Emerging technologies: are they set to transform business?

Emerging technologies; the 2020s will be the decade that they come of age. Augmented and virtual reality will transform communication, training and education. Quantum computing’s implications are at once both tremendously exciting and scary. Blockchain could transform the way we securely store and transfer records of the ownership of assets.

Emerging technologies: virtual and augmented reality

According to a report from P&S Market Research and available from Research and Markets, the global market for augmented and virtual reality is expected to reach $94.4bn by 2023. Further, augmented and virtual reality saw a market size of $14.84 billion in 2020, according to Valuates Reports, but are expected to see a combined revenue of $454.73bn by 2030. 

The revolution in the immersive reality market is led by games and other consumer applications such as leisure — with the National Museum of Singapore for example applying AR to enhance tours of its museum.

But the business applications are emerging too. Jeremy Dalton, head of metaverse technologies at PwC told Information Age that AR can be a powerful tool for training, it can “inform you how to perform a certain procedure more accurately and more easily,” he said. Kelly Goetsch, chief strategy officer at commercetools said: “VR is a great way to take tours of very expensive things before you buy them.”

There is an important difference between virtual and augmented reality. Virtual reality provides a fully immersive experience, transporting you into a new environment, divorced from your existing environment, as if you are really there. For games, education, training, maybe even for applications such as surgery, it is formidable technology. Facebook has made a big bet on virtual reality with the purchase of Oculus Rift, it is calculated that we will conduct much of our future social media in virtual space — games and social interaction moulding together.

Apple, by contrast, has argued that augmented reality — in which information, computer graphics or even digital images and video are superimposed over reality — has a bigger future.

“In a few years, we’re not going to be able to imagine our lives without [AR]. It’s that profound a platform,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said on US TV platform HBO.

Augmented reality will support long distance communication — hologram to hologram, supporting business meetings, even remote working, in which our holograms work side by side. Its implications are staggering.

The pandemic accelerated the shift to remote working, but while the debate rages on whether remote, hybrid or full-time office work is best, the augmented reality revolution moves close to a tipping point that could revolutionise remote work.

Virtual reality could also add a new dimension to remote work, for example supporting brain-storming sessions and replacing face to face communication with avatar to avatar communication replacing the serendipitous meeting by the water fountain with the serendipitous meeting in virtual space.

The stars are aligned for the augmented reality shopping revolution

The AR and VR guru at a customer experience company reckons that augmented reality shopping is set to transform the way we shop and consequently save off-line retail

Quantum computing

Quantum computing is an emerging technology for the latter years of the 2020s. The key to powerful computing is going small, but the quantum scale is really really small, atomic level and smaller — at the protons perhaps, or even quarks level. At that scale, particles behave differently — a particle can be in two places at once.

Digital computers deal in zeros and ones — either on or off. A quantum computer could theoretically deal with one, zero, both or any one of infinite possibilities in-between.

The brain does not process in zeros or ones either. It is able to operate via neurons forming synapses with other neurons, via chemical reactions, but these synapses can be of various levels of strength, in a similar way to quantum computing.

There are problems with quantum computers, to operate they normally have to be kept in extremely cold temperatures, typically minus 273 degrees, absolute zero. Quantum states can only be maintained for very short periods.

But the quantum computing world is subject to its own version of Moore’s Law: Rose’s Law, named after Geordie Rose, former CEO of D-Wave. Rose suggested that the number of qubits in a scalable quantum computer should double every year. Consider the implications: should quantum computers double in speed every year, within ten years they would see a one thousand-fold increase, and within 20-years, a million-fold increase. If they were to double in speed every six months, as some believe, their increase in power over 20 years wound be a trillion-fold.

IBM achieves highest quantum volume to date

IBM has established a roadmap for reaching quantum advantage and concluded that: for significant improvement over classical systems, the power of quantum computers must double every year

Although, quantum computers will be enormously expensive for many years, the cloud will democratise access to them.

The most well known application of quantum is of course its ability to hack into any security system — which is why a market is emerging in creating quantum ready security systems — if they are proof against quantum computers they are proof against anything.

Machine identities, Venafi, and why being quantum ready is good strategy for today, and not just when quantum computers arrive

Quantum computing maybe be a few years off, but there is more to being quantum ready than preparing for that day. It boils down to machine identities, and finding a way to automate the process of changing these identities. We spoke to Venafi’s Kevin Bocek, an expert in threat detection, encryption, digital signatures and key management. He enlightened us further.

A more spectacular use of quantum computers could be in the field of protein folding — a fundamental process in the creation of living organisms from DNA. A breakthrough in this area wound be revolutionary indeed, it could, for example, enable us to create healthcare treatments genetically customised.

However, the recent breakthrough by Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind, in which its AI algorithm AlphaFold was able to crack protein folding, without the use of a quantum computer, shows that we are not reliant on quantum computers for all cutting edge applications.

But quantum computers do not represent the sole alternative to traditional silicon integrated circuit based computes. Take, for example photonic computers, in which information is transmitted by photons (light) rather than electrons (electronics.) A company called CogniFiber claims to have developed a photonics based system which “is expected to reach a staggering speed of 100 million tasks per second.”


The third of our emerging technologies is blockchain — technology for storing a ledger on an asset, its ownership and modifications — without necessarily the need for a central authority, with the details of this ledger stored on each computer in the particular blockchain network. In this way, it’s nigh on impossible for cyber criminals to change a ledger, as to do so they would need to hack into all the computers (or maybe a majority) that make up the blockchain simultaneously.

Blockchain supply chain initiatives will face fatigue by 2023 — Gartner

Gartner predicts that 90% of blockchain-based supply chain initiatives will suffer ‘blockchain fatigue’ by 2023, due to a lack of use cases

To give a practical example of how a blockchain might work — the history of a car, it’s ownership, servicing record, maybe even its mileage, taken at regular intervals. No need to keep the servicing record in the car’s glove department— it’s stored in the blockchain. No fear that the record has been tampered with, blockchain is immutable.

There are multiple issues — what are the business uses, what is the difference between enterprise solutions such as Ripple, Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric, JP Morgan’s blockchain and Corda? What about the right to be forgotten, how can data relating to an individual be removed from an immutable blockchain? These are among the issues we will be considering.

Mindtree joins Hyperledger to accelerate blockchain development

Mindtree has joined Hyperledger, where experts collaborate with network peers to research and advance open-source blockchain technologies


How emerging technology will transform your business — There is so much technology emerging, from the metaverse to AI to gene editing, that it can be overwhelming. Yet the CTO who fails to keep an eye on what’s around the corner could find their business disrupted – or even kaput.

Emerging medical technologies in healthcare — Medical technologies working together including AI, gene-editing tools and patient wearables will transform all our health outcomes.

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Michael Baxter

.Michael Baxter is a tech, economic and investment journalist. He has written four books, including iDisrupted and Living in the age of the jerk. He is the editor of Techopian.com and the host of the ESG...