This blog is part of our Tech In Review: 21-22 report series. Head to the hub to access the reports, insight and analysis. This article is written by journalist Elliot Mulley-Goodbarne.
The hunt for innovation in 2022 may well be the most competitive we have seen for a long time.
After a year and a half of lockdowns, tight consumer budgets and knock on effects from the pandemic, CES may be one of the more interesting conventions of the year, as a barometer for what we can expect in the near future.
In consumer electronics, new features are likely to come in the form of quicker processors and better screens, with the exception coming in mobile where folding devices continue to capture the industry’s imagination.
On the enterprise side, technology innovation this year has largely come in the form of integrations into collaboration platforms and enabling businesses to continue to do all their everyday tasks from the comfort of their kitchen table.
What does innovation look like in 2022?
Such a question can be difficult to answer. Given the very nature of innovative ideas, we don’t realise what is around the corner until it comes screeching towards us.
But there is a trend in the way these companies present themselves which I find interesting. In almost all cases of new kids on the block, the idea that drives them is challenging the way we use the technology available to us.
If you look at Slack for example, a platform that I initially scoffed at when it was first introduced, the platform was bought by Salesforce for $27.7 billion and has changed the way we interact with each other in professional settings.
But changes in the market have also helped Slack’s popularity. A look ahead to the next 12 months can’t really go without a mention of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced great swathes of the world’s population into a lockdown and ignited a revolution for collaboration, communication and cloud technology adoption.
Such revolutions have meant that virtual meetings are now one of the most popular ways to communicate and, as a result, the technology around cameras and audio has improved. Ideas like spatial audio that mimics a meeting room environment show great promise as it alleviates Zoom fatigue from the users and doesn’t necessarily require a hardware technology change.
Analysis is another key area for growth in 2022. In regulated industries, one of the more time consuming and expensive parts of compliance is reviewing every meeting. Now that we can have back to back meetings every day, these recordings have grown but the teams reviewing them have not. Therefore technology that sifts through recordings, transcribes them and picks out potential infringements is a huge time saver.
What challenges are in the way?
But where the market giveth the market can also taketh away. Over the next year we should have some clarity on how the US government is going to try to improve social media companies, and whether Apple will have to add payment options aside from those that they can profit from on their iOS devices.
Although these will mainly affect the larger businesses, there are knock on effects on smaller companies. How will advertising on social media be affected? If businesses require an application, will the way they pay to be part of the platform change?
The relationship between those larger conglomerates and the innovative challengers will also be tested. In the last year we have seen two key examples of tech companies flexing their financial muscles to box out opponents. Apple has brought its AirTags product to consumers that directly competes with Tile and, in fact, betters it with the use of the iPhone network that can pinpoint any items more accurately. Tile has access to this network but at a cost, namely all it’s location data, which would, in essence, eliminate any competitive advantage it had.
Similarly, Microsoft Teams became a no-brainer to adopt for millions of businesses around the world, due to the fact that the collaboration platform is rolled in with an Office 365 subscription. This is something that Slack have taken to the European Competitions Court but, similarly to Tile, Slack can integrate within Teams however it’s customers would still be using it’s number one competitor which is counter productive.
What should we look out for in 2022?
As I said before, innovation is hard to spot but the markers are there in certain industries.
In automotive, for example, the popularity of Tesla has seen a huge shift in the market to electric and hybrid vehicles, with all of the major manufacturers announcing electric versions of their cars.
Ford has introduced an electric mustang range which, although maybe not innovative, shows the way the market is going. The fact that popular car brands are not winning the war on range is also a marker of the room for new entrants.
That’s what to look for, where there are gaps, someone will fill it. There are currently holes in automotive, enterprise and energy sectors, to name but three, that are yet to be filled. It’s only once you look inside we can see who is making the most progress.