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Tech trends: what will be hot in 2024?

Nash Squared CEO, Bev White, takes out her crystal ball and shares her thoughts on what will be trending in technology in 2024. This article first appeared on Technology is moving and developing faster than ever before. What do the next twelve months have in store? We like to look ahead at the end of every year, even if we don’t always get it right.

Last year, we didn’t see generative AI coming (just like everyone else), although we did predict that it would be a massive year for automation, robotics and RPA (Robotic Process Automation). We also predicted that balancing the digital and the human would be key – this feels like a more pertinent point than ever now. And that getting the hybrid/in-office working model right would be an important focus – and this has proven to be a big area during 2023 as Big Tech in particular has increased its push to bring talent back inside its walls.

Here is what we see as five really major trends next year:

  1. Generative AI will need time to hit the heights There is no doubt that generative AI will continue to be a hugely important disruptor as the technology develops and organisations deploy it into their operations. However, we believe that after the initial excitement and hype of 2023, people will begin to ask more searching questions around “What can we actually do with this?”. That’s not to say that genAI won’t lead to incredible things. But that the eureka applications of it may take a bit longer to emerge. AI will become more embedded into day-to-day technology infrastructure – integrated into browsers, search engines and databases – so that it becomes less visible. This makes it even more important to get the rules around it right. Regulation is expected to appear soon, such as the EU’s AI Act, and it will be vital that this provides clear guidelines around transparency, explainability and anti-bias and disinformation measures.

  2. But we will see the first massive AI-generated cyber attack On the risk side, generative AI has obvious capabilities to help cyber criminals launch sophisticated attacks at scale. We are already seeing instances of incredibly convincing, tailored phishing emails that appear to have been generated with AI. In time, the success rate of phishing campaigns could leap exponentially, from the present level of about 0.1% to anywhere around 20%. Then there is “AI poisoning” – infecting the content that is subsumed into the learning process of an AI algorithm so that it becomes untrue, biased or downright malicious. To this we can also add malware - it may not be long before generative AI can develop malicious code that is almost impossible to block. Malware potency could hit new levels, and the cyber industry will need all its skill and investment (and some help from “good” AI) to combat it. When we put these in combination, it’s not difficult to see the risks that generative AI poses – and it would be a surprise if we did not see it harnessed to create a significant, disruptive and prominent attack somewhere within the public sphere during 2024.

  3. It won’t all be about AI Although AI and generative AI will be dominant themes, other areas will continue to develop. We can expect quantum computing to grow as an area of interest. Our 2023 Digital Leadership Report found that one in ten digital leaders globally are already actively considering its use, and quantum as a service (QaaS) is beginning to grow as an offering from the likes of IBM, Amazon and Google. If the cost of accessing QaaS falls, increasing numbers of businesses are likely to start using quantum computers to speed up the calculations and computations they need to solve key challenges. Uptake in quantum computing will be accelerated further if governments around the world follow the UK’s lead in committing significant investment (£2.5bn) in this area. Meanwhile, another non-AI discipline that we expect to see growing in 2024 is platform engineering. This featured at number 4 in Gartner’s top ten technology trends for 2024, and we agree it’s going to be big. Through platform engineers developing self-service infrastructure, templates and frameworks, it enables developers to accelerate their productivity and get to end results faster – at a time when technology budget growth is coming under more pressure, we can expect more focus on platform engineering as a way of bolstering ROI.

  4. People will be frustrated about the lack of diversity progress in tech Levels of diversity in tech remain stubbornly and disappointingly low, despite efforts to change the position. Only 14% of tech leaders are women; while only around a quarter of tech teams overall are female and about the same proportion are from ethnic minority backgrounds. I think 2024 will be a year when increasing numbers of stakeholders within tech will lose patience with the glacial rate of change – and what I hope they do in response is to take control of the factors they can influence. That means making a difference on the ground, within individual companies and teams – reviewing not only the hiring policy and processes, but also questions such as “who represents our team in engagement with senior leadership?”. Try putting forward someone different, reflecting more diversity – and you’ll almost certainly find they do a great job and bring a different perspective to the Board, maybe changing their perceptions. It’s by building a wave, one team and one company at a time, that change will happen.

  5. The heat will rise on sustainability The fact is that the tech industry needs to do more around sustainability and the road to Net Zero. One of the most sobering findings in the Digital Leadership Report is that the technology sector lags at the bottom of the pile in terms of having a Net Zero target and plan – 58% of respondents from tech companies said they didn’t have one, far ahead of the next two worst offenders, healthcare (51%) and business/professional services (50%). This position really isn’t tenable. The pressure will inexorably rise on businesses across sectors to report and disclose more around their sustainability targets and progress. The tech sector has to get behind this. The big players already have ambitious and far-advanced programmes, but we need to see more commitment down through the industry. Rather like with diversity, I hope tech players focus on some of the often quite simple things they can control to lower their carbon footprint: are there ways of cutting email traffic, taking off unnecessary attachments, is there a clear policy that devices should be turned off overnight (where possible), is travel being managed down with collaboration tools utilised instead? Look up and down your value chain and see where you can make a difference. Ask your cloud and data centre providers about their footprints and what actions they are taking. Embrace transparency and disclosure. As a sector, the time has come for technology to grasp the nettle. This will be placed under a fiercer microscope in 2024.

2023 has been a challenging year for many businesses. There are signs that conditions in 2024 may be modestly better, perhaps appreciably so in the second half. Whatever happens, technology will remain critically important to most organisations’ operating models and transformation aspirations – putting those technology businesses who are really focused on serving their customers’ needs in a strong position to flourish.

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