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The sense of what is possible is motivating two-thirds of firms polled by Forrester to increase their spend on emerging technology in 2022.

“It’s also why 84% of companies say that they have an emerging technology organization,’’ said Brian Hopkins, vice president of emerging tech at Forrester, in a blog post about a new report he co-authored on the top 10 emerging technologies of 2022.

Hopkins noted that Web3 startups received $30 billion in venture funding in 2021, “even though no one can exactly say what it is or how businesses will make money on it.” For example, “explainable AI is still a toddler.”

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While it’s tantalizing to be among the first firms to discover and scale a Web 3 disruption, Hopkins cautioned that companies should not jump into emerging technologies indiscriminately.

“Big budget increases make it hard to separate all the shiny toys from those that are important,’’ Hopkins wrote. “When the money is flowing freely, you don’t have to be as discriminating … and discriminating you must be.”

He also observed that there is no one list of top emerging technologies, and what is right for one company in one industry may not jive with another company in another industry. It’s important to understand your organization’s strategy and how you approach technologies.

Emerging technologies for today, tomorrow and in the next few years

Two technologies — cloud-native computing and natural language processing — are penetrating deep into mainstream enterprises and generating returns for most of them today, according to Forrester.

“While almost everybody is implementing them, the technologies are rapidly evolving and deserve close attention. Mainstream firms should expect quantifiable, short-term returns from these technologies,’’ the report said.

Edge intelligence, explainable AI, intelligent agents and privacy preserving technology will generate positive ROI in two-to-four years, but Forrester noted that they are “still a bit immature. Most companies should not expect a substantial ROI from their investments for several more years.”

There are also four technologies named in the report that may never yield a significant ROI for enterprises at all. They are:

  • Web3, which Forrester called “more vision and hype than reality.”
  • AI-powered TuringBots, which are still in their infancy.
  • AR and VR, “which need time to merge into extended reality.”
  • Zero trust edge, which “is highly technical, complex and in the early stage.”

Nevertheless, mainstream firms should keep an eye on these four technologies and be ready as they mature, the report advised.

Drilling down to tomorrow’s technologies

Forrester defines Web3 “as a concept that promises a World Wide Web that isn’t dominated by big tech or other established firms like banks.” The term has become synonymous with public blockchains, cryptocurrencies and token-based ecosystems, the report noted.

The technology “is in constant flux and the pace of change is fast,’’ but it made the list because of the publicity associated with it, the report said.

Forrester defines extended reality as technology that overlays computer imagery over a person’s field of vision to create a new understanding of physical reality. XR includes any combination of augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality. These technologies, traditionally viewed as distinct, have been converging and will continue to merge over time, according to the report.

XR made the list because it can solve real-world problems, the report said, while TuringBots may eventually increase the productivity of software development teams by 10x.

Forrester defines zero trust edge as a solution that securely connects and transports traffic, using zero trust access principles, in and out of remote sites using mostly cloud-based security and networking services.

ZTE provides organizations with the ability to centrally manage, monitor and analyze — from the cloud — a set of security and networking services for network traffic entering and exiting remote sites. Expect the technology to offer mainstream benefits in five years, the report said, since today most firms are engaged in small-scale pilots.

Why cloud native computing is ready for primetime

Forrester defines cloud-native computing as an approach in software development and DevOps to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private and hybrid clouds.

Common components of cloud-native technology implementation are containers, Kubernetes, service mesh, microservices, serverless functions and immutable infrastructure deployed via declarative code, the report said.

This technology made Forrester’s list because it helps developers quickly build apps across cloud and on-premises infrastructure.

“It offers a path to flexibility and scale in many environments and supplies a foundation through open source ecosystems to power innovation in other technology domains, such as AI/ML, big data management, IoT and 5G,” the report said.

Some 65% of tech professionals said their organization is adopting cloud-native computing, while an additional 16% plan to adopt soon. Additionally, 45% of cloud decision-makers cited modernizing applications with cloud-native services as a main component of their organization’s current cloud strategy.

NLP is helping deliver on the promise of AI

The other emerging technology generating significant value already is NLP, which Forrester defines as the diverse set of technologies and practices that enable the ingestion, processing, understanding and generation of natural human language across AI applications.

NLP is an umbrella term for several overlapping and complementary capabilities, including text and document mining, natural language understanding and natural language generation.

“NLP is a cornerstone of digital transformation in B2C, B2B and B2E scenarios,’’ Forrester said.

While text analytics capabilities traditionally supplied understanding and insights, emerging large language models bridge the gap between text mining, NLU and NLG.

“These are leading to the emergence of capabilities that will provide convenience to consumers and streamline processes,’’ the report said. “Enterprises can now deliver engaging experiences that were simply out of reach just a few years ago.”

The biggest impacts will be on consumer experience, marketing and financial services, according to the report. NLP benefits are almost immediate.

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