With several global crises occupying our daily lives, it's important to see where we can use technology to solve these hard human problems. Today, we have more access to data from wearables, medical devices, environmental sensors, video capture and other connected devices than we have had at any point in the past.
When combined with cloud technologies -- like computer vision, machine learning, and simulation -- we are starting to get a glimpse of where that powerful blend of information and application can take us.
The next wave of innovators and inventors are already building solutions to reforest the planet, keep our youth active, and reimagine the supply chain from the warehouse to delivery.
And this is truly just the beginning. As access to advanced technology becomes even more ubiquitous -- as every facet of life becomes data that we can analyse -- we will see a torrent of innovation, and this will proliferate in 2023. So here are five predictions:
1. Cloud technologies will redefine sports as we know them
Like music and video, sports will become data streams that we can analyse. The insights that these will unlock will transform the entire sports industry and redefine what it means to play -- and experience -- every game.
In the coming years, every facet of every sport will undergo a digital transformation, and this will happen at every level of play, from youth basketball to professional cricket.
Top leagues, like the Bundesliga and the NFL, have started using video streams, wearables, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and more for real-time analytics and insights. Looking ahead, these capabilities will continue to advance, and the technologies will become an omnipresent force in nearly every sport, at every level.
Imagine a scenario where a coach can use computer vision and biometric data that is analysed in the cloud in real time to pull a player before they cramp or concede a goal, replacing them with the most well-rested teammate, something now quantifiable. This simultaneously improves player safety and increases the game's competitiveness.
In the not-so-distant future, we will reach a point where teams are running constant "what-if" simulations in the background during every game, enabling them to better predict the impact of their decisions in the moment. Technology itself will become the competitive foundation for professional sports.
2. Simulated worlds will reinvent the way we experiment
Spatial computing. Simulation. Digital twins. These technologies have been slowly maturing for years, but the everyday impact has been limited. This is quickly changing, and in 2023 the cloud will make these technologies more accessible, enabling a new class of use cases unbound by physical constraints.
Simulations are used to build better race cars, predict weather and model the stock market. But the difficulty of building and running simulations is a barrier. Take a fluid dynamics simulation for a jet wing or race car as an example, where it may take up to 150 terabytes of data just to simulate one second of a real-world scenario.
However, this is quickly changing with technologies like AWS SimSpace Weaver, the first of many technologies that will pave the way for a future where nearly anything can, and eventually will, be simulated.
Simulations will help us make better decisions about the roads we construct, the ways we organise our warehouses, and the ways we respond to disasters. We can peer into the future to see the impacts of our efforts, running numerous "what-if" scenarios that answer our questions without having to wait and see what the impact might be many years down the line.
3. A surge of innovation in smart energy
Energy-storing surface materials. Decentralised grids. Smart consumption technologies. In 2023, we will see rapid development on a global scale that improves the way we produce, store and consume energy.
The environment around us produces more than enough renewable energy. The challenge is actually with storage and on-demand delivery to the systems that need to consume that energy.
Companies across the globe are innovating in this space. The cloud is enabling materials research science for novel use cases, such as integrating energy storage into the structure of the objects they aim to power. Imagine a shipping vessel where the sides of the ship are actually the batteries that power it on its journey. We are also starting to see breakthroughs in long-duration storage, like molten salt, stacked blocks and fuel cells.
Another area is the decentralisation of energy. With uncertainty around energy availability, some communities are turning to microgrids to sustain themselves, reducing their reliance on traditional energy companies and their ageing infrastructure.
4. Supply chain transformation
In 2023, adoption of technologies such as computer vision and deep learning will propel the supply chain forward. Driverless fleets, autonomous warehouse management and simulations are just a few of the optimisations in the pipeline.
The change will start with the manufacturing of goods themselves. IoT sensors in factories will proliferate, and machine learning will be used to not only predict equipment and machine failures, but to prevent them. Less downtime means consistent production.
Shipping those products across the globe is a whole other challenge. Digital freight networks powered by the cloud will traverse countries, even oceans, providing real-time data that will allow carriers to optimise with the most efficient shipping routes and change course in response to inevitable events.
These freight networks will set the stage for the first cross-country autonomous truck shipments. An autonomous truck can be on the road for 24 hours. There are no mandated breaks, and the technology never gets tired, impatient or distracted. Products get where they need to go faster, safer and more efficiently.
Upon arriving at a local warehouse, robotic picking, order sorting, and automated packing will become more commonplace.
5. Custom silicon goes mainstream
The use of purpose-built chips will rapidly increase in 2023. As a result, the pace of innovation will accelerate as workloads take advantage of hardware optimisations that maximise performance, while lowering energy consumption and reducing costs.
Custom silicon and specialised hardware have been quickly gaining traction in the consumer technology industry. Everything from our laptops to our mobile phones to our wearable devices is seeing significant leaps in performance with the fabrication and adoption of custom silicon.
While adoption has been quick in the consumer space, the same hasn't been true for business applications and systems, where software and hardware traditionally have longer refresh cycles. However, this will quickly change in the coming years as the accessibility and adoption of custom silicon takes hold.
Dr Werner Vogels is chief technology officer of Amazon.com