Edge computing, artificial intelligence and mixed reality are the three emerging technologies that businesses should pay attention to over the next five years, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Taking part in a keynote session on dealing with digital disruption, titled “An Intelligent Future for All” at the Mobile World Congress, Nadella admitted that there are “three very broad trends that we will see play out” that have the potential to “change the landscape of computing”.

Edge computing

While 5G is stealing the headlines at MWC 2019, fuelled by the dispute between the United States and Chinese telecommunication company Huawei, Nadella believes that more important that 5G technology is the potential of edge computing that new-generation mobile networks will help to unlock.

“Computing is going to become more ubiquitous. It’s going to be in the cloud, it’s going to be in the edge,” Nadella said. “This conference is all about 5G and what 5G is going to do is really bring low latency compute close to the edge, where data is getting created.”

Edge computing involves deploying computer power, data storage and management closer to end user, allowing data to be processed, analysed and acted on locally. As data doesn’t have to be transmitted over long distances to be processed in a data centre, edge computing can provide performance increases and cost reductions for businesses.

Artificial intelligence

The second trend Nadella highlighted was advancements in the field of artificial intelligence (AI).

Businesses are already investing heavily in AI, with global business spending on the technology having reached $219bn in 2018. However, it is widely felt that the technology is still lacking use cases that fulfil its potential.

The the “discussion around AI capabilities will become more balanced this year”, according to GlobalData. However, even if the hype around AI is reduced, further research and development into the technology will provide a clearer sense of its best uses in the coming years, according to Nadella.

“The second trend is the ability to reason over large amounts of data to create what people call artificial intelligence,” the Microsoft CEO said.

“It’s phenomenal – just think about what’s happening, whether it’s in the language side, whether it’s in speech and vision. But more interestingly, how do you bring the models for all of those together? The breakthroughs are coming fast and furious, but what does that mean? How does every experience of us get mediated through AI, how do we distil knowledge from what’s happening around us from AI?”

Mixed reality

Sales of augmented reality headsets have achieved slow growth over the past two years. According to Statista, 800,000 augmented reality headsets shipped in 2018, up from 200,000 in 2017 and 100,000 in 2016.

Despite that, Microsoft has pushed on with its mixed reality HoloLens headset. The company has used MWC 2019 to unveil its HoloLens 2 device, which it hopes will lead to widespread mixed reality usage in the business world.

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Despite a slow start, mixed reality, is the third trend that will play out over the next five years. According to Nadella, mixed reality will provide the user interface of the future, allowing users to operate their devices using the method best suited to that device, app or use.

“The user experience of what is a mixed reality, to me, speaks to where all UI is going. It’s instinctual. You have speech, you have gaze, you have gestures, you have touch, but you use the things that are more natural for a given modality,” Nadella said.