The Top 10 Fastest Growing Technologies of 2022

Every year, excitement abounds around the next big thing in technology. Once upon a time, long, long ago – if we’re measuring in tech years – it was about flash drives and touchscreens. More recently, 3D printing and gene editing were hot topics.  In the last couple years, crypto and the metaverse captured imaginations. As hot new technologies emerge – like language model ChatGPT, which converses in a human way – there is always plenty of hype, and we have to ask, Is this technology really a hotbed for innovation or a bunch of hot air? One way to suss out that question: patent applications. Numbers tell a story, and when companies are allocating capital to publicly protect their inventions, then they’re probably on to something important that will have long-term implications for their business, for consumers, and ultimately for society.

Each year, IFI CLAIMS, the industry’s most trusted patent data provider, reviews the thousands of US patent applications that are filed, along with their classes and sub-classes, to determine the year’s fastest growing technologies. Applications, we should note, are a better proxy than grants, because they’re an indication of what is novel now. Grants are more of a lagging indicator because it takes an average of 18 months between a patent application and an actual grant of rights. See below for IFI’s Top 10 Fastest Growing Technologies for 2022, along with charts that show aggregate patent application statistics.

US Applications: 2022 Count and Growth from 2018 to 2022

Toward the Right, Toward the Right

The fastest growing technologies that IFI CLAIMS analyzed are in this scatterplot toward the right.  Looking at the frequency of patent codes requested over the past five years, we calculated the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of those technologies to come up with our list of fastest growers. Click on the interactive chart to explore the finer details of each code.

Evolution of Tech Over Time

Patent Applications Mostly Proliferating

The 3,376 technologies we studied fit into nine main inventive categories. The majority of these areas expanded during the five-year period. Applications in physics grew the most over the time period, up 17%. The new technological developments category declined 29%.

10. Breathing Masks

CPC Code: A62B 18

Unsafe and foul air has long had humanity waiting to inhale, so breathing masks have a storied past. Fun fact: painter and scientist Leonardo da Vinci recommended a wet cloth over the nose and mouth as a protective barrier against harmful air. Respirator technology made big strides in the US during the early 1900s, in the wake of legislation aimed at protecting miners against poisonous and particulate-filled air (miners previously used canaries to ascertain whether carbon monoxide was present).  Breathing masks have protected against chemical warfare, fire hazards, and debris-filled air, as we saw in the aftermath of 9/11.

Masks

9. Machine Learning

CPC Code: G06N 20

Will machines take over the world? It’s an enthralling question when considered from the perspective of science fiction. But as a category under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, machine learning (ML) is the use of mathematical systems and specific data sets to mimic ways that humans learn, with ever-improving outcomes and predictions over time.

Node networks and geometric shapes in and round the form of a human head, representing a digital mind

8. 3D Culture

CPC Code: C12N 2513

For more than a century, scientists have been growing and studying cell cultures in such two-dimensional environments as glass slides and petri dishes, which isn’t necessarily the most accurate ecosystem in which tissues flourish. Life exists in multi-dimensions so being able to nurture cells in 3D structures is key to medical advancement and increasing the success rate and speed-to-market for drug therapies.

Bacteriums

7. Cigarettes

CPC Code: A24D 1

More than 30 million US adults smoke – about 12.5% of the country’s population, according to the CDC. Worldwide, the number of users is 1.3 billion, according to the World Health Organization. Because of the known harms of smoking, use is declining in most countries. But addiction and the fact that each day, 1,600 US youths will try their first cigarette means the industry isn’t going away any time in the near future.

Fuming cigarette

6. Quantum Computers

CPC Code: G06N 10

Supercomputers aren’t powerful enough to solve complex problems with countless variables. Quantum computing, with a processing ability that is much faster than classic, linear computers, is a fast-growing, next-generation technology that creates multi-dimensional computing spaces for algorithms to solve intricate problems and detect delicate patterns.

Quantum computer

5. Electrical Smoking Devices

CPC Code: A24F 40

Like the automobile industry, Big Tobacco is trying to transition away from combustible products (cigarettes) to electric smoking vehicles. When tobacco is ignited, thousands of chemicals are released in the smoke, many of which are linked to such diseases as lung cancer and emphysema. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but still hold nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent and young adult brain development, according to the CDC.

Electronic cigarette display

4. Computing Arrangements Based on Biological Models

CPC Code: G06N 3

Understanding the science of life, from the molecular level to an entire organism (and the systems that support it), requires a staggering amount of data and research.  So using computational power to study biological prototypes bodes well for advancements in the fields of medicine, ecology, botany, marine biology, microbiology, and virology, among others. Scientists can create a virtual heart, for instance, in order to predict the progression of cardiovascular disease. The spread of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, can be mapped, with effects of vaccination forecasted. Actual biologic tissue – DNA, for instance – can be employed in the computer modeling.

DNA stylized with computing graphic imagery

3. Special Features Related to Earth Drilling for Obtaining Oil, Gas, or Water

CPC Code: E21B 2200

For all the debate about how soon we achieve the goal of net zero greenhouse gas, fossil fuels could be providing energy for many more decades to come. Which means earth drilling technologies, such as the horizontal drilling that furthered the progress of hydraulic fracking, will continue to advance – or at least become more efficient and better able to optimize the quantities of fuel extracted from the ground.

Mobile drilling rig

2. Electric Digital Data Processing

CPC Code: G06F 2113

Electrical digital data processing  is an inclusive and wide-ranging class, covering everything from data centers to fluids, cloth, 3D printers and fuselages. The class is defined by electrical processing for automated functions using scientific data. In 2022, applications related to fluids was a key technology. Some examples would include sensors for water pollution control, hydraulic engineering, irrigation and drainage control and shale oil settings.

Stylized representation of a digital data landscape

1. Autonomous Vehicles

CPC Code: B60W 60

While the technology behind autonomous vehicles keeps accelerating, self-driving cars are much further down the road when it comes to widespread use – or even minimal use outside of sunny Arizona. Creating an automobile that performs like a human in all driving conditions requires R&D well beyond where it currently stands. AVs, we’re told, are the big, bright, exciting future. But will the future ever be now? Hey Toyota, Waymo, are we there yet? And, until that future arrives, how much longer can companies keep investing big bucks in the tech before they have to hit the brakes?

Autonomous vehicle concept art with HUD
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