On the brink of the fourth industrial revolution – one largely driven by advances in technology, we are growing accustomed to expecting the unexpected. Acceleration is fast, exponential, not always predictable and almost always disruptive. The only certainty is that this trend will continue as it has, as computing power doubles nearly every one year and developments in new fields like blockchain and cryptocurrencies, IoT, AI, robotics, machine learning, AR/VR and nanotechnology start getting more practical and useful.
2017 has been a great year for tech, perhaps the most important one to-date, when previously disconnected areas started building on each other’s pools of knowledge and all of a sudden advancing at seemingly unprecedented rates. The job skills required of today’s workforce are rapidly changing, though, most higher education systems can’t keep up with demand for all the knowledge workers, data scientists, robotics experts and other developers and this is expected to continue far into the 2020s.
The only way to survive the tech revolution, is to be on its forefront, which demands a high degree of agility from organisations, in addition to awareness of new technologies and a practical strategy towards their adoption as well as the continued development of talent that can turn them into a unique competitive market advantage. To top this off, traditional capitalism is slowly fading from being the one, dominant model for world order and is gradually being replaced by alternative ecosystems, marketplaces and currencies, which keep getting better at circumventing government regulations, self-governing and engaging large numbers of citizens.
Tech to heed and embrace now
Keeping track of all the new developments in the digital area is a challenge even for industry analysts; there’s simply a lot going on, on many fronts, and even if you work in tech you are typically focused on your own area only and can be blind-sided when it comes to others. Whether we talk about bitcoin, app development, augmented reality or 3D printing, we all have our favourite areas of tech that we are understand and are professionally or personally vested in.
Looking at the latest Gartner Hype Cycle and McKinsey Global Institute report, there are a few topics that we believe have the highest disruptive and value-redistribution potential, and that even less techy companies should think about investing in, sooner rather later. While some trends are more fad than rad, there are a handful of them, which have a high potential of sticking it out, evolving and making the world a better, if more complex, place.
1. Virtual and Augmented Reality
Have you seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? It looks like a typical, futuristic, Luc Besson type of sci-fi film. Beyond the fact that it’s largely fantasy, the film actually offers us a slightly exaggerated but not overly unrealistic taste of what our future could look like: easily shifting between galaxies/realities, time zones and physical/virtual environments is now possible with a pair of 3D goggles. To successfully participate in and take advantage of this new technology, upgrades to existing infrastructure will be needed and apps to make it all possible will have to be built for both end consumers and B2B customers.
2. Machine, Deep Learning & Artificial Intelligence
Amidst fears that superior AI and robotic algorithms will fully replace the need for human workers in the coming years, this technology continues to progress without having yet made very tangible advances that warrant these concerns. That certainly doesn’t mean that it won’t, and soon. While there will continue to be a need for human supervision and abstract decision-making or other functions much too important to outsource to stupid algorithms, some less vital knowledge work that doesn’t require a high degree of emotional intelligence will inadvertently succumb to machine learning and automated user interfaces. Speech, facial, gesture recognition and autonomous vehicles will undoubtedly get robust, less gimmicky and more reliable in just 5 – 10 years, according to predictions.
3. Genomics and Biotech
As controversial as it has been, genetic bio-engineering is already making advances in agriculture; its proponents making predictions that it will decrease the importance of non-renewable energy sources, improve food production, and help us live longer. As feeding billions of people and sustaining an aging population become ever-more-pertinent global trends, we will need all the intelligence available to get on top of these sizeable challenges.
4. The Mobile Web
Mobile usage becomes prevalent and has already taken over desktop in many industries and platforms. Devices keep getting cheaper, faster, better at mutli-tasking and are packed full of sensors, enabling voice, finger, facial and god-knows-what other type of recognition. As 5G networks become faster and more secure in the next year or two, we will certainly see mobile developing further in usage, sophistication and user demands.
5. Internet of Things
There are already billions of devices that no longer exist in a vacuum; they’re smart, they’re connected and they’re doing a lot of the legwork for us in the background. Beyond the convenient personal/home applications, IoT offers significant implications for businesses, growing and proliferating at impressive rates. In many industries the relatively small investments into the software and hardware required to customise devices for their needs, quickly translate into saving time, increasing efficiency and security and providing superior intelligence to vital business functions.
6. 3D Printing
The rapid prototyping and mass customization potential 3D printing is able to offer to businesses of any size has been a de-facto game changer for many and specifically for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), which now have the ability to test concepts and bring products to market much more quickly and inexpensively. 3D printers are no longer expensive pieces of technology but can have an immediate positive impact on different types of sectors and operations.
7. Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies
Despite concerns about a bit-bubble that some say is bound to burst, the concept of cryptocurrencies, which remain unaffected by typical market trends, unregulated by governments and attainable by allocating a large amount of processing resources, is bound to continue existing and evolving in the coming years. The streamlined, secure contracting and transacting offered by decentralised ledged technology like blockchain, is already in commercial use and touted as a major disruptor for the banking, finance, logistics and travel industries, among others. It is also rumoured to be able to minimise or completely eliminate corruption in government sectors as more functions and processes become digitised and open to the public. Getting involved in blockchain entities early on provides the advantage of participating in the building and definition of the systems themselves.
Need help figuring out which tech to invest in for your business or NGO? Contact us with your questions; we can help.
Copywriter: Ina Danova