It is well known that emerging technologies are disruptive, but what is less well known is the exponential rate of change of development; a rate of change that is giving rise to a whole new wave of startlingly powerful technologies. So what exactly are these technologies? How might they impact your business? And what can you do to turn their disruption to your advantage?
In this article we’re going to explore what PwC termed “the essential eight”; eight technologies that are the tip of the spear in terms of emerging technologies. These are:
- Internet of things (IoT)
- Machine Learning (ML)
- 3D Printing
- Augmented Reality (AR)
- Virtual Reality (VR)
- Regenerative and Personalised Medicine
One thing to notice is that, like turkey and cranberry, these technologies complement each other.
IoT is all about getting our devices talking to each other; picture your car telling your house to activate the lights and turn the oven on when you’re heading home from the office. ML adds an element of intelligence to computers, so combine the two and you have systems learn from what you do. Apply the improved mechatronics that have boosted the Robotics industry, and we get fully automated industries. Imagine a factory that reconfigures itself for every production run, even if it has never manufactured that product before. And with additive manufacturing methods like 3D printing, that will be even easier. 3D printers can now work with diverse materials such as aerospace grade metal alloys, glass and ceramics, even chocolate and ketchup. Plus, recent work by MIT that has ratcheted up printing speeds ten-fold.
VR has seen much use as gaming hardware this last year, from puzzle games to wielding a lightsabre, but it has real benefits when deployed as a point-of-sales device; allowing the customer to see what their buying and even interact with it whilst it’s still only an inexpensive digital model. AR has been slower to develop, but with everyone carrying around a smartphone, it is likely to be even more disruptive than VR; blending the digital and physical spaces as users access their data more fluidly and frequently.
Blockchain will provide a secure, traceable, accountable foundation usable in financial markets, voting systems, IP, authentication and ownership provenance. Finally the advances in medicine will allow people to be healthier and live longer; opening up new markets and consumer groups as medical technologies leave the hospitals and enter the bathrooms and bedrooms of the world.
So what should you do about these emerging technologies in your business? Well the first thing isn’t something you should do, it’s something you shouldn’t do: don’t relax. These technologies are going to impact you. Don’t handcuff yourself to a malaise of thinking that your industry is immune to disruption or seal yourself behind a drywall of indifference. If you don’t take advantage of them your competitor will. Educate yourself; both on these new technologies and their far reaching, disruptive influences. They can all benefit your business in some way.
This article was written by Seamus Ballard-Smith, R & D Associate, CEMET, Faculty of Computing Engineering and Science, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, South Wales.