6 Tectonic Shifts in Tech Every Executive Should Know

Digital Marketing

In 2016, tech­nol­o­gy is ever-chang­ing, ever-accel­er­at­ing, and whether we like it or not, ever-present. Giv­en its blan­ket appli­ca­tion, under­stand­ing the land­scape is absolute­ly vital for exec­u­tives, regard­less of field, busi­ness stage, or expe­ri­ence lev­el. 

While the first response of many execs may be pan­ic or resis­tance, it ought to be excite­ment. Advances in tech­nol­o­gy present oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­nect with cus­tomers across mul­ti­ple chan­nels and touch points, weav­ing a brand expe­ri­ence that’s con­sis­tent, easy to nav­i­gate, and bound to delight. 

Of course, mas­sive tec­ton­ic shifts in the tech space aren’t new. Think about the onset of easy inter­net access. In 2016, just over three bil­lion peo­ple use the inter­net, a num­ber thats dou­bled since as recent­ly as 2008. It’s changed how brands inter­act with cus­tomers, exist­ing and poten­tial, as well as shift­ed the bal­ance of pow­er in favour of the buy­er thanks to the ready avail­abil­i­ty of infor­ma­tion. These are echoed in the move to mobile phones in the last decade, par­tic­u­lar­ly in emerg­ing mar­kets, in the democ­ra­ti­sa­tion of insights via data sci­ence, and in the move to cloud-based infra­struc­ture. 

These are tru­ly ground-shat­ter­ing shifts in tech­nol­o­gy, changes that every exec­u­tive had to take in their stride. The alter­na­tive was to become a dinosaur, and even­tu­al­ly — like their Juras­sic coun­ter­parts — to become extinct.

Accord­ing to the World Eco­nom­ic Forum, this is the cur­rent crop of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies we should zero-in on. Giv­en how var­i­ous they are, both in scope and readi­ness for wide adop­tion, we’ll set our sights on six of them, par­tic­u­lar­ly salient for exec­u­tives today.

1)   AUGMENTED/VIRTUAL REALITY

Sim­u­lat­ing a user’s pres­ence and inter­ac­tion with their envi­ron­ment (real or imag­i­nary) has appli­ca­tions that go far beyond com­put­er games. Ear­ly adopters of the tech­nol­o­gy include IKEA. They devel­oped a VR expe­ri­ence allow­ing poten­tial cus­tomers to see IKEA kitchens through HTCs Vive head­set. The cus­tomer could change every detail at the click of a but­ton, from cab­i­net colours to lay­out, and see the kitchen from a child’s height as well as their own. VR uses extend to indus­tri­al and archi­tec­tur­al design, edu­ca­tion, and med­i­cine, with these fields bare­ly scratch­ing the sur­face of pos­si­bil­i­ty. That makes aug­ment­ed and vir­tu­al real­i­ty a must-explore for exec­u­tives around the world, par­tic­u­lar­ly when con­sid­er­ing new ways of delight­ing their cus­tomers.

2) INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT)

In 1999, Busi­ness Week’s Neil Gross made a pre­dic­tion. “In the next cen­tu­ry, plan­et earth will don an elec­tron­ic skin. It will use the Inter­net as a scaf­fold to sup­port and trans­mit its sen­sa­tions.” One look at the data con­firms his hunch. In 2016, there are around 6.4 bil­lion con­nect­ed things in use, with 5.5 mil­lion added to that num­ber every day.

This is called the ‘Inter­net of Things’ - a net­work of con­nect­ed objects, devices, and build­ings fit­ted with soft­ware, allow­ing them to inter­act and col­lect data. The uses are end­less, from smart­phone-con­trolled ther­mostats and home secu­ri­ty to more effi­cient city ser­vices. Har­ness­ing the pow­er of con­nec­tiv­i­ty will enable exec­u­tives every­where to gath­er data and insights on their tar­get audi­ence and cus­tomers, as well as offer­ing new meth­ods to serve them effi­cient­ly. 

3) ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Advances in AI are rever­ber­at­ing around busi­ness­es world­wide, as exec­u­tives realise just how pow­er­ful it can be in the devel­op­ment of new economies for their com­pa­ny. The proof is in the num­bers — $8.5 bil­lion was spent on AI in 2015, quadru­ple the fig­ure in 2010.

The appli­ca­tions of AI are already in full effect, with its capa­bil­i­ties for deep learn­ing giv­ing it unprece­dent­ed pow­er in pat­tern-spot­ting and data analy­sis; emi­nent­ly use­ful for mar­keters and indeed, busi­ness lead­ers in any indus­try. But AI isn’t lim­it­ed to smarter data. It can also be used to inter­act in a more robust, com­pre­hen­sive way with con­sumers, even when your staff aren’t avail­able — for exam­ple, AI-assist­ed diag­no­sis in the med­ical field. It also allows for mass per­son­al­i­sa­tion of con­tent. In oth­er words, AI-curat­ed infor­ma­tion can mean user expe­ri­ences tai­lored to fit each per­son that inter­acts with your com­pa­ny.

4) AUTONOMOUS TRANSPORTATION AND DELIVERY

Of course, we’ve all seen the head­lines about self-dri­ving cars being tri­aled by Uber in Pitts­burgh. Still in a con­trolled exper­i­men­ta­tion phase, they’re bare­ly scratch­ing the sur­face of autonomous trans­porta­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties. Think of the appli­ca­tions that come with true syn­chro­ni­sa­tion with com­put­ers and busi­ness­es. Hours of freed-up time, sched­ule man­age­ment, and more effi­cient ways to com­mute are well on the way.

As for deliv­ery, it’s a stream that runs both ways. As fur­ther advances are made in auto­mat­ic land, sea, and air deliv­ery, busi­ness­es will find them­selves able to send prod­ucts far faster and at low­er cost than in days gone by, reap­ing the rewards in hap­py, loy­al cus­tomers. In reverse, pro­fes­sion­als will be able to take deliv­ery of key infor­ma­tion, prod­ucts, and sam­ples at the same increased speed, stream­lin­ing an entire phase of devel­op­ment. 

5) NEXT GENERATION BATTERIES

Entre­pre­neurs like Bill Gates and Elon Musk have brought the pur­suit of of next gen­er­a­tion, longer life bat­ter­ies to the fore­front in recent years. The appli­ca­tions are var­ied, from vehi­cles to home ener­gy sys­tems, and with­out ques­tion, they’ll ben­e­fit both home­own­ers and busi­ness­es when wider adop­tion and low-cost devel­op­ment arrives.

Com­pa­nies will soon be able to dri­ve down ener­gy costs from top to bot­tom, be it through inter­nal oper­a­tions or sup­ply-chain pro­duc­tion, and if Tes­las gigafac­to­ry is any­thing to go by, the mass pro­duc­tion of the next gen­er­a­tion of bat­ter­ies will be ful­ly sus­tain­able.

6) THE BLOCKCHAIN

A blockchain is an ever-grow­ing data­base that hold a series of secure trans­ac­tion records. Each block is con­nect­ed to the last, and the chain con­tin­ues to grow as more trans­ac­tion ‑data is stored. Ever heard of bit­coin? Then you’ve heard of a blockchain, because that is tech­nol­o­gy that pow­ers it.

 But for busi­ness, a blockchain goes far beyond the ‘cryp­tocur­ren­cy’ appli­ca­tion. It has the abil­i­ty to dis­rupt finan­cial ser­vices, health­care, ener­gy, you name it — if it has process­es that require exchanges between peers, be it cur­ren­cy or data, the blockchain allows for a secure, ful­ly val­i­dat­ed trans­ac­tion any­time its required. 

Inevitably, these tech­nolo­gies (and oth­ers) will con­verge, result­ing in appli­ca­tions that pull from many to cre­ate one inte­grat­ed, effi­cient process; tru­ly “e pluribus unum” brought to life. For busi­ness lead­ers, this presents oppor­tu­ni­ty, both for inter­nal effi­cien­cy and val­ue cre­at­ed for the end user. Just imag­ine — an IoT device that can check the vitals of infant, then send the infor­ma­tion to an AI-diag­nos­tic tool. After that, a doc­tor can review the diag­nos­tic with a VR device, then pre­scribe med­i­cine deliv­ered via autonomous trans­porta­tion. Final­ly, the infant’s med­ical records are updat­ed on a health record sys­tem pow­ered by the blockchain tech­nol­o­gy. It’s a remark­able feat of inte­grat­ed tech, and it’s clos­er than we think.

At first glance, it may appear that many of these tech­nol­o­gy shifts don’t apply to you, your busi­ness, or even your indus­try. But we’ve thought that before, only for the inno­va­tion to spread, encir­cling us on an island of igno­rance. In recent his­to­ry, the smartest exec­u­tives are the ones who seek out infor­ma­tion, mas­ter­ing new tech­nolo­gies before they become wide­spread. That way, they’re ahead of the curve, pre­pared for what’s to come instead of tread­ing water to keep up.

What­ev­er order these tec­ton­ic shifts come in, and how­ev­er much they dis­rupt our indi­vid­ual indus­tries, becom­ing com­fort­able with what they are, how they work, and more impor­tant­ly, how they can work for you will do far more good than harm.


Digital Marketing
Vijayanta Gupta

Posted on 10-06-2016


Join the discussion