As we look ahead to 2022 and what did and didn’t pan out from our 2021 predictions, a few key trends and technological advancements are shaping the roadmaps and priorities of business and mission-critical IT and OT environments. One codifying theme that actually builds on the intelligent edge predictions from last year (yes, sometimes we DO get IT predictions right) is the tangible increase in demand for the metaverse.
Much like the internet’s beginnings in the 1960s, the metaverse is at its core a manifestation of first principles design thinking applied to the way we as human beings interoperate with each other and the world around us. As in the early days of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), many existing solutions and capabilities have emerged that ride on legacy technology rails to incrementally step toward the immersive digital ecosystem. Innovative ways to meet up for work or collaboration have evolved from Zoom and Teams to solutions such as Gather and others, and Google Classroom and Chromebooks have advanced how we learn. However, I believe these four technology advancements are setting up 2022 to be a revolutionary and transformative year for the metaverse as it enters all dimensions of our daily lives.
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
SASE solutions have accelerated the worldwide adoption of Zero Trust Network Architectures and have lowered the barrier for entry to participate in a globally connected software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) like never before. The concepts of intelligent context-aware routing, comply to connect and distributed software-defined policy enforcement have taken root in the Department of Defense Cloud Native Access Point Reference Design and represent a future of global interconnectivity that is secure, inclusive and efficient. This inclusiveness without jeopardizing security is the backbone and central nervous system of the globally connected metaverse of the future.
Secure Data Fabric
A modern and secure data fabric is not new to the game in being highlighted as a foundational construct for digital transformation. However, advancements in the space have particular implications on acceleration of the data interoperability, velocity and volume required for a ubiquitous metaverse. From a cultural aspect, data security and privacy are challenging headwinds for the hypothesized future vision of the metaverse. While many yearn for the promises of the metaverse, the majority of the global population (whether subjectively or through sovereign laws like the EU General Data Protection Regulation) are resistant to sharing the type of data required. Technologies that enable and enforce Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) of data at rest and in motion without the need for physical segregation have not only set the stage for the future of Multi-Level Security for exquisite military decision authority and digital overmatch but paved the way for the secure data fabric required for the metaverse to become ubiquitous across all aspects of our lives.
Adding another layer of security and protection to ABAC for data at rest and in motion, homomorphic encryption has established a world in which encrypted data never need be decrypted. Not only does this protect the data in operation/in memory, but it establishes a platform where increasingly complex encryption algorithms, specifically those that are resistant to the impending “encryption doom” of quantum computing/Shor’s algorithm, can be practically applied. While these algorithms have been around for decades, due to their complexity, they have historically been deemed infeasible because of how much time it takes to encrypt/decrypt for use. As more and more operators can execute on data without the need to decrypt, those barriers fade away. And as such the metaverse can enjoy a “quantum-proof” data fabric and digital experience.
Augmented, Mixed, and Virtual Reality
Last but certainly not least, advancements in wearables are completely reinventing the way we think about user experience and are beginning to cross the chasm from early adopters into the early majority. Solutions like HoloLens or Google Glass are changing how professional trades educate, operate and provide expert support and reach-back, while wearable healthcare monitors are providing early detection and prevention of heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s. It is exciting to see how the advancement in computer vision, data streaming and audio/visual technology provides tangible manipulation of the metaverse. 2022 holds the promise of taking many of these myopic initial advancements in siloed domains and integrating them to establish a truly global digital experience that has before only been imagined as science fiction. Only time will tell what strange and unforeseen cultural, diplomatic and political hurdles await us in this brave new world of the metaverse. But one thing is for certain: we are all on the verge of entering together and finding out!