Reimagining technology for the next generation

May 31, 20226 mins
Artificial IntelligenceCollaboration SoftwareEmerging Technology

The digitally enhanced world of tomorrow will bring significant challenges and opportunities. Here are five key implications IT leaders must consider.

emerging technology - virtual reality [VR] / augmented reality [AR] - virtual display / GUI
Credit: Thinkstock

Businesses are racing toward a future very different from the one they were designed to operate in, as the past few years have brought unexpected change beyond what many could have imagined. A more recent phenomenon, the metaverse, will transform how businesses interact with customers, how work is done, what products and services companies offer, how they make and distribute them, and how they operate their organizations.

These new, digitally enhanced worlds, realities, and business models are poised to revolutionize both life and enterprise in the next decade, as explored in Accenture’s recent Technology Vision 2022 report.

Here are five implications these technologies will have on security and privacy as we build our collective future.  

Building trust

The metaverse will require a digital foundation that enables trust and authenticity. Currently, society is at an inflection point as people have lower confidence in the internet and in social media. Challenges around privacy, bias, fairness, and human wellness are becoming far more acute as the line between physical and digital lives blurs further. Enterprises are at the front lines of establishing trust and have the unique ability to define the human experience in these new places.

With that said, humans are also in a unique position. We need to learn to interact in a way that promotes trust, specifically in the metaverse. This comes with a learning curve as, for instance, people may not yet be familiar with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) platforms and terms and protocols related to Web 3—essentially the next iteration of the internet. However, at the crux of things, for all metaverse efforts, the overarching goal is to create a layer of trust across the web by giving people control of their own data leveraging technologies like blockchain.  

A programmable world

There are endless avenues to enable new ways to augment, customize, and otherwise “program” our physical environments. Beyond the fundamentals of cross-device interactions, privacy, and security, becoming a leader in the programmable world will require wide-ranging exploration, experimentation, and development. To find success, enterprises will need a deep understanding of the three layers that make up the programmable world to work toward “full stack” programmability: the Connected, the Experiential, and the Material.

To start, businesses should find ways to level up their foundational, connected layer. 5G is poised to be game-changing in terms of its speed and low latency, but rollouts are still on the horizon. In addition, businesses need to actively engage with industry-wide alliances, helping to shape the development of new technology standards.

For the experiential layer, enterprises can start to bridge their digital and physical worlds by building digital twins. Over time digital twins will become the engine for every enterprise’s programmable world strategy, letting them invent products, design experiences, and run their businesses in ways that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago.

Finally, it’s crucial to constantly explore future technologies on the material layer. Partnerships with startups and universities can ensure you are in the forefront of real-world technology innovation. Building on data collected by IoT and edge devices, processed at 5G speeds, digital twins are a core constituent of the experiential layer as the global digital twin market, valued at $3.21 billion in 2020, is expected to reach $184.5 billion by 2030.

“Unreal” qualities are becoming intrinsic to AI, but bad actors are using it, too—from deepfakes to bots and more—so authenticity will be crucial to integration. Currently, we are entering a world with synthetic realness, where AI-generated data convincingly reflects the physical world. As synthetic realness progresses, conversations about AI that align good and bad with real and fake will shift to focus instead on authenticity.

When—and if—deployed authentically, synthetic realness can push AI to new heights, with fairness and security at the center, while saving time and energy. By solving for issues of bias and privacy, it can bring next-level improvements to AI models in fairness and innovation.

Using these technologies pushes enterprises into controversial terrain. It raises tough questions about how to leverage generative AI in an authentic way for a company’s customers, its partners, and its brand, all within the context of bad actors using these same technologies to create deepfakes and disinformation that undermine trust. The ways in which businesses address these questions will be key to whether they gain strategic advantage or generate a bad reputation

Computing the impossible

Authenticity and trust should be at the core of any technology moving forward and synthetic AI can drive fairness and innovation with new machines. Today, quantum computers, high-performance computing (HPC), and biology-inspired machines represent a new suite of tools for the unique demands of a post-digital business.

Every industry has its challenges; however, emerging technologies make these core challenges achievable. Quantum is the pinnacle of next-generation problem solving, but high-performance computers (HPC) can help businesses take advantage of the swaths of data inherent to the digital world that may be too expensive or inefficient for traditional computing.

These three sets of machines will dramatically reduce the difficulty of solving some of the world’s deepest challenges. In 2020 alone, IDC found that 64.2ZB of data was created, captured, or replicated, and that number is expected to grow to 180ZB by 2025. However, of all the data created in 2020, only 10.6% was useful for analysis, and only about 44% of that was actually used.

Quantum research, HPC, and biology-inspired machines, although they have individual limitations, collectively are immensely powerful and represent an evolution towards machines that, down to the very physics of their operation, are unlike any in existence today. As they grow, the window of what’s possible will expand.

Solving the greatest challenges

For decades, computers that could efficiently solve the world’s “grand challenges” have been nothing more than theoretical concepts.  Today, they are rapidly improving and their potential impact on industries’ most fundamental problems may be the biggest opportunity in generations.

Leaders must build in-roads and partnerships to understand the latest developments in their industries and to innovate toward a greater future in all realities. By creating a futurist team to think through how new technologies can either threaten—or evolve—the status quo of the enterprise as well as the impact on society and on individuals, businesses and leaders will be well poised to exist and even thrive in the metaverse.

Diana Bersohn

Diana Bersohn is a managing director in Accenture Strategy - Technology. She is a leader in strategy and transformation, specializing in global IT operating models and large-scale business and technology transformations.