By Geoff De Weaver, CEO + Founder, Touchpoint Entertainment Inc.
Here are my insights into which tech developments will have the greatest impact on the business world in the decades ahead. I’ve started with a ‘Baker’s Dozen’—the technologies I forecast to have the greatest potential to remake the global business landscape in the coming years.
I kicked off my career in the digital/Internet space some twenty years ago so I feel very qualified to evaluate major new technologies and trends that will certainly impact our world. With the start of a new year, the question is always: What technology trends will radically disrupt and transform businesses in 2016 and beyond?
Although I don’t have a ‘crystal ball’, my worldwide experience in helping clients digitally transform their businesses, by identifying emerging technologies and helping them to realize their potential. Here are the 13 technology tends which I think will help companies to reinvent and transform themselves.
1.Internet of things (IoT):
The Internet of Things, or IoT, may sound like a complex idea, but it’s a simple yet powerful concept. Devices around the world, whether it’s a smartphone, a home appliance, airports, hotels or an airplane, include a varying amount of sensors inside them. Those sensors are increasingly interconnecting via Wi-Fi and other technologies. IoT is about interconnecting, and creating intelligence from all the devices around us.
This makes IoT a great place to kickoff my list as it is the network of physical objects, i.e. devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, all of which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
Currently, 99% of physical objects are unconnected to the “internet of things.” BUT, going forward, more and more products and tools will be controlled via the Internet. This means all kinds of data can and will be generated as a result. You can expect sensors to routinely collect information on the health of machinery, the structural integrity of bridges, hospital patience, fitness levels for customers and even the temperatures in ovens. The list is endless.
In fact, many corporate investors and VC’s e.g. Intel Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia Capital, Caulfield & Byers, etc. have placed significant bets on the Internet of Things industry, which raised nearly $2 Billion in funding through the end of 2015. Now that’s impressive!
- Mobile Internet:
The explosion of mobile apps has dramatically changed our personal experiences with our cell phones. Just look at SnapChat in the latest Presidential Primaries as well as in your professional lives.
More than two thirds of people on earth have access to a mobile phone, and another two or three billion people are likely to gain access over the coming decade. The result: internet-related expenditures outpaces even agriculture and energy, and will only continue to grow.
For 2017 the number of mobile phone users in India is expected to rise to 730.7 million. And, China has over 1,276,660,000 users.
Traditionally, access to the World Wide Web has been via fixed-line services on laptops and desktop computers BUT, now mobile is the main-show. Bottom-line, it’s a natural evolution. Innovation will always go to the heart of where there’s friction.
“Cloud” is a buzzword that vaguely suggests the promise and convenience of being able to access files from anywhere. But the reality is that ‘the cloud’ is NOT floating like mist above our heads — it’s a physical infrastructure, it’s many computers housed in massive warehouses all over the world.
The growth of cloud technology will change just how much small and mid size businesses (and start-ups) can accomplish. Small companies will get ‘IT capabilities and back-office services that were previously available only to larger firms—and cheaply’. This makes Fortune 500’s and large companies in almost every field more vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive, and able to reach customers and users everywhere.
And yet as long as it’s easy to read email on our phones and watch movies on our laptops, we generally don’t take the time to consider where our data actually goes, how it gets there, and what happens to it on its way.
The cloud is convenient. That fantasy Steve Jobs once described in 1997 is now a reality for a lot of people, and that’s awesome. The cloud is so awesome that the world’s biggest technology companies are scrambling to find out how to make the most money they can off of it. E.g. IBM, Salesforce, SAP, DELL, etc.
- Autonomous Automobiles:
An autonomous car (driverless car, self-driving car, robotic car) is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Autonomous vehicles detect surroundings using radar, lidar, GPS, Odometry, and computer vision.
Great companies like Google, Tesla, Cisco, Nvidia, Covisint are all racing to lead this invasion, in driverless technologies that are already appearing, in instalments, in mass-produced cars and more. Case in point: Some BMW cars already park themselves, and you’ve all seen what Google and Tesla are currently doing!
Autonomous cars are coming, and fast. By 2025, the “driverless revolution” could already be well underway. All the more so if laws and regulations in the U.S. can adapt to keep up.
5. Renewable Energy and Carbon-reducing technologies
Renewable energy is energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as wind or solar power. Best of all, the environmental benefits of renewable energy.
Wind and solar have never really been competitive with fossil fuels, but that status quo is changing fast thanks to technology that enables wider use and better energy storage. In the last decade, the cost of solar energy has already fallen by a factor of 10, and the International Energy Agency predicts that the sun could surpass fossil fuels to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.
Companies are also paying more attention to their environmental footprints, and that’s prompting a flurry of spending on energy-saving technologies.
Additionally, Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods refers to a number of technologies which reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Among such technologies are bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, biochar, direct air capture, ocean fertilization and enhanced weathering.
In a recent Forecast Survey conducted by Goldman Sachs, 16% of the respondents indicated that energy-saving or carbon-reducing technologies would create a new area of spending for them in 2016. In the data center, companies are investing in virtualization, new cooling technologies and power management capabilities, among other things, to help reduce energy consumption. Now, that’s momentum!
- Advanced Robotics:
The term “advanced robotics” first came into use in the 1980s. It is used to define any sensor-based robots that attempt to mimic human intelligence. They are used in a variety of fields ranging from manufacturing, nuclear, construction, space and underwater exploration, and health care.
The robots are coming! Sales of industrial robots grew by 170% in just two years between 2009 and 2011, adding that the industry’s annual revenues are expected to exceed $40 billion by 2020. As robots get cheaper, more dexterous, and safer to use, they’ll continue to grow as an appealing substitute for human labor in fields like manufacturing, maintenance, cleaning, and surgery.
Companies leading the push include: Siemens, Caterpillar, Boeing, Panasonic, Bosch, Northrop Grumman, ABB Robotics, Honda Robotics and Lockheed Martin which, operates across numerous sectors including aerospace, energy, telecommunications and advanced electronics.
BUT, will the companies listed above, focus their companies to transfer and keep humans out of the picture, rather than learning from more personable functions, making the necessity for intelligent, remote technologies all the more significant?
Analysts at investment banks, hedge funds, and insurance companies will work in tandem with artificial intelligence to make compliance, anti-fraud and research data intelligible and actionable.
Many of the bigger Banks are already beginning to use technologies like Palantir to protect internal IP, IBM’s ‘Watson’ to reduce loan delinquencies, and start-ups like Sensai to prevent fraud by looking for patterns in large troves of data. This technology has the power to prevent the next financial crisis, improve adherence to new banking regulations, and even stop the next Bernie Madoff catastrophe before it ever happens.
- 3-D Printing:
This process makes a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material.
If you listen to industry analysts on 3-D Printing they often suggest ‘if you use 3D printing for prototypes you will simply be able to go to market faster’. But, 3D printing still has challenges. It’s relatively slow. And most printers are fairly small.
Much-hyped additive manufacturing has yet to replace traditional manufacturing technologies, but that could change as 3D systems get cheaper and smarter. In the future, 3D printing could redefine the sale and distribution of physical goods. (Think buying an electric blueprint of a shoe, then going home and printing it out!) The manufacturing process will ‘democratize’ as consumers and entrepreneurs start to print their own products.
Innovations are driving user demand, as the practical applications for 3D printers expand to more sectors, including aerospace, medical, automotive, energy and the military. The growing range of 3D-printable materials will drive a compound annual growth rate of 64.1 percent for enterprise 3D-printer shipments through 2019. These advances will necessitate a rethinking of assembly line and supply chain processes to exploit 3D printing.
8. Customer experience:
Customer experience (CX) is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction includes a customer’s attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy and purchase and use of a service.
Today’s CX leaders must create experiences that meet or exceed customer expectations to drive profits. And leaders in 2016 and beyond know that they must design, create & deliver ‘compelling customer experiences’ that support and grow their brands and businesses. Or they risk becoming ‘roadkill’.
As companies look to deploy systems that simplify interaction and foster engagement with their target audiences, the customer experience has become a priority for IT.
It’s certainly a higher priority for Computerworld Forecast survey respondents this year than it was a year ago. Last year, when respondents were asked to rank their top objectives for their single most important IT project, 11% chose “improving customer experience/satisfaction” — putting it last among the list of options presented. This year, that same choice ranked fourth, picked by 16% of those polled.
Importantly, in 2016 you need to ensure you develop a powerful customer-centric culture that aligns with your CX strategy.
9. IT-marketing alignment:
Five key ways Marketing and IT can get on the same page:
- Establish ground rules and protocols for collaboration
- Focus on building an aligned customer-centric culture
- Get “one view of the customer”
- Improve prioritization…speed matters in 2016 and beyond
- Make candor, honesty and transparency your rallying cry
In the age of digital business, technology has become a critical asset in helping companies engage with customers and prospects. As a result, IT and marketing departments are collaborating and forging partnerships that once would have seemed unlikely.
Marketing technology — everything from marketing automation to email campaign management and analytics — is a major new area of interest for respondents: 23% said they plan to increase spending on marketing technology in 2016, and 13% said it is a new area of spending for them. As companies place more of an emphasis on nurturing and engaging customers and prospects through multiple digital channels, there’s a need for CIOs and CMOs to work together to drive new innovative use cases, ensure successful implementations and improve overall marketing effectiveness.
Digital transformation is affecting every area of the business, including how you touch customers, how you find customers and how you engage customers. All of this can’t be executed without an effective technology plan, which is why there is so much energy in these partnerships. This transformation is dependent on access to Big Data.
- Big Data:
Big Date is comprised of extremely large data sets that can be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.
As I learned very early in my career and have repeatedly written, ‘Data Drives Dollars’ and every successful business in 2016 must start using Big Data or they will become ‘disrupted’.
I forecast huge IT investment is going towards managing and maintaining big data and it’s not going to slow down, the big data juggernaut is here to stay. It also connects us through a growing number of IoT sensors, mobile devices, and the world’s affinity for the Internet, the sheer volume of information available is already staggering.
By most accounts, we’re only skimming the surface of the Big Data ‘goldmine. It offers a world of opportunities for businesses to better market to prospective customers, develop in-depth user profiles, and enhance our daily lives, among other possibilities.
But many business execs are already uncertain as to what to do with Big Data. According to a recent study, Big Data will become a $33 billion industry this year, and a whopping 89% of business leaders believe Big Data will “revolutionize business operations the same way the Internet did.
In January 2014, IBM said it was investing $1 billion to fund a new business unit featuring its Watson supercomputer to help mine the ‘gold’ Big Data has to offer. Since then, IBM’s Watson division has made multiple acquisitions to expand its reach, including the recent $1 billion deal for Merge Healthcare. IBM also announced new deals with Boston Children’s Hospital, among others, and is opening a new Watson world headquarters in NYC soon.
IBM has not divulged key specific revenue results of its Big Data drive to date, but it did help drive a more than 20% jump in its business analytics unit last quarter, after accounting for currency headwinds. Conservative estimates suggest that Big Data will become a nearly $100 billion market in 10 years, but it will be a disruptive technology long before that. And IBM is poised to lead the charge but, with DELL, SAP, HP, Oracle, Accenture, Microsoft all pushing aggressively. Additionally, IDC says big data spending will hit $48.6 billion in 2019
Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Essentially, a drone is a flying robot. The aircraft may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with GPS.
Drone tech trends will enter the spotlight in 2016. Few will be more visible than the rise of small unmanned aerial vehicles used for both consumer and commercial uses. For that, we can partly thank increasingly affordable, capable drones from companies such as China-based DJI, which currently commands around 70% of the estimated $1.4 billion market.
According to recent research from Goldman Sachs, the Drone market could nearly double next year, and almost triple by 2017. A good example of this growth would be GoPro (NASDAQ: GPRO) who recently confirmed plans to help spur this growth with the launch of its own ‘quadcopter’ in the first half of 2016 and we all have seen Amazon articles on the topic too. .
What are sensors? Sensors are low cost, highly useful technologies that control everything from pacemakers, sprinklers and automotive fluid levels – they can even track our pets. They measure data in real time and stream that data over the web and Bluetooth to smartphones and cloud based services. But more importantly, they represent a largely untapped business opportunity and they mean immediate connectivity to customers
Sensors also give service companies the opportunity to shift their business from a largely reactive model to one that is much more proactive and valuable to the end consumer. Companies that take advantage of this can now shift how they manage customer relationships and in many cases create a new revenue stream.
Since Intel and Qualcomm are involved in designing and/or manufacturing ever-smaller chips to power mobile devices, this area likely offers them strategic value in both the sensors and IoT space.
We’re going to begin to see this transition in two different places; one is for medical uses, where being small, cheap, and disposable is a major benefit. The second will be for ad hoc consumer or ‘pro-sumer’ uses where rapidly distributing inexpensive sensors to quickly gather data. This makes it possible for new, casual use cases that would have been previously been cost prohibitive.
The days of $60, AAA battery-operated ZigBee temperature sensors (the size of a deck of cards) are numbered. For a fraction of that price, users can have half a dozen sensors packed into something the size of a thumbnail. This means today’s sensor makers will have to adapt — or be irrelevant.
- Virtual reality (VR):
Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds.
VR also creates a simulated environment. Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds. By simulating as many senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch, even smell, the computer is transformed into a gatekeeper to this artificial world. The only limits to near-real VR experiences are the availability of content and cheap computing power.
Virtual reality (VR) was all the rage at Mobile World Congress 2016 as the technology nudges closer to the mainstream. People came in droves to the Mobile World Congress, which starred Mark Zuckerberg BUT, it was Zuck’s VR speech that swept people off their feet.
Mark Zuckerberg appearing at Samsung’s Mobile World Congress event in February 2016.
Companies creating cheap durable VR viewers and cameras have an opportunity to partner with media companies — as well as government, humanitarian, and other organizations — to create stories that enable people to connect on a personal level. Rather than providing a static frame of reference, VR will open up new models for people to guide the conversation and engage with their interests and each other in ways that are more meaningful to them.
So there you have it – my Baker’s Dozen. I’d love your input, feedback. In the meantime, live your dreams, stay passion and PLAY BIG.
More about Geoff De Weaver:
Hailing originally from New York; Geoff De Weaver is the globally experienced entrepreneur and marketer, technology disruptor, trend hunter, transformation expert, author, keynote speaker and CEO of Touchpoint Entertainment Inc.
Feel free to get in touch with Geoff for further information:
‘When Action Meets Passion and Compassion, Lives Change’ ~ Geoff De Weaver