Innovation in a Pandemic

As the world enters the third year of pandemic, one area has given us all solace: dramatic shifts in our workplace and home life were made easier thanks to the rapid development of new technologies. The first two years of the COVID pandemic have already turbocharged a pivot to digital which has fueled an appetite for more innovative new ways to engage. Thank goodness one area did not slow down during the pandemic: engineering exploration of new technologies. As we look forward, we can identify several new technologies whose introductions will fundamentally change technology truths we hold dear, what we rely on, and impacts on our home life and work life.

From the acceleration of powerful connectivity like 5G and exploration of new frontiers like 6G to next-generation quantum computing to AI-infused design and build tools for faster innovation, here is a snapshot of how we at Keysight expect these advancements to come to fruition – and when.

Connectivity: from 5G to 6G

The rollout of 5G networks is underway and accelerating at a rapid pace. Deployments, device certifications, and network rollouts will scale faster and broader in 2022. 5G will supercharge digital transformation with bandwidth tuned to a wider range of applications, enabling the next stage of ubiquitous computing by distributing intelligence where it is needed and improving process efficiencies through better control and AI-driven feedback. In 2022, you can expect an array of new industrial IoT (IIoT) devices with improved latency responsiveness and reliability.

By 2028, 5G networks will be pervasive, realizing the original vision of 5G by enabling vertical industries well beyond what we think of as “mobile communications.” This new connectivity will pave the way for scalable IIoT, latency-sensitive digitized healthcare, broader reaches for smart-cities, and extended reality applications that are currently just concepts.

In the coming year, research investment and collaboration will increase between academia, government, and industry into the possibilities for 6G. This research will outline how to make the vision a reality and make mobile communications a more fundamental part of our professional and personal lives. 6G will build on and significantly expand 5G capabilities, bringing even faster speeds, lower latency, and more bandwidth to instantly deliver massive amounts of data to and from more devices across decentralized, intelligent networks.

By 2028 the first commercial 6G networks will go live, paving the way for the convergence of the physical, digital, and human worlds through applications, computing, and communications. This will create the communication framework application developers need to take the Internet of Everything (IoE) to the interactive Internet of Everything (iIoE). 

Intelligent technologies

If smaller, more capable, more power-efficient sensors are the first stage, and more robust communication networks are the second stage, then software applications that bring them together are the third stage. From artificial intelligence (AI) driven by sensing-aware machine learning (ML), intelligent technologies will be everywhere. 

From faster product development to faster device cognition, to faster responsiveness to correct course – whether troubleshooting new design complexities, optimizing a manufacturing line to maximize yield, tuning autonomous driving algorithms, rerouting Internet traffic around a massive outage – AI driven by intelligent ML will automate applications resulting in unparalleled responsivity from analyzing vast data volumes.

AI, ML, and cloud-based applications will increasingly put new demands on future networks as well as enable them. This will include core network transformation to account for mobility and application latency needs and new software technologies to manage them across increasingly complex telecommunication networks.

Higher demand will be placed on software quality and AI functionality will transition from a novelty to luxury to an expectation. Post-release software bug fixing, which has become the accepted norm in many non-critical applications, will no longer be acceptable in life-critical and time-critical applications. This shift will continue to transform the software development and testing processes with higher expectations on analytics insights and the ability to replicate more conditions using digital twin software test environments. 

In 2022, basic code compliance will no longer determine whether the software is ready for release. This is especially true of the increasing number of systems that use “AI” technology and understanding, not all situations are deterministic, requiring “AI to test AI” and exploration of over-used and seldom-used application features. Intelligent test automation will shift from development luxury to necessity for complex, diversely connected applications.

The popularity of low-code/no-code platforms allowing non-developer employees to quickly and easily create business applications is causing its own transformation of vulnerabilities in corporate networks. The enablement of citizen developers to rapidly integrate SaaS applications for corporate operations and business intelligence is creating unintentional data, security, and customer experience gaps in corporate networks. In 2022, the market will recognize the need to adopt AI using ML-based monitoring to further enable the rise in citizen developers.

The rise of quantum computing

After 55 years, Moore’s law is starting to feel its age, and along comes quantum to take computing to the next level. Quantum is an emerging technology that has continued to thrive during COVID from an innovation and investment perspective. 2022 will be a breakout year for quantum with explosive growth in quantum application exploration. Industry and academia are each pouring resources into quantum application exploration that will continue to grow the market at a rate rivaling the superconducting computing power they represent.

In 2022 several companies will release quantum processor units to the cloud with 100 or more qubits. These breakthroughs will create new challenges for device developers, including scaling (bigger quantum computers), deploying (more calibrations) and the repeatability (yield in device fabrication) of quantum devices.

2023 and beyond

Every time developers explore faster, more responsive communications to connect larger networks of smaller, more capable sensors, innovative applications emerge to leverage them. Emerging technologies will continue to accelerate the pace of digital transformation as the unintended consequence of a worldwide pandemic stimulates new ways to connect through digital innovation. And just as they did at the dawn of Moore’s Law 55 years ago when personal computing and the Internet created the first digital transformation wave, enterprises, small businesses, governments, and private institutions will pivot, in some cases dramatically, as they rethink how to shift from surviving to flourish with these new digital innovations, creating their own set of business innovation opportunities.