexible about it. We see remote work becoming hybrid and work-from-home becoming work-from-anywhere as people and companies continue to think beyond the office. Lenovo research shows that 83% of IT leaders expect at least half of work in the future to happen outside a traditional office. As the next reality continues to take shape, technology will play a pivotal role in creating efficiencies and opportunities that transform our work and our lives, including:
- We will see more products, solutions and services designed for the employee experience, considering the office as a destination for collaboration, while protecting the sense of personal space people have experienced by working from home. New office designs and audio/video technology will pave the way for flexible meeting setups and new ways to build social connections.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to benefit us, though we predict that its ability to remove background noises like barking dogs, ambulance sirens and the neighbor’s lawnmower during video calls may be among its lesser-known contributions to the future of collaboration.
- Augmented reality (AR) will create immersive workplaces for employees no matter where they are, with innovations such as ThinkReality A3 Smart Glasses that can create interactive training experiences, multi-screen environments, and enhanced productivity.
- Other emerging technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), natural language processing, spatial audio, sensors, world-facing cameras and Lenovo’s smart collaboration suite of tools, will continue to change how employees interact with technology and one another, transforming the concept of “workplace” and “workforce” in ways that allow them to integrate seamlessly and succeed as one.
- More companies will shift spending to improve IT infrastructure. They will lean on outsourced and managed services increasingly secured through Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) IT acquisition models to support their teams as they try to keep up with digital transformation and increased demands. This will give rise to consumption-driven pay-as-you-go options for solutions that allow customers to focus on business outcomes while shifting the system-level support to a vendor or cloud service provider. Last year, we predicted that DaaS would grow based on cost savings, but this year, we see reducing complexity as the top driver for as-a-service and managed service model adoption.
- Go ahead, forget your passwords:
We have moved from everyone using their favorite passwords, to every app forcing frequent password updates, which no one remembers. Soon, however, a world without passwords, which are inherently vulnerable, will somewhat paradoxically keep us safer and our data more secure. After all, for passwords to be effective, they must be kept secret, yet for them to be used, they must be shared. If there are no alpha numeric strings to create, remember, hold tight, and recreate on a regular basis, then they cannot be stolen through phishing or in transit on the internet. They can’t be bought and sold, and giant repositories of them can’t be hacked. Further risk due to password sharing, reuse, and human error will disappear, as well.
Instead, seamless authentication will be driven by AI and improved sensor technology. Near-term, public key infrastructure (PKI)-based device security, like those used today to access our mobile banking applications, and multifactor authentication (MFA), will continue to shrink reliance on passwords for application and device access. Biometrics, like fingerprint, face, iris, and voice authentication, will do the security work instead. Taking a pass on conventional passwords will become one of the safest things we can do.
- Tech for Good:
As customers urge businesses for more sustainable products and practices, we see technology providing a smarter way forward, helping companies build a better future for their stakeholders – and that includes the biggest stakeholder of all: our planet.
Sustainable materials – those that can be recycled, including plastics, fibers and metals; those that can self-decompose like bioplastics; and those from more renewable sources such as bamboo – will become more readily available for product development. This will enable companies to move closer to closing the loop on product lifecycle. Recycling and supply chain optimization will become more commonplace. The rise in sustainable materials will also minimize the need for chemicals in the manufacturing process and help bring manufacturers closer to carbon neutral. The role of the IT provider will continue to transform as we build in services and solutions that help our customers offset the environmental impact of their technology and support them in reaching their own sustainability goals.
We also see new technologies, like AR/VR glasses, helping to reduce carbon footprints over time. With new capabilities that will allow remote workers to be immersed into another site or location – reducing travel and giving carbon savings – we also expect near-eye displays and head-worn sensors to help the differently abled. Using a combination of adjustable optics and magnification can help people who are nearsighted interact with their PCs and smartphones more comfortably. These displays will also react to voice and motion sensors that will allow interaction without the need for any motor skills. Separately, with the rise of flexible work, we expect to see technology enabling major shifts in how and where people live, work and engage with their communities. Knowledge workers once tethered to large cities will be able to work from anywhere. Companies also have the opportunity to rethink and expand their corporate citizenship efforts by providing resources and time to employees inclined to work and give back in remote locations.
- Monitors are (finally) having a moment:
Monitors are finally getting the attention they deserve. In fact, the monitor will soon have all the features necessary to be the next central hub for the office and home (not to mention the home office).
Through cutting-edge hardware and intuitive software solutions embedded into a display, users will be able to seamlessly multitask through single and multi-display window controls. At the same time, monitors will offer easy remote asset management for IT managers and customer service representatives.
And, with 5G or Wi-Fi 6, the future of monitors – with higher resolution, new aspect ratios and built-in tech to reduce eye strain – will be faster, wireless, reducing desktop mess and offering new possibilities for a thinner, more compact design. This is especially important as people increase the number of monitors they use. Monitors will also complement additional form factors beyond PCs and extend functionality to support devices such as smartphones and gaming consoles.
- Fold them and hold them:
As we begin to rely on monitors even more as part of our Work from Anywhere setups, portable and foldable options will become more ubiquitous, allowing us to set up shop almost anywhere we want. The promise of OLED technology makes it easy to fold, bend or roll a screen so that it is portable and convenient.
While we have seen some promising applications of the technology over the last year, as we noted in 2021, we would, we now expect the market to explode, with some analysts predicting 500 percent growth in the flexible display market over the next five years.
Mobile devices will continue to fuel the trend, but we will see flexible displays come to other devices as demand lowers the price point. Expect more flexible display options across smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops, as well as new applications on digital signage, public transport and smart home appliances.
- Inputs Get More Intuitive:
When computers were developed, everything was new and revolutionary: operating systems, monitors, mice and so on. Each opened up new opportunities and possibilities that most had not considered before. Except one thing wasn’t new and, in fact, hasn’t evolved that much at all: the keyboard remains the primary input method.
Alternative methods of input, however, are finally catching up. We will soon see more than an evolution, but a transformation in computing inputs not only in their form, but in their function, with more touch-intuitive interfaces; pens complete with haptic feedback for more tactile experiences; and voice-to-text features becoming defining characteristics of the new “keyboard.”
Even more revolutionary, in some cases, keyboards as we know them will disappear entirely and in many cases, keyboards just won’t be necessary anymore as advanced on-screen keyboards (OSK) with haptic capabilities and predictive artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) become more mainstream. Soon we will see AI learning the user and crafting text and communications with just a few key words as inputs. These redefining characteristics will unleash new ways to communicate, collaborate and create across disciplines, from business to education and beyond. This will allow our mind, and the speed at which it works, to be the conduit through which our ideas are expressed, not our fingers and the words-per-minute they can type.
- Health is wealth:
For the past two years we have been predicting accelerated use of telehealth. We got that right. If anything, implementation of telehealth options has moved forward at warp speed due to the pandemic. What was missing then and what’s new now is the growing acceptance by both consumers and healthcare professionals of these options. Patients and healthcare professionals are no longer as hesitant in using telehealth, they are embracing it. That is why we expect to see the healthcare landscape continuing to move toward a digital model, especially as wearables, voice assistants and increased connectivity become the norm. Health insurance will get more affordable, predictive models will allow for preventive medicine, and proactive recommendations from wearable devices will lead to better health outcomes.
As patients adopt these technologies, health care professionals, assisted by AI, also will be able to provide the personalized, virtual assistance to patients they need to continue to adopt telehealth – and provide it with more accuracy and better outcomes. We’ll begin to see virtual care penetrating more into remote inpatient hospital rounding care and remote home-based care, which will enhance patient access and, as importantly, make it far easier and commonplace to monitor their vitals, improve their compliance and educate them on health and lifestyle issues. Healthcare workers will benefit, as well, with more efficient clinical workflows, evaluation tools and workstation solutions.
Finally, progress in AI technology development will continue to drive a more personalized healthcare experience by advancing precision medicine and targeted drugs. In pharmaceuticals, for example, researchers can better target drug therapies by applying AI analytics to genomic sequencing, medical sensors, electronic health records (EHR) and other data from individuals with the same diagnosis. This will allow healthcare professionals to identify subsets of patients with similar genetic defects and, in turn, improve outcomes by developing drugs specific to these patients’ needs.
- Ambient computing surrounds us all:
The IoT will continue to mature as device manufacturers refine user inputs. Natural language processing (NLP) and multi-lens enrichment will change the user experience as we know it. Multiple devices will respond, in concert, with one voice query. And, as sensors improve, experiences will become richer with greater opportunity to interact with the device, but also to accomplish old tasks in new ways—like scrolling, selecting or providing feedback to the device.
As the user interface changes, our device interactions will automatically become both more natural and more secure. And, as adoption grows, we will start to see more “connected” endpoints from the connected car to the connected city and beyond.
Last year we predicted that 5G would continue to transform personal computing. We are doubling down on that as connectivity like 5G and Wi-Fi technologies will enable even faster connection speeds so we can load the system with more without slowing it down. And nano technologies will allow device manufacturers to pack incredibly nimble antennas into new products to deliver connected products with better performance in smaller form factors.
- That’s entertainment:
As real-time rendering begins to hit the benchmark for photorealism (which is already happening), we expect new forms of interactive movies to appear where the user can choose to be part of the story and experience it from a first-person perspective. This can already be found in high-budget PC games, where the experience is largely cinematic and the user makes choices that impact the narrative. Expect more in the passive-to-interactive entertainment arena soon.
As immersive content moves to the small screen, we will also see the rise of affordable wearable displays to extend the PC and mobile phone experience. Not only will the displays deliver a larger screen experience as compared to a mobile phone, but users will enjoy private viewing in public. This will be the first step toward advancing the metaverse.
We also expect rollable or flexible monitors to change where and how we enjoy consumer entertainment. In the far future, we’ll likely see the emergence of rollable “pop up” monitors that offer unparalleled viewing for any space—from train to work and beyond. Users will pull the display out when needed, and then roll the device back into storage when it’s not in use. The monitors of the future will host productivity and remote collaboration but also further serve as a center of entertainment, gaming, and connecting with loved ones with the highest quality audio and video.
But wait, there’s more. We can look forward to becoming a less passive part of entertainment experiences, as TV talk shows to the latest dramedy may actually unfold – or seem to, anyway – in our own homes. Mixed-reality experiences like this will bloom.
- Game on:
Last but not least, much like general entertainment, we expect the gaming experience to become even more immersive. More portable displays and operating systems are hitting their stride with improved performance and affordability.
Recent advancements in connectivity will enable high-fidelity, low-latency graphics for more realistic gameplay that can mirror physical movements when played through a headset. This is the latest sector to cut the cord, but it will not be the last. As AR becomes more mature, players will begin to experience gaming content within their own environments. Imagine playing tennis on a real court, but from your living room. As the metaverse experience continues to expand, we foresee a big boom in gaming, socialization and shopping through this platform with more sophisticated software libraries that bring all three conveniently together in one place for more enjoyable gaming experiences.
Be patient, though. While we will make some progress toward these capabilities over the coming 12 months, it will still be a few years until we can predict with confidence that any of them are finally on the horizon.
(Luca Rossi is the President of Intelligent Devices Group, Lenovo).