As the nation and world emerged (mostly) from the pandemic, the tech news cycle once again rode the alphabet soup of tech acronyms in 2022.  AI, VR, NFT, IoT, AR, 5G, ML, LoRa and many more took center stage at tech conferences, in corporate boardrooms and in startup accelerators.  Media covered the huge hype cycles (and market swings) around cryptocurrencies, cybersecurity, data privacy and the metaverse. And everyone continued to label things as “smart” as IoT and data analytics further penetrated government, industry, healthcare, agriculture, energy and more.

In 2022, RIoT held more than 70 events, workshops and educational seminars, and met with hundreds of companies and entrepreneurs from around the world. With that finger on the pulse of technology, here are the major themes we expect to emerge in 2023.

1 – High and Low Bandwidth Networks Roll Out

The past several years, cellular operators have focused on 5G deployments in major urban centers.  This will continue, and the gigahertz spectrum component of 5G will be game-changing, particularly in areas of autonomous mobility (ground and air) and in AR and VR applications.  

But the most impactful high bandwidth network rollouts will be in rural and underserved areas that qualify for billions of federal dollars earmarked for broadband expansion.  A silver lining of the pandemic was the acute understanding that broadband is foundational to a functioning economy.  Expect to see a lot of awards to small and mid-sized broadband operators striving to energize the digital rust belt, and those networks to start going online late 2023 and into 2024.

On the other end of the spectrum, LoRa is hitting its stride and reaching critical mass in the market.  Many applications don’t need the bandwidth (and associated cost) of cellular connectivity, but need more range than bluetooth or wifi can provide.  One of the first municipal LoRa networks in the US is launching right here in the Triangle, as Cary continues to be recognized on the global stage as a tech early adopter.  Watch for other communities to follow Cary’s lead this year.

2 – Infosec Budgets Accelerate

Information security continues to be a high priority focus area that many companies still really don’t understand.  A few years back, “data scientist” was the most sought after job title as every company tried to bring AI into their products and services.  Expect infosec engineers and analysts to become even harder to find as the industry continues to see greater than 25% year over year growth.

Threat surfaces continue to grow with the proliferation of IoT devices and disparate data sources. Workloads are continuing to transition from internal servers to the cloud and increasingly to the edge. While some organizations may try to bring data and applications back in-house to address the increasing infosec challenge, the more common strategy will be to use a combination of internal resources and 3rd party security partners in order to leverage emerging edge computing technologies.

3 – Electrification is Expanding

It would have been easy to expect the pandemic to slow the growth of the EV industry as miles driven plummeted in 2020.  In hindsight, it gave the industry time to right-size production and focus the pace of development to align nicely with 2022 – a year that finally eclipsed the pre-pandemic miles driven in 2019.

On the infrastructure side, the federal government is funding 250,000 new charging stations per year and private industry is similarly deploying rapidly.  New ultra-fast chargers bring typical charging times to less than 20 minutes.  Expect 2023 to be the tipping point year for electric vehicles as sales will exceed 10% of all car sales for the first time.

Perhaps of more interest in 2023 is the rise in e-bike and e-scooter deployment.  Most cities have gotten past the mess when e-scooters first arrived on the scene in 2018 and now have fair and well-articulated policies in place for e-mobility.  If the near immediate sell-out of e-bike rebates in Denver is any indication, the public is ravenous to take advantage of the significant increase of protected bike lanes and the trend in cities to prioritize alternative modes of transit above cars.  Expect cities to compete with each other to deploy more bike and scooter friendly infrastructure in 2023.

4 – Metaverse Grows, But Remains a set of Walled Sandboxes

It has been 14 months since Facebook bet their future on a rebranding to Meta, and nearly 9 years since it acquired Oculus to begin a journey towards immersive computing.  It has been roughly 30 months since Epic launched its lawsuit against Apple to test how much power private industry has to self-govern the rules of commerce on proprietary platforms.  It has been a mere 11 months since Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard, a huge step towards software content and platform tools to mate with existing investment in Hololens.  Google is placing more bets on AR than VR, with significant investment in Projects Iris, Starline and Daydream.  

These are just a few of the companies laying the foundation for what many expect to be the next huge frontier of business.  Expect to see tech giants and startups alike promote fun technology proof of concepts that help debug and evolve base metaverse technology platforms.  More importantly, watch which companies are most successful in building early adopter user bases in an attempt to lock people into their software environments.

But for all the hype, meaningful metaverse applications are still more than a year away.  The big question to watch in 2023 is what role – if any – the government plays in early regulation of new digital worlds.  Will we legislate and regulate digital currencies (crypto), digital ownership (NFT), digital records (Blockchain) in the same way as we do with fiat currencies and traditional laws? 

New forms of digital commerce and services are being built entirely within corporate owned data centers. Expect the mega tech companies to begin claiming ownership of as much of the governance of those new worlds as they can.  Will we see early indications of “digital company stores” emerge and new completely corporate owned micro-economies?  Not in 2023 – but this is the year we should begin holding those discussions and planning for them.