Metaverse, biotech or artificial intelligence—which technologies will significantly shape business and society in the coming years? To answer this question, analyst firms—and now also tech giants from the U.S. and China—are regularly hazarding a glance into the crystal ball at the beginning of the year.
Every year, Gartner, IDC and co deliver their predictions on the most important technology trends for the years to come. These prophecies are generally based on current surveys of CEOs and CIOs paired with in-house expertise. The Alibaba DAMO Academy, meanwhile, has analyzed millions of public documents and patent applications from the last three years and interviewed nearly a hundred scientists.
The result is ten technology trends that could have a palpable effect on both business and everyday life in the next two to five years. DAMO boss Jeff Zhang expects artificial intelligence (AI), for example, to optimize research processes in the applied sciences and the integration of renewable energy sources into the power grid. Furthermore, a new generation of XR glasses is to pave the way into the virtual world and patient-centric precision medicine supported by AI is to turn health care systems on their heads.
Alibaba DAMO Academy: What Does the Future Look Like?
In detail, the Alibaba DAMO Academy identified the following ten technology trends for the next two to five years:
The rapid development of new network technologies is accelerating the evolution of cloud computing towards a new computing system – the convergence of cloud, network and devices with a clear division of work. It acts as a catalyst for more demanding applications such as highly precise industry simulations—as well as real-time quality checks and mixed reality. A flood of use cases is already expected to run on this new computer system over the next two years.
Machine learning can process huge quantities of multidimensional and multimodal data, as well as solve complex scientific problems. This not only accelerates scientific research, it also even contributes to the discovery of new scientific laws. In the next three years, AI will find broad usage in research and some basic sciences.
Electronic chips reach their physical limits in High Performance Computing (HPC). Silicon photonics technology, which is experiencing rapid development through cloud computing and AI, offers a way out. This way, high-speed data transmissions in large data centers could already be partly based on photonic silicon chips in the next three years.
The greatest challenges in the development of renewable energies are still network integration, energy use rates and storage. In addition to increasing energy efficiency on many levels, artificial intelligence supports the automation of energy systems and improves resource usage and stability. In the next three years, it will therefore contribute significantly to the integration of renewable energy sources into the power grid.
With artificial intelligence, doctors can diagnose, treat, and predict illnesses more precisely and more quickly, and possibly even prevent them. Patient-centric precision medicine supported by AI will therefore significantly affect aspects of health care in the years to come.
Dedicated chips, crypto-algorithms and whitebox implementations provide data protection even for large quantities of data and the integration of data from different sources. In the next three years, groundbreaking improvements can be expected in the performance and interpretability of results with respect to the private sphere.
Mixed reality is laying the foundation for a new industrial ecosystem with electronic components, operating systems and applications. It is revolutionizing the way in which people interact with technologies in a private and professional environment. In the next three years, a new generation of XR glasses that look and feel no different to traditional glasses will enable entry into the next generation of the Internet.
More yielding materials and advancements in environmental perception and self-awareness differentiate soft robots from their “hard” relatives. They are based on cutting-edge technologies such as flexible electronics, pressure-adaptive materials and AI. Soft robotics therefore represents an important element for the manufacturing industry on its path toward small series production. In the next five years, they will replace conventional robots in the manufacturing industry and lead to a broader use of service robots in everyday life.
An integrated system combines HEO (highly elliptical orbit) and LEO (low Earth orbit) satellites with terrestrial mobile networks in order to achieve seamless, multidimensional coverage. This means that sparsely populated areas such as deserts, oceans and even outer space can enjoy digital services. In the next five years, satellites and terrestrial systems will form an integrated network system for all-encompassing connectivity.
Models for large-scale pre-training are a central factor in the transition from weak to general AI. But with higher performance comes high energy consumption. That’s why the future of AI instead lies in the co-existence of large and small models across clouds, edges and devices.