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From cloud, cryptocurrency to the metaverse: Tech that dominated 2021

As 2021 draws to a close, we look at some of the tech trends that got bigger, and those that will continue to dominate in the coming year. From cloud to cryptocurrency to metaverse, here is a look at what kept the tech world buzzing:

The cloud: Bigger and better
In 2021 cloud was not only a buzzword — it also saw a huge adoption rate, thanks to the pandemic and companies realising that they needed to have a digital footprint.

Take the performance of the hyperscalers—Google, Microsoft and Amazon — in the third quarter of 2021. They managed to attract well over half the world’s cloud spending, said a report from Synergy Research Group. The report said that Q3 enterprise spending on cloud infrastructure services passed the $45-billion mark, up 37 per cent from the third quarter of 2020. The trailing 12 month revenues have reached $164 billion, said the report.

With digital transformation becoming a crucial need for businesses, the adoption of digital technologies is expected to go up further. According to a study by IBM Institute for Business Value, executives believe that technology is playing a key role in building resilience and adaptability, ranking it a top external force that will impact their businesses in the near term. Internet of Things (IoT, 79 per cent), cloud computing (74 per cent), and artificial intelligence (52 per cent) are the top technologies that they expect will deliver business results.

Focus on cybersecurity
With the rapid adoption of cloud, and work-from-home (WFH), the focus on security has gone up multi-fold. In fact, the pandemic and WFH saw a significant rise in cybercriminal attacks. Globally, ransomware remained the standout threat in the first half of the year, as cybercriminals continued to target big-ticket victims. Working with third parties to gain access to targeted networks, they used advanced threat tools and techniques to steal victims’ data. In India, the ransomware threats for H1CY2021 stand at 12.98 per cent, the second highest in Asia, after China.

“2021 has been a challenging year for security teams and many of the uncertainties that shaped the year are expected to continue into 2022. The cybersecurity landscape is ever-changing as adversaries transform their tools, techniques and procedures to pile even more pressure on often under-resourced and unprepared security teams,” said Mike Sentonas, chief technology officer, CrowdStrike, a US-based cybersecurity technology company.

Cryptocurrency and exchanges
The highlight of 2021 was the adoption and acceptance of cryptocurrencies and related themes among users. Amid the unicorn rush this year, two crypto start-ups — CoinDCX and CoinSwitch Kuber — made a surprising entry with billion-dollar valuations.

With industry estimates of 15-20 million crypto users in the country and total assets at over $6 billion, the government’s stance on cryptocurrencies has noticeably softened. Yet, regulatory uncertainty persists, even as latest reports suggest that the crypto Bill won’t be tabled in the Winter Session of Parliament.

The regulatory uncertainty notwithstanding, the crypto ecosystem seems poised to grow further in the year ahead. “The number of crypto users in the country has grown at least 10-fold in the last one year. There is no reason why we should not grow 10x again in 2022,” said Siddharth Menon, chief operating officer and co-founder of crypto exchange, WazirX, which claims to have around 9 million users and expects that number to hit 40 million next year.

The biggest crypto craze this year has been around NFTs (non-fungible tokens) with Bollywood icons like Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan launching their virtual collectibles. Interestingly, it’s not only start-ups such as Totality Corp, NFTically, KoinArth and BollyCoin that are entering the space — legacy companies like MG Motors are also looking to leverage the trend.

Totality Corp, a Web3 gaming firm, is going a step further and building playable NFTs based on Indian mythological characters. “Although NFTs are seen more as art now, gamifying it, so that people can earn actual monetary rewards, will increase its adoption in the country,” said Totality founder, Anshul Rustaggi.

Nitin Sharma, partner and global blockchain lead at Antler India, said: “Cryptography, code and digital assets are challenging our conventional notions of everything from technology and money, to law and institutions. Web2 is broken. In Web3 and DeFi (decentralised finance), a new Internet and a new financial system is being built. Thousands of new founders can leverage this opportunity and create a decentralised Web3 that will take shape within the next 4-5 years.”

The lure of Web3
When Jack Dorsey quit as CEO of Twitter, one did not expect to see him get blocked by people on the platform he founded. Yet, that is exactly what happened recently, as he took digs at venture capitalist firms like Andreessen Horowitz for trying to centralise Web3, the technology buzzword that dominated technology conversations around the world in the latter half of 2021. Web3 is the idea that the next iteration or version of the Internet will be built on concepts of decentralisation, openness, and greater user utility. The idea that people will own the Internet in the next phase is a compelling one for developers and funding entities alike. In the first phase of its evolution, the Internet was driven by users consuming information. In the second phase, and with the advent of social media, users also became contributors.

However, Dorsey and Tesla CEO Elon Musk openly challenge the idea that Web3 will be owned by people, given that many of the current projects testing Web3 are funded by venture capitalists.

Metaverse: The road map
The other buzzword of 2021 was the metaverse, which was catapulted into the public lexicon by Facebook when it renamed its parent entity “Meta”.

To put it simply, think of the metaverse as “a whole new 3D interactive internet,” as described by Faisal Galaria, chief executive officer of Blippar, which creates augmented reality experiences for brands and retailers.

While Facebook has rebranded itself around the metaverse, other technology giants like Microsoft, Google and Amazon, have a virtual reality or gaming play, an essential component of the metaverse envisaged for the future.

“The metaverse is a persistent virtual world, and shopping will be driven by 3D and augmented reality. The brands that work with us will be able to represent their entire portfolio and allow metaverse participants to truly engage with their products,” said Prashant Sinha, co-founder and CRO, Adloid, which was recently rebranded as Metadome, a metaverse that will provide no-code infrastructure to creators and brands to build immersive experiences for the virtual world.

“For individuals and creators, the possibilities are enormous, as they will be able to interact, collaborate, learn, play, work, create, trade, transact and buy virtual goods,” Sinha added. Business Standard

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