Technology is changing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Our annual “Technology Vision” is one way we bring rhyme and reason to the technological disruptions that are affecting all of us. This report is intended to provide food for thought to business and technology leaders seeking a path forward. To that end, here are five technology trends you need to understand.
A watch that once told the time and date can now monitor your heart rate and warn you if timely care is needed. A car that once transported you from A to B is now highly connected and semiautonomous, with the ability to self-diagnose when issues arise. And a thermostat that once controlled the ambience of a room now knows what the weather is outside and can adjust a home’s climate accordingly.
Welcome to the blurring of products and services. Devices of all kinds have become smarter, smaller, more portable and more connected than ever — making them less expensive to manufacture, easier to acquire and easier to integrate. These devices provide the volumes of data for advanced analytical engines, which allow for the mass aggregation of data to perform sophisticated analysis.
As usage- or access-based pricing models emerge, we no longer need to buy a product or service; we need only to pay for what we consume. New and varied “as-a-service” models provide ways to acquire access to an application, business process or infrastructure.
Blur brings challenges to organizations, industries and consumers looking to adopt this new model. Consequently, companies must increasingly focus on product and service support, move toward “as-a-service” consumption models, and increase their data understanding and security in order to provide the best customer experience.
“Know But Safeguard My Preferences”
Each day, knowingly or not, people share data about virtually every aspect of their personal and professional lives. As we have seen in the blurring of products, with the proliferation of IoT combined with 24x7 connectivity, data is continually captured about an individual's location, financial activity, health and wellness habits, friends and associates, purchasing behavior, social views and opinions, and entertainment choices.
This has given rise to a huge treasure trove of personal data, enabling companies to develop unimaginable insights into a person’s needs, wants or intentions. Consequently, companies find themselves in a Catch-22: the models and data are powerful and provide positive business results, but the people whose data they collect have a vested interest in privacy. While those with the best models and the most accurate data will have the competitive edge, getting there is not without risks.
In essence, customers demand the following from those they do business with: “Know me, to give me an immersive, personalized experience. But forget me once my data no longer gives value back to me, and safeguard my data against falling into the wrong hands.”
When is data at its most valuable or most useful? When is there a risk of data becoming old and no longer relevant? And how quickly does data lose its value?
Today, massive amounts of data are being collected and held “at the edge,” often without a full understanding of what it will be used for or when it will have maximum value once it has been fully processed in the cloud. Either way, foresight and planning is needed to understand how this valuable commodity can be harnessed to provide business insights and inform appropriate actions.
“Edge computing” and distributed analytics can provide real-time analysis at or near the point where the data is collected. In most cases, this is where and when the data is the most valuable, and can be applied to spur immediate action or speed response. In other words, data has a time-based value. It is most useful when it provides context, insight and meaning that can inform better decisions and add more value for businesses, their partners and their customers.
Virtual Assistants at Work
The future of automation is no longer man vs. machine, but man and machine. Human and robot collaboration is already upon us as humans work with robots and software agents of different shapes, sizes and computational composition. While robots will excel at manual and repetitive tasks, humans will shine at roles or tasks where they can be most human.
With human-robot collaboration, core tenets of running a business will change to support this new work dynamic. Imagine how talent acquisition and onboarding would have to adapt. Imagine the implications of productivity and performance measurement. Imagine how inevitable conflicts that will arise between humans and their robot counterparts will need to be managed. Imagine if there are performance problems, or if work demand decreases. What will happen if a reduction in this new workforce is required?
Again, this new collaborative dynamic will fundamentally change the nature of the workforce and work environment. As they become more advanced, robots will augment humans in ways that increase productivity and workplace satisfaction, helping companies reach new performance thresholds. Business processes will need to be reimagined, and the human anxiety of robots taking over all work will need to be alleviated.
Technology advances have always been premised on improving the human condition. Today, we are on the cusp of an augmented age where technology is redefining the possibilities of human capability. As this next phase of transformative technology advances, wearable and implanted devices will unlock human potential by tapping into our mood, heart rate, thoughts and more.
Coined in 2011 by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, augmented humanity refers to the use of technology to deliberately augment the human body for either medical gains or to extend human performance. Augmented technology includes items that can be worn near the body (smartphones, sensors), worn on the body (smart lenses, watches), or implanted within the body (digital tattoos, smart pills, neural lace). We already use earpieces to listen to music, and contact lenses to help us see better. These technologies, and many more, are becoming smarter, more advanced and more powerful.
Like human-robot collaboration, the businesses that leverage human augmentation stand to gain a significant competitive and technological edge. As with the previously mentioned trends, those who believe that the future is now will undoubtedly be better prepared to welcome, adapt and benefit from it.
For more industry-specific examples, please read “Unexpected: Five Ways Technology Will Challenge Conventions,” visit our Business Consulting Practice or contact us.