The big tech developments to watch out for in 2022
We’ve all lived through an unpredictable couple of years, but in the fast-moving and ever-changing technology world, it’s important to look ahead and consider what we think might be the major developments coming down the line over the next 12 months.
Our Chief Technology Officer, Sachin Jogia, joined Ofcom last year from Amazon and is responsible for leading our emerging technology and innovation work. Here’s what he thinks are developments to watch in the technology world over the course of 2022.
5G rollout and take-up in the UK will continue at pace
Today, only around 10% of mobile handsets in the UK are set up to receive a 5G signal. However, as the way we live and work becomes increasingly more digitalised, demand for 5G connections will grow significantly. Anyone with a 5G-ready phone and within a 5G coverage area will be able to stream ultra-high-definition content on the move. We expect up to 30% of mobile devices in the UK will be able to use 5G by the end of the year.
On a related note, we’ll see many mobile devices launched this year that make the most of 5G networks’ performance. These will enable people to participate in virtual worlds, the metaverse and more virtual reality (VR) experiences on the go, without being tied down to their home Wi-Fi.
Open RAN will make further headlines in 2022
Open RAN has been compared to Lego, since it allows telecoms operators to ‘mix and match’ different elements from multiple suppliers to build their networks, instead of only using components provided by a single supplier. Open RAN also allows network software to be moved away from bespoke and expensive hardware, to become cloud-native and installed on common, off-the-shelf computer hardware.
All of this combines to encourage competition and innovation among suppliers, which in turn could help to deliver an improved 5G experience at a lower price for consumers. Open RAN also provides the opportunity for companies and organisations to build their own private networks, transforming the way they operate and do business.
Transformation of TV platforms
TV platforms will bring broadcast and the online world closer together, giving people easier access to broadcast, catch-up and video-on-demand services through a single service. This will allow simpler switching between how content is delivered to viewers depending on their needs and the capabilities of the technology they’re using. Channels will be able to introduce new and innovative features, including more personalised TV experiences.
Enabling audiences to personalise their TV experiences
We’ll see an increase in the use of ‘object-based media’. This is when broadcast content is distributed as a series of parts which are assembled at the receiver to meet users’ needs, and personalise content more effectively - an early example of this was TV subtitling. But content producers will now, for example, be able to distribute audio that allows people using their existing TV’s to re-balance background sound and dialogue, adjust the level and position of commentary, choose a second language and to add optional on-screen text and graphics. All giving people a much richer, more personalised TV viewing experience. For example, for those that are hard of hearing, their TV can automatically switch a presenter from a speaking one to a signing one.
Ways of listening to radio and audio continue to get smarter
Consumption of radio and other audio services will increase on new and existing smart home devices and, significantly, on integrated and connected car systems, with the opportunity for broadcasters to develop and integrate more personalised content for listeners using these methods to hear their favourite content.
Explore the metaverse – new online worlds start opening up
Tech giants Meta, Sony and Apple have all unveiled new hardware to be released this year that will allow users to participate in virtual worlds. Rapid developments in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology could increase adoption as headsets become lighter and more powerful. Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta’s intention to refocus on developing the Metaverse.
While some of this technology already exists and has been adopted by some audiences, developments in tech within this area will reduce some of the barriers to a fully immersive experience, and may deliver more exciting and useful services for consumers.
An increase in synthetic media and deepfakes
Developments in machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and general adversarial networks (GANs) will make it easier to produce ‘synthetic media’, which is media created using completely automated methods. Imagine movies being made with synthetic Hollywood actors, effectively without them having to be present in the studio – in the way Keanu Reeves describes.
However, this could also give rise to an increase in ‘deepfakes’, which are a type of synthetic media that manipulate or swap people’s likenesses in video form, to make it appear as though somebody is appearing in a way that hasn’t actually happened. Deepfakes do pose a safety risk, as they can be used maliciously such as in cyber-attacks, or in hostile actions by nation states.
Safety and regulatory technology
Online safety will increase in profile, as the Online Safety Bill enters Parliament later this year. With this increased focus on safety, a market has opened for technology to provide tools to make sure platforms and content comply with the new and incoming regulations. This is a sub-set of the wider regulation technology market, which has traditionally focused on financial regulatory requirements and provides the means to automate required tasks to ensure compliance. There is a real opportunity to let technology help us innovate our way into protecting children and the vulnerable online.
Smarter charging for home devices?
I’ve also got one, final green prediction – and that’s a growth in the range of consumer devices that use energy-harvesting technology to reduce our impact on the environment. Samsung, for example, unveiled a TV remote at CES this year that can charge using ambient Wi-Fi radio waves, and I expect other companies to launch devices this year that will use the same principles.
This technology will offer a new way of charging low-powered electronics such as TV remotes, car keys and personal electronic trackers. It will mean people won’t need to charge these devices as often using mains electricity or by frequently replacing batteries - potentially helping to reduce the environmental impacts associated with those devices. Imagine a time where you never need to rummage around for spare batteries because your remote, favourite electronic toy or car keys recharged themselves with the ‘spare’ and ambient Wi-Fi power travelling through the home!