Even though everything over the past few years has been so unpredictable — or maybe because it has been — I’m taking a crack at the predictions game. It’s destined for failure, but I like the challenge! I believe 2022 will be the year where we stop pretending that everyone is going back to the traditional office. It’ll be the year we dip more than just a toe into virtual reality and quantum computing. It’ll be the year where you’ll hear blockchain in conversions that aren’t about Bitcoin. And underpinning it all, we will see the microchip take primacy and hopefully also increase production. After all, something has to power this technological revolution.

The Year of Hybrid Work 

At the onset of the pandemic, there was no shortage of reasonable folks that thought that we’d return to something that resembled a world before COVID by the summer of 2020. With the release of vaccines in 2021, we again anticipated that the return to the office was imminent. Now, every week or so, you’ll come across an article about a company announcing that it is delaying its return to the office initiative for the umpteenth time, suspending it indefinitely, or just flat out abandoning it altogether.

I think 2022 is the year where we will reach acceptance that there is no going back. A portion of workers will not be going back to the office, and businesses all over the globe will (and already are) making accommodations for this. We will see a surge of investments in cloud-based content management (not just documents!), process automation, and unified communications and collaboration platforms to enable hybrid work.

The Year of Blockchain

Blockchain technology has been around for a while. Most of you know it as one of the technologies that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But blockchain technology — a transparent, P2P-distributed ledger system — has a lot more applications than underpinning a currency. We’ve written about it in Workflow, detailing how it can be used to protect against phishing attacks and how it can be used to shake up the ECM world. In 2022, you’re going to hear about it from other people besides crypto bros, and see it being used in technology that you use every day.

Currently, blockchain technology is being used in vaccine distribution, supply chain transparency, food trust, supplier management, digital identity management, and much more. But in the future, blockchain might solve — or at least mitigate — some of our most pressing problems, like information security. It’s already happening!

The Year of the Metaverse

Late in 2021, Facebook announced it would be going by the moniker Meta, along with its intentions to build its own “Metaverse”. But what even is a metaverse? If you’re a Futurama fan, then you’ve already seen it. The metaverse is the continued abstraction of the physical world to the digital realm. In an article for Wired, Eric Ravenscraft makes it very easy to understand what the metaverse is: “Mentally replace the phrase “the metaverse” in a sentence with “cyberspace.” Ninety percent of the time, the meaning won’t substantially change.”

It seems 2022 will be the year of the metaverse. The future is hybrid — people can be everywhere, even when they’re in the middle of nowhere. If people are going to interact with customers, or have a store, or host meetings, or work collaboratively in virtual spaces, why not take full advantage of virtual spaces? Imagine if Amazon was like an actual mall, and that you could interact with each seller’s page as if it was an actual store? It’s coming. CES gave us a good taste of it the other week.

The Year of the Microchip

Some folks predict that chipageddon will persist through 2022 and into parts of 2023. But that doesn’t mean that 2022 cannot be the year of the microchip — it just means that not everyone will be able to enjoy it.

Considering that this is going to be the year of hybrid, we can assume there will be a lot of different devices – smartphones, tablets, cameras, VR headsets, whiteboards and the like — connecting us with others in the digital world. This, of course, means that these devices, which are powered by microchips, will have to be capable of more. This year, we will see AI/ML powered chips that can handle the processing power on the edge, providing workers with fast, seamless, and immersive experiences.

The Year of Quantum Computing … Kind of

Quantum computing is typically discussed as if the advancements are years — maybe even decades — away. But in 2022, the quantum computing tune will feature some more notes that you don’t hear too frequently — namely, about the people who are investing in them, who will use them, and what they will do. Take this press release from January 2022, for example, announcing the usage of quantum powered AI being used to predict cargo flows to maximize the flow of goods coming through the Port of LA (check back in a couple of weeks, because we are going to have more on this).

The advancement of technology is just another form of human evolution. Natural evolution occurs at a slow pace, but technological evolution is guided by needs, and accelerates faster and faster each day. As humanity demands a more digital world, innovators are happy to oblige. The lines between the physical and virtual worlds are blurring, more and more, and faster and faster each day.

Now, let’s all use our smart assistants to remind us to check in a year and see how I did, so I know if I should avoid this challenge in the future!

Patricia Ames is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.