2022 in Review: January – March
Top article: Cyber-attacks hit all-time high in 2021
The year started with a rude awakening for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who was convicted on three counts of fraud. The Silicon Valley healthcare entrepreneur was sentenced to 11 years in prison for defrauding investors (including former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and media mogul Rupert Murdoch). The case put ‘fake it until you make it’ start up culture in the spotlight. Pitching products as ideas to investors and hyping them can help founders realise their businesses with financial backing. But the month-long trial hinged on whether or not the founder realised that her idea was unrealistic. The jury ultimately found Holmes guilty of choosing fraud over business failure.
CES: Qualcomm and Microsoft join forces to develop AR glasses for the metaverse: Hot on the heels of Facebook’s name change to Meta the previous autumn, in the new year a slew of metaverse-related news followed. The world’s largest consumer electronics event was no exception with chip maker Qualcomm announcing a collaboration with Microsoft to power AR specs using its new Snapdragon AR processor.
IBM buys Envizi One of the hottest areas to invest in in 2022 was carbon fintech – software that helps companies to measure their carbon emissions. Corporate computer giant IBM continued on its acquisitions trail at the start of the year with the acquisition of this carbon measuring Aussie analytics software vendor, which claims to help firms with their CSR goals. New laws such as the EU’s Sustainability Reporting Directive, will soon oblige companies of all sizes to regularly disclose information on the social and environmental impacts of their business activities.
Intel to build $20 billion chip manufacturing plant in Ohio. The US started the year with a series of efforts to counter the worldwide microchip shortage that has affected all kinds of industries, from automotive and defence to clean energy and consumer electronics. Intel’s investment into two new advanced chipset manufacturing plants in Ohio preceded Biden’s CHIPS and Science Act (which passed in August) which subsidies US chip manufacturing and expands research funding to make it more competitive with nations such as Taiwan and China. In March Intel would also add to Europe’s efforts – unveiling plans to invest as much as €80 billion into EU chip production over a ten year period, in a move hailed as the first major achievement under the EU Chips Act.
UK government backs Britishvolt’s plans for domestic EV battery factory The year started with such promise for Britishvolt, a UK start-up manufacturer addressing a growing need: lithium-ion batteries for the electric vehicle industry. Auto execs have warned that without local battery production, much of Britain’s car industry could shift overseas to be closer to where the batteries are made. Britishvolt’s gargantuan funding efforts therefore, focussed on building a giant £3.8bn “gigafactory” in north-east England. The Blyth-based project initially attracted £100m in a government funding pledge – designed to attract further investment and payable after construction began. However, after further investment failed to materialise – when the government realised that the money it had pledged would be used to help the firm stay afloat rather than to build the factory, it withdrew its funding. Britishvolt is now in the process of finding investment elsewhere.
Editor’s pick: Log 4 Shell – why mass exploitation failed
They say that cybersecurity is a game of cat and mouse, but with the surge in organised cybercrime gangs and the vulnerabilities generated by moving to the cloud and WFH, it feels right now like the mouse is always winning.
Just before Christmas a vulnerability in Apache’s widely used Java-based logging utility Log4J – dubbed Log4Shell – sent the industry into a tailspin. Yet despite a few reported exceptions mass exploitation failed. So, what went right? This analysis revealed that while unified response played a part what really helped was the fact that the remote code required to activate the bug was just too complicated for many have a go opportunist to exploit.
Top article: Tech To The Rescue calls on tech industry to support NGOs in Ukraine
KP’s ransomware attack. It was crunch time for brands after a cyberattack on the snack firm placed the supply of Britain’s favourite savoury nibbles in jeopardy. In a letter to suppliers, it was revealed that the hack had wiped out KP’s IT and communications systems, making it unable to process orders or dispatch goods as a result. The attack highlighted the susceptibility of non-tech brands to online attacks and the immediate consequences to their supply chains and reputations.
Nvidia remains Arm-less after $40bn takeover collapses. The GPU manufacturer’s thwarted attempts to buy British chip designer ARM left it $1.25bn out of pocket – which it had to pay to Arm’s owner Softbank, by way of compensation. It also led to the resignation of Arm’s CEO Simon Segars. Arm is a core supplier of architecture technology to many semiconductor companies. The controversial deal had been contested by both UK and EU regulators on the grounds that it would have given one of the largest chip companies control over the computing technology and designs that rival firms rely on to develop their own competing chips.
Plagiarism is the ‘fundamental problem with web3’ says NFT trading owner. 2022 was the year that NFTs went mainstream with major brands such as Coca Cola and GAP and football teams all testing the water with non-fungible collectibles, but even before the May crypto crash – which in turn caused the value of NFTs to fall, cracks in the system started to appear. CEO and co-founder of Cent Cameron Hejazi brought his firm’s operations to a temporary close following allegations of plagiarism and the minting of fake assets – something he claimed was an issue across the entire industry. The previous month, NFT trading giant OpenSea admitted more than 80% of the tokens created through its free mining tool involved “plagiarised work, fake collections and spam” and later on in February Open Sea CEO Devin Finzer confirmed that hackers had stolen $1.7m in NFTs.
Editor’s pick: Meta Together
Is the metaverse the next technological evolution, changing our lives in the same way that the internet, social media, the iPhone have done? Or is it just another passing tech trend? With Meta (nee Facebook) hedging its whole future on – well, let’s call it a 3D version of the internet – TI’s editor James Pearce argues the case for collaboration between different tech. It’s interesting because the argument he voices got louder as the year progressed, with key figures such as World Wide Web founder Tim Berners Lee arguing that, to thrive the metaverse needs to be a decentralised, open source space and not dominated by a cluster of big tech firms. However, no one can argue that Facebook isn’t easy to use. How a disparate group of contributors and experiences will connect in a user-friendly way is something that’s yet to be fully realised, but will probably be the ultimate key to its success.
Top article: Samsung becomes the latest victim of cyber-criminal gang Lapsus$
Mobile World Congress returns to Barcelona as a physical event, after a two-year hiatus following the pandemic. The event brought an abundance of 5G use cases, including robots powered by 5G networks. Private 5G Networks for enterprise was another strong theme, as was telcos transition into becoming business and technology service providers.
Batteries included: UK start-up Aceleron talked of plans to accelerate the life of lithium batteries and touches upon what will soon be a worldwide global challenge. Lithium-ion, the so-called ‘white gold’ that powers electric vehicles and energy storage, requires graphite, lithium, nickel and cobalt to be mined. Later in the year London-based price reporting agency, Benchmark Minerals predicted that the world will need to build almost 400 new mines by 2035 to meet demand. Given this context, it was interesting to see how one Birmingham-based firm planned to make clean energy even cleaner.
Five things Joel Eagle wishes he’d know before moving McDonald’s to the cloud: At Cloud Expo Europe this year we sat in on a great session given by McDonald’s senior director of cloud and data services on lessons learned following the fast food giant’s five-year journey to the cloud, which is now generating £18bn worth of new revenue (as the exec said, “that’s a whole lot of French fries”).
FCC adds Kaspersky to US national security watchlist. The respected cyber firm became the first Russian firm added to the Federal Communications Commission’s “naughty list” following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The list is primarily made up of Chinese based firms, such as Huawei and ZTE and Chinese telecoms providers China Telecom and China Mobile International were other firms that have been recently added.
Going private: How 5G networks can enable 4.0. Telco body the GSMA predicted that the number of 5G global connections would reach one billion this year – but the benefits to business were only just starting to unfold in Q1 of 2022. Installing private 5G networks in hard-to-reach places for edge computing could be one such use case. TI’s editor and veteran telecoms reporter took a deep dive into the world of private networks to find out more about this big theme at MWC this year.
Alice & Bob, a quantum computing start up raises $30m. Big Tech and international academia and laboratories around the world are all racing to build the first commercial quantum computer – but this small Parisian firm we interviewed in March claims to have made a breakthrough.
Editor’s pick: Is working from home helping or hindering women’s tech careers?
Working from home has had an impact on all our working lives, but when it comes to women’s career progression has it been a help or a hindrance? To celebrate International Women’s Day, TI explored whether there was a proximity bias at play which subconsciously favoured on site employees (the majority of whom, numerous surveys have found, are women).
Biggest moment of 2022
News events that cause seismic shifts to the degree that they impact ever other story you report on perhaps happen maybe once every decade: 9/11 in 2001; Black Monday and the recession of 2007, Brexit in 2016. But in the 2020s things ramped up a notch. First came the Covid-19 pandemic: from home-schooling to remote work and supply chain issues it was hard not to find a ‘Covid’ angle on anything for a while.
Then, just two years later, in that last week of February, Russia invaded Ukraine in a major escalation of a war that began in 2014, everything changed. Again. One of the most immediate impacts on enterprise, given that Russian supplies around half of the EUs gas, was the price of energy sky rocketing. The war also brought with it an escalation in nation state cybercrime and an exacerbation in supply chain shortages – with the semiconductor sector – one of tech’s key suppliers – particularly hard hit.
And then there’s the politics involved in imposing sanctions on a tech-savvy nation which even forced Slush to retract its prize from the Russian winner of its start-up pitching competition this year.
The knock-on effects of food and energy price rises is an erosion in disposal income. Decreased consumer demand was one of the main reasons that Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg gave for laying off 13% of the firm’s global workforce. As further layoffs of Big Tech staff continue, the ripple effects of war in Europe have fused with the aftereffects of the pandemic and Brexit and continue to reverberate worldwide.
Running tech businesses during what many are predicting will be a prolonged period of recession will be a major challenge over the next few years, During his Slush keynote billionaire VC Doug Leone of Sequoia Capital advised firms to take advantage of the flood of talent about to be released onto the market – firms have the opportunities to upgrade their own talent pools and emerge stronger.
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