The technology snowball keeps growing, the demand keeps skyrocketing, the capacity keeps expanding and technology’s impact on business will not soon abate.
Since the industrial revolution and indeed eons beforehand, technology and human civilisation have moved in lockstep. As we continue to create and define technology, technology in turn continues to create and define us as well. What can we expect in the next few years though? What new trends and capacities will we see?
1) AI and the normalisation of machine learning
This has crept in so subtly that you may not have noticed. Google, Apple and Facebook etc. dominate these discussions and the rest often slip by unnoticed. A business like Netflix for example is highly dependent on AI to deliver the interface you know so well, suggesting films, pulling up searches that are no longer dependent on titles but also actors, directors etc. They even choose cover images for films they deem most likely to appeal to you through previous activity.
But these are rather obvious. More curiously we will see this AI and machine learning technology expand into businesses as varied as shipping, accounting, CRM systems, medical research, legal assistance and pollution control. This will impact and revolutionise countless business verticals over the coming years.
Expect to see this AI expansion move in swelling waves of influence through businesses great and small, with typically slow legal systems struggling to match pace and legislate effectively.
2) The internet of things
Another marketplace opening up in tandem with AI. We heard of this many years ago and have just begun to see real development and penetration with new businesses and products popping up everywhere. IOT or the internet of things refers to internet enabled and often interconnected objects or things. Like what?
- Smart Homes: You can now turn your lights on from your smartphone away from home, check your cameras and get alerts if a sensor is tripped or a package delivered. You can turn your casserole on before you get home, control your blinds, fridges or toaster. Pioneered by the likes of Alexa, Echo and Siri, this trope has ballooned further by inviting AI into your smarthome. Asking your house to make phone calls, cue tracks, turn on equipment and pull up information by voice alone is now a reality and you can bet it wont stop there.
- Smart Wearables: fitbits, apple watches and google glass (ok this will back) are great examples of objects such as watches being connected with your phone, computer and associated online accounts. These devices count calories and steps, track your movements and connect with plentiful 3rd party apps for enhanced connectivity.
- Smart Cities: This one is broad but Singapore offers a few examples, starting with thousands of internet enabled cameras and sensors. Already they can detect smokers in non smoking zones, litterers throwing trash from apartments and have created smart traffic and parking technology and monitoring. They have also created a ‘virtual Singapore’; a vast 3D model that can predict congestion, plan evacuation routes and ease congestion at sporting or musical events. Again we will see legislation and privacy concerns slow to match the pace of change and development, although Singapore is reasonably unique in the way it makes the data public.
3) Augmented reality
For all the hype around VR, we are really yet to see many business impacts so far. Granted the tech is currently amazing in terms of the home entertainment industry – ever tried some of the recent VR horror games? The immersion is truly terrifying.
But what of AR? The last big splash was made by Pokemon Go, a quickly spiking juggernaut that seemed to dominate a few short months of the world’s attention span before politely exiting via the back door. But gaming is not the technologies only outlet. We are currently seeing mechanics and tradesmen using AR to overlay instructions, tips and measurements onto the parts they are working on. We are seeing surgeons using AR to have vital statistics and instrument readings layered over the organ they are treating. Museums are showing extra information and animations over their collections. Services and businesses will increasingly embrace AR in the next few years.
Further still we have a google glass clone being deployed terminator style to China’s Zhengzhou police force, combing IOT and AR in a world first for law enforcement. The officers are able to identify suspects in a large crowd and are fed information on previous crime and identification such as home addresses and phone numbers. Wow, things are getting pretty sci-fi… i’ll leave the ramifications up to you to decide however!
Without a doubt this tech will infiltrate more and more of our medical, engineering and security fields the world over. This one is just starting to get serious.