Welcome to 2022: where next for emerging technologies ?

In our first WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing of 2022, we explore a list of new technologies that are set to shape our working lives this year. Stand by sleep trackers and 3D printed offices…

From vaccine rollouts to video conferencing, we know that science and technology has emerged from the global pandemic with a stronger grip on the public imagination than ever before. So what are the new technologies that will affect our lives in 2022?

According to The Economist’s review of the coming year, there are 22 emerging technologies to watch. Several could have a direct impact on the workplace.

Heat pumps – described as ‘refrigerators that run in reverse’ – are a good example. Office buildings traditionally heated by burning oil, gas or coal could turn to this technology to address climate-change targets. Already there are companies such as San Francisco-based Gradient set to offer heat pumps that can provide both heating and cooling – a key innovation as more extreme weather is predicted.

VR (virtual reality) workouts are also predicted to make an impact, as more people inside and outside the workplace don VR headsets to exercise, play games and lose weight. Experts suggest that the search for physical fitness could be the key that unlocks the VR market in 2022.

‘The search for physical fitness could be the key that unlocks the VR market in 2022…’

Flying electric taxis, long seen as a science fiction fantasy, are tagged by The Economist as no longer pie in the sky. Several companies are apparently planning test flights in 2022 with a view to certification for commercial use. It’s a similar story with delivery drones, which have taken longer to get off the ground than expected but are now set to make progress in the coming year.

The inclusion of 3D printed houses on the list of emerging technologies to watch suggests that 3D printed offices could be just around the corner. Technology firm Icon has worked with house builder Lennar and architects BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) to create a whole neighbourhood of 3D printed homes in Austin, Texas. BIG is the design firm behind Google’s new King’s Cross groundscraper in London.

Sleep tech is predicted to take off in 2022 as Silicon Valley seeks to optimise our sleep time as well as our waking hours. We can expect a host of innovations from soothing sound machines to headbands and rings that record and monitor sleep quality. Google has already launched a sleep-tracking nightstand tablet and Amazon is expected to follow suit this year.

In the same vein, wearable health trackers, already commonplace, are set to reach a new level this year with the rise of remote medical consultations blurring the lines between consumer and medical use of such devices. Will wearable health trackers become part of the HR appraisal process in the workplace?

You’d expect the metaverse, space tourism and quantum computing to be on the list of emerging tech, and they are. The persistent virtual world of the metaverse, accessed via special goggles, has particular application in a world of hybrid working. Less fancied technologies such as vertical farms and container ships with sails also make the cut.

It all adds up to a big year for technology in 2022. But beware tech start-ups promising the earth. This year has opened with the high-profile conviction of US entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, who hoodwinked investors, politicians and the media with a revolutionary blood-testing technology that didn’t actually work. Her company Theranos fraudulently raised a billion dollars in investment for something that was more hype than science. We have all been warned.

Coming to a city near you

After three successful North American events in December 2021 in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, the WORKTECH conference series looks ahead to 2022. From Sao Paulo to Sydney, Seattle to Stockholm, we’re coming to a city near you. Browse our 2022 calendar of events here

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 5 January 2022.
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