IEEE released the results of “The Impact of Technology in 2022 and Beyond: an IEEE Global Study,” a new survey of global technology leaders from the U.S., U.K., China, India, and Brazil. The study, which included 350 chief technology officers, chief information officers, and IT directors, covers the most essential technologies in 2022, industries most impacted by technology in the year ahead, and technology trends through the next decade. 

Learn more about the study and the impact of technology in 2022 and beyond.

The most important technologies, innovation, sustainability, and the future

Which technologies will be the most important in 2022? Among total respondents, more than one in five (21%) say AI and machine learning, cloud computing (20%), and 5G (17%) will be the most important technologies next year. Because of the global pandemic, technology leaders surveyed said in 2021, they accelerated adoption of cloud computing (60%), AI and machine learning (51%), and 5G (46%), among others.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that 95% agree — including 66% who strongly agree — that AI will drive the majority of innovation across nearly every industry sector in the next one to five years.

When asked which of the following areas 5G will most benefit in the next year, technology leaders surveyed said:

  • Telemedicine, including remote surgery and health record transmissions (24%)
  • Remote learning and education (20%)
  • Personal and professional day-to-day communications (15%)
  • Entertainment, sports, and live event streaming (14%)
  • Manufacturing and assembly (13%)
  • Transportation and traffic control (7%)
  • Carbon footprint reduction and energy efficiency (5%)
  • Farming and agriculture (2%) 

As for industry sectors most impacted by technology in 2022, technology leaders surveyed cited manufacturing (25%), financial services (19%), healthcare (16%), and energy (13%). Compared to the beginning of 2021, 92% of respondents agree, including 60% who strongly agree, that implementing smart building technologies that benefit sustainability, decarbonization, and energy savings has become a top priority for their organization. 

Workplace technologies, human resources collaboration, and COVID-19

As the impact of COVID-19 varies globally and hybrid work continues, technology leaders nearly universally agree (97% agree, including 69% who strongly agree) that their team is working more closely than ever before with human resources leaders to implement workplace technologies and apps for office check-in, space usage data and analytics, COVID and health protocols, employee productivity, engagement, and mental health.

Among challenges technology leaders see in 2022, maintaining strong cybersecurity for a hybrid workforce of remote and in-office workers is viewed by those surveyed as challenging by 83% of respondents (40% very, 43% somewhat) while managing return-to-office health and safety protocols, software, apps, and data is seen as challenging by 73% of those surveyed (29% very, 44% somewhat). Determining what technologies are needed for their company in the post-pandemic future is anticipated to be challenging for 68% of technology leaders (29% very, 39% somewhat). Recruiting technologists and filling open tech positions in the year ahead is also seen as challenging by 73% of respondents. 

Robots rise over the next decade

Looking ahead, 81% agree that in the next five years, one-quarter of what they do will be enhanced by robots, and 77% agree that in the same time frame, robots will be deployed across their organization to enhance nearly every business function from sales and human resources to marketing and IT. Most respondents agree (78%) that robots will enhance half or more of what they do in the next ten years. As for the deployments of robots that will most benefit humanity, according to the survey, those are manufacturing and assembly (33%), hospital and patient care (26%), and earth and space exploration (13%).

Connected devices continue to proliferate

As a result of the shift to hybrid work and the pandemic, more than half (51%) of technology leaders surveyed believe the number of devices connected to their businesses that they need to track and manage — such as smartphones, tablets, sensors, robots, vehicles, drones, etc. — increased as much as 1.5 times, while for 42% of those surveyed the number of devices increased in excess of 1.5 times.

However, the perspectives of technology leaders globally diverge when asked about managing even more connected devices in 2022. When asked if the number of devices connected to their company’s business will grow so significantly and rapidly in 2022 that it will be unmanageable, over half of technology leaders disagree (51%), but 49% agree. Those differences can also be seen across regions — 78% in India, 64% in Brazil, and 63% in the U.S. agree device growth will be unmanageable, while a strong majority in China (87%) and just over half (52%) in the U.K disagree.      

Cyber and physical security, preparedness, and deployment of technologies

The cybersecurity concerns most likely to be in technology leaders’ top two are mobile and hybrid workforce issues, including employees using their own devices (39%) and cloud vulnerability (35%). Additional concerns include data center vulnerability (27%), a coordinated attack on their network (26%), and a ransomware attack (25%). Notably, 59% of all technology leaders surveyed currently use or plan to use drones for security, surveillance, or threat prevention as part of their business model in the next five years. There are regional disparities, though. Current drone use for security or plans to do so in the next five years are strongest in Brazil (78%), China (71%), India (60%), and the U.S. (52%) compared to only (32%) in the U.K., where 48% of respondents say they have no plans to use drones in their business.

An open-source distributed database that uses cryptography through a distributed ledger, blockchain enables trust among individuals and third parties. The four uses in the next year respondents were most likely to cite in their own top three most important uses for blockchain technology are:

  • Secure machine-to-machine interaction in the Internet of Things (IoT) (61%)
  • Shipment tracking and contactless digital transactions (51%)
  • Keeping health and medical records secure in the cloud (47%)
  • Securing connecting parties within a specified ecosystem (47%)

The vast majority of those surveyed (92%) believe that their company is better prepared to respond to a potentially catastrophic interruption such as a data breach or natural disaster compared to a year ago. Of that majority, 65% strongly agree that COVID-19 accelerated their preparedness.