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2023: When Tech Buzzwords Go Stale

March 30, 2023
Tech is bursting with hype—it has been since the invention of the first computer and always will be. So, what’s the prognosis for the three major hot-button terms: Big Data, IoT, and AI?

This article appeared in Electronic Design and has been published here with permission.

This article is part of our 2023 Microwaves & RF Forecast issue.

What you'll learn:

  • Predicting outcomes for Big Data, IoT, and AI in 2023.
  • Will a new "term" emerge this year?

We’re already at the end of the third month of 2023, but the forecasts from industry experts keep rolling in with bright, visionary predictions on what to expect over the course of the year. So now for something completely different—a forecast on what will not happen in 2023.

This isn’t so much a pessimistic outlook for 2023 but rather a reality check featuring three hot-button terms that most forecasts are promoting with endless enthusiasm: Big Data, IoT, and AI.

Prediction #1: RIP Big Data

Cause of Death: Putting quantity over quality

For the last decade or so, “Big Data” was a term akin to a boogeyman. Vendors used it to try to sell data-analytics tools and services as a solution to a problem that customers didn’t even know they had. The pitch was clear and effective: There’s going to be gigantic amounts of data generated in the future, and if businesses don’t prepare for this development, they’ll surrender their competitive edge. Maybe even go out of business.

The predictions of exponential growth in data on a global scale were spot on, but the impact for most of the businesses has been closer to zero than hero. Big Data tools made it possible to work super efficiently with data that wouldn’t fit on a single computer, using computers that grow more powerful every day while the costs of storage and computing decreased. While some companies wisely collected all of the data they could, few could make sense of it.

“Collect data first, ask questions later” clearly isn’t a good business model. And an even colder reality: Thanks to GDPR, owning data is a liability, not an asset. The simple fact is that there hasn’t been sufficient quality data to justify the need for expensive Big Data tools. And besides, what does the term Big Data even mean nowadays? It’s the Schrodinger’s cat of tech. It simultaneously means everything, and nothing.

Let 2023 be the year the capital letters go away and big data is officially declared dead.

Prediction #2: RIP IoT

Cause of Death: Valuing the means above the ends

As the proponents of big data predicted there would be an avalanche in quantity of data, proponents of IoT predicted a gazillion (or some other insanely high number) connected devices in the near future. These devices would help us know everything all the time and fix all of the world’s problems.

But with big data and IoT, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The number of connected devices absolutely is skyrocketing—so much so that a Black Mirror-esque surveillance society seems imminently on the horizon. Does this mean every product manufacturer should build IoT into their products? Absolutely not.

IoT is nothing more than a buzzword. Not a single company or consumer on Earth truly wants or craves IoT. What they want and crave is turning device data into actionable intelligence.

This seems to be a particularly crazy concept at a company like the one I work at, one that’s all about IoT connectivity and software. But IoT is a feature like any other. Customers just want to get data into the cloud—they’re interested in the solution regardless of the invisible technology inside.

And the cracks in IoT are already showing. The annual IoT World conference was swallowed into AI Summit, and news site Enterprise IoT Insights was folded into RCR Wireless News.

Does this mean funding or usage for IoT dry up? Not at all. Expect more companies than ever to spend gobs more money in the coming years—because connected devices have serious value, of course. But IoT, like big data, is a term that will fall out of favor in 2023.

Prediction #3: AI Progress Will be Minimal

Artificial intelligence isn’t going anywhere. OpenAI’s public release of ChatGPT is as big a historic milestone in technological innovation as anything that’s come before.

New investment from VC firms is already exploding and a hiring spree for AI engineers and experts is underway, but this is a big year for development only. It’s telling that AI has been effectively opened up to everyday consumers before businesses. Consumers are guinea pigs who can toy around with it and help scientists figure out where the uncanny valley lays.

It’s exceedingly rare for an innovation to come to consumers before its business applications are mined nearly to death. There’s a natural progression of innovation: from the conception of a technology, to market viability, to widespread adoption, to commoditization. Good examples in common usage are when Kleenex/tissues and Xerox/copy machine became interchangeable terms, much to the chagrin of the copyright holders. Whereas big data and IoT are close to reaching the end, AI is in its infancy.

That isn’t stopping opportunistic investors from rushing in for gold without truly knowing if there’s actually gold to be found.

In fact, AI seems to lose a bit of its shine by the day, as those breathless news stories from just a few weeks ago about a bright future seem outdated already. Not long ago, Bing was a winner, Bard was a loser. Bing looks like the same way it did when it came out, unspectacular. And ChatGPT’s small but endearing flaws are getting more embarrassing. From prematurely ending conversation to fighting over the current year to accusing users of bad behavior, ChatGPT seems…temperamental.

All those Skynet jokes need to be dusted off, because this thing is definitely coming for us eventually. Lucky for us, that’s a very long time into the future.

And even when the practical applications start to reach viability for enterprise business, customers won’t care about buying AI, they’ll just be hyped about the solutions enabled by AI. AI’s capabilities and limitations will quickly be considered normal.

At the end of the year, expect those bright and shiny AI predictions for 2024 to be identical to the ones you see today, because not much will happen.

An Elegy for Big Data and IoT, and a Birth Announcement for AI

Tech is bursting with hype—it has been since the invention of the first computer and always will be. It’s assured that by the end of the year, we’ll have another buzzword with just as much as heat on it as AI. And this time next year, we’ll see what other buzzwords fall in line with big data and IoT.

Read more articles in our 2023 Microwaves & RF Forecast issue.

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