6G will be the talk of the town, AI will extend its applications, the mass roll out of mission-critical communications will help first responders work better and save more lives and cybersecurity will remain one of the hottest technology trends in 2023 and beyond, and we better take it seriously.
It’s impossible to look ahead without thinking of the past. As we look to the coming year trying to predict what’s ahead of us in the world of technology, 2022 casts a shadow of such magnitude that we simply can’t ignore it. However, if we are to forget for a moment about the daunting realities of life, technology once again enjoyed a quiet revolution in 2022. Did I say revolution? Nonsense, it was evolution.
In the grand scheme of things, iPhone 14 is just another Apple product. Yet this is the first mass-produced communications device that doesn’t have a SIM slot. iPhone 14 is equipped with eSIM, and the bare mention of it makes every service provider cringe. Of course, the “SIM without the card” concept has been around awhile, but it was the year 2022 when it first made its way into a mass-produced cellular phone.
The same iPhone 14 is equipped with satellite communication technology which allows someone to send an emergency text message when cellular or Wi-Fi networks are not available. Yes, this is not a phone call, but to have such a feature in a regular smartphone is nothing short of amazing. And the list of amazing advances in technology doesn’t stop with the iPhone’s embedded sat tech.
So, let’s look at technology evolutions for 2023 and beyond.
#1: 6G is closer than you think
We are still in a midst of implementing 5G, but progress is slow and uneven around the world. It is progress nevertheless with 233 5G networks versus 699 LTE networks globally available as of the middle of 2022. 5G technology seems to be slowly clinching onto the Slope of Enlightenment in terms of the famous Gartner curve. Obviously, it is time for the next network technology to come into play, and that is 6G and will be the talk of the town.
Cellular (mobile might be a better word) networks came into existence a mere 43 years ago (Japan, 1979). Today, mobile networks are a blood line to the world tying and enabling everything together. As new network technologies appear such as 6G, they are expected to solve all the problems with all the networks technologies before them.
While designing future 6G networks, the process which has been under way for the past three/four years, it is not only ever increasing bandwidth and speed that we are concerned about – reliability, full unrestricted coverage, thousand miles or five feet of cement apart, affordability, inclusion, security – hundreds of other requirements are in play and have to be considered. In just five/seven years, 6G networks are expected to make their debut, so 6G and its infrastructure is really closer than we think.
#2: AI – ready or not …
Did Matrix – the science fiction action film – spell out our fate back in 1999? Who knows, but get ready. Artificial intelligence is here. Should you be scared? We can’t answer that. We can only say that it is a technology evolution. We know about the evolution of humankind from primates to Homo sapiens, but we are now living through an evolution of artificial intelligence and machine learning. It seems to be unnoticed unless you think about it. Have you noticed that your email client – Yahoo, Outlook, etc. – is unpretentiously giving you suggestions what is the next word or a phrase you might want to write in your email? And quite often, they are not bad suggestions! If you have not noticed this yet, you really should. And if you have … you’ll know that this is a prime example of the evolutionary capabilities of AI.
If AI can help you writing better email, think about all other possibilities, especially in the IP communications space. For example, think of AI being able to negotiate the bandwidth and priority of your communication based on the nature of your, let’s say, phone call? Or two cars negotiating lane priority based on your programmed trip information? We are only at the beginning of the AI journey, and we can expect smaller, almost unnoticeable evolutionary developments in 2023.
#3: Broadband mission-critical communications
The year 2023 will see the continued evolution of broadband-based mission-critical communications. Change is never easy. Trusted radio is essential and reliable in the day to day operations of millions of first responders, utility and transportation workers around the world. It is the humble radio that allows you to listen and speak with others. But in today’s connected world, it is important to go beyond simple communications technology. With mission-critical broadband, you can get so much more – the ability to securely talk to anyone across the room or across the country, send video, text and instant messages, as well as image and location sharing, interactive maps, integration with the Internet of Things, AI assistance … The critical mass adoption of broadband mission-critical communications will continue to increase in 2023, one network at a time, one agency at a time, one country at a time – no matter what the pace, expect to hear about all the lives saved because of mission-critical communications technology.
#4: Digital transformation
The Digital Transformation trend is one of the most talked about in our industry. It is also one of the most overlooked technology trends. In many cases, digital transformation goes simply unnoticed unless you are truly focused on keeping track of it. For example, think of something as mundane as data backup. In the old days, you had to move all your important data to some form of external storage (tape, external drive, CD), and then safeguard that medium either on the site of your enterprise or externally. Today, the vast majority of companies have data backup in the cloud – load it and forget about it. This is digital transformation in action. You change the way your enterprise functions with the help of new and advanced digital tools. But any “unnoticed” digital transformation change better be noticed and accounted for – your business needs to adapt to the new, business-critical reality and make sure it is ready for new challenges. How are you going to restore your backup from the cloud when you need to? What will happen if your connectivity is down and you can’t access your cloud backup? Do you have processes in place to deal with it? Also don’t forget that with Digital Transformation whatever was not connected to the Internet now probably is. Are you ready to handle such ubiquitous connectivity?
Digital transformation is a way of life, of course. It can’t be stopped and it reaches into new areas of human enterprise and changes the way things get done. But we need to learn to be aware and not surprised. The digital transformation trend will continue in 2023 well and we can only hope that there will be widespread awareness of it.
If you want to assess the big picture of 2023 technology trends, then cybersecurity might be considered the flipside of digital transformation. In the distant past, when you had all your important company records stored in a file cabinet under lock and key, the security of all your critical data was as good as the lock on the door – to get to your records, someone had to physically get to your file cabinet and get through that lock. Of course, to do any work with those records, an employee had to be physically in the office with the proper key, and placed records back in the cabinet under lock once a task was completed.
Putting your records on the computer which in turn is connected to the internet (digital transformation!) was a great advancement – employees didn’t have to be physically in the office and were able to access the data from anywhere. The problem now is that such access is not limited to any one employee. Now your data is a target for hackers and anyone with internet access and malicious intent such as a disgruntled employee with a password. All of a sudden, your main concern is not physical security, but rather Cybersecurity – the ability to protect from any and all types of remote attacks.
It goes well beyond just an enterprise data. Think of the billions of sensors and devices, cars, trucks, whole plants happily connected to the internet. Your phone line, your caller id, your email system, medical records, your customer service bot. All of it needs to be protected, and protected really well. As digital transformation widens its reach to new business areas and enables greater convenience for all those new businesses, cybersecurity goes hand in hand with it, loudly asking to be addressed with the ever increasing set of needs and requirements. Cybersecurity will continue to be one of the hottest technology trends in 2023 and beyond, and we better take it seriously.
#6: Blockchain and crypto
Blockchain and crypto have been news for over 20 years, so what’s really new? 2023 is all about evolution, remember? One of the issues with Crypto is the share of resources it is consuming. Energy which is consumed by the bitcoin miners is on par with the amount of energy a small European country would consume (think of Portugal, for example). Ethereum finally solved that energy problem by changing the trust foundation from energy-hungry “proof-of-work” to energy-efficient “proof-of-stake”. As Ethereum largely considered an enabling engine behind Web3, it is an important development which will help to accelerate the progress in Web3 and related areas.
And then the blockchain, the foundation of all crypto world, continues to advance beyond just the monetary space. Gaming is one of the new frontiers for the blockchain, helping players to ensure the ownership of the artefacts they acquire while actively playing the game (weapons, furniture, land what have you). When you’re done playing one game, and start playing another, blockchain allows you to take your possessions with you and use them in a new game. Such applications are still in its infancy, but we are sure they will become the talk of the world in the near future.
#7: Extended reality
Oh, how do we love the new reality! Or maybe we don’t. No matter – this is something everyone loves to talk about with full authority. Web3, distributed applications, decentralized applications, blockchain, NFT and Metaverse. Did we mention all of the latest and exciting trends? Don’t worry, more of “what’s important” will be invented or researched, and of course all of it is supposed to change our lives (nobody knows if for the better, though). But before this happens for real, we can group all of these “life-changing” technologies under one simple moniker – an extended reality. Undertakings such as Metaverse are promising to change our daily reality, extend it to include the experiences we couldn’t have before or couldn’t have any other way. Will Metaverse be built successfully? Can extended reality be fully expressed in the form of computer algorithms? The great thing about research is that the research itself never fails – whether the desired result is obtained or not is not so important, as research is a learning process, and thus whether we will achieve the result or not, we will still learn something. And this is something you can count on for 2023 – extended reality research will continue to be extended.
The year 2023 will be one of technology evolution and not revolution. Speaking mostly in acronyms, 6G, AI, MCX, DT, Cyber, and ER are still only the tip of the technology iceberg. We didn’t talk about mesh networks, satellite communications, edge computing, supercomputing – the technology evolution has a life of its own … it just never stops, and evolves!
Anatoli Levine is Director of Products and Standards for Softil, Ltd., responsible for developing strategy and product roadmap for Softil’s portfolio of enabling products for developers, including technologies such as Mission-Critical Communications (MCX) over LTE and 5G, WebRTC, VoLTE/ViLTE/RCS, SIP, IMS and many others. Mr. Levine actively participates in the development of open international communication standards at industry bodies such as 3GPP, ETSI, IETF and other SDOs.
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