Our world is changing in ways never before imagined. Everything is going digital – every person, home and organization, and the momentum toward greater connection and intelligence seems to be unstoppable. New and emerging technologies continue to activate intelligence all around us, turning lifeless data into useful and actionable solutions. It’s truly an exciting time to be alive.
But there are also many new challenges still to be faced. What skills will people need in 5 to 10 years’ time to find a job? What tools and talent will businesses need to remain competitive? Looking ahead, three key trends are clear. How we react to these trends will determine our future success.
Trend #1: Sensors are becoming ubiquitous
The objects around us are gaining the ability to sense and to collect data. Our smartphones count our footsteps. Traffic cameras give real-time insight into optimal commuting times. Even cow collars are collecting data – on a massive scale. The collection of data is so important, that many experts are saying that data is, or will be, just as important as oil and gas is today.
By 2025, there are forecasts that 90 percent of people will be using a smart assistant. We’re on the verge of seeing the true activation of intelligence in our lives. And it’s all founded on data.
Imagine it’s the year 2025 – not so long from now, really. You’re sitting in a coffee shop by yourself having a snack. Even though you’re physically alone, you’re still more connected to the world than ever before in human history. In 2025, everything and everyone around you is connected.
In fact, before you arrived at the café, your sandwich was ready and waiting for you because you enabled your smart assistant’s “auto order” feature for your favorite restaurant. When you sat down for lunch, your smart assistant reminded you of several things:
- The sandwich in front of you is exactly the right number of calories for your lunch if you want to stay on track to lose 2 pounds this month.
- The person you’re meeting after lunch is running late. So even though you haven’t heard from her yet, you can expect the meeting to start a bit later than expected – 43.5 minutes late to be precise.
- You have three friends within 2 kilometers of your location who are listed as available in the next 2 hours. Recommendation: Go to the gym for 35 minutes.
This is the power of data. We live in a world that is increasingly connected and intelligent, and the future will be even more so. Technologies once relegated to science fiction are already, or are close to being, a reality. These technologies are activating intelligence, taking inert data and breathing life into it through smart applications based on processing and analysis. And smart assistants will be the brokers of this powerful intelligence.
Sensors and the data they collect are also changing lives through smart city initiatives. A full 80 percent of global GDP comes from cities, and cities are at the epicenter of data collection.
Weifang in China’s Shandong Province is a good example. The city of over 9 million provides a full suite of services through its smart city infrastructure based on the data collected from around the city. Another example of a city using sensors and data to improve lives is Amsterdam. This initiative has brought smart functionality to daily life in the city, and supported more than 40 smart city projects ranging from smart parking to home energy storage.
Cities and enterprises are providing these services by leveraging the power of data. Specifically, data that lives in the cloud. Going to the cloud lets cities consolidate the collection, processing, and analysis of data. By using insights from this process, they can innovate, provide more efficient services, and make life safer for residents. This is the essence of digitalization. And that brings us to the next trend.
Trend #2: Everything is going to the cloud
Enterprises are going to the cloud in order to connect their data. This lets them optimize their data collection, processing, and analysis (more on data analysis in Trend #3 below). By 2025 a full 85 percent of business applications will live in the cloud, and all companies of any size will be using cloud technology. Literally everything is going to the cloud, and all companies will soon be using cloud technology. That’s right: all companies – every single one – will be using the cloud. The same report suggests that by 2025, there will be over 40 billion personal intelligent devices and over 100 billion connections globally.
Having greater connection through the cloud means lines can be traced between formerly unconnected points, providing valuable insights that can be used to improve lives.
Smart retail and fintech
As the world becomes better connected through cloud and IoT, evolving consumer expectations are driving changes in how companies operate and how they interact with their customers. Consumers everywhere are enjoying the many benefits of a world that has connected the dots. In fact, people in many parts of China don’t need cash anymore. You can pay for and do everything digitally. And this trend is accelerating outside of China.
There are also exciting developments in “new retail”, where digital-native companies like Amazon and Alibaba are bucking the trend and actually jumping from online to offline. And part of the retail revolution is mobile payments. Examples include WeChat Pay in China, and M-Pesa in Kenya, which Google now accepts for payments.
Other developments in fintech, blockchain, and smart contracts are also driving us into the digital era. Pretty soon, using blockchain-enabled solutions for contracts and personal records will be commonplace. The first blockchain-validated diplomas are already being issued. Banking and finance will see unprecedented levels of automation, and with smart contracts, legal fees and arbitration costs could be slashed.
These trends shout one thing: The world is connecting in ways never before imagined, and when it becomes fully connected, we will be living in a very different world. But collecting and connecting data isn’t enough – you have to analyze it, then apply it. That’s where Trend #3 fits in. For intelligence to truly be activated, data needs to be analyzed and applied.
Trend #3: Everything is becoming intelligent
Intelligence is being activated everywhere. In manufacturing, economies of scale are evolving to economies of intelligence, making intelligent use of data more important than pure industrial scale. In the retail domain, consumers are super-connected, and becoming more connected every day. Everyone and everything can do things more efficiently because information can be intelligently analyzed and applied. The more information that is collected, the more dots can be connected. This is how individual lives are “going digital” and how intelligence is being activated.
Smart manufacturing and industry
Intelligent manufacturing is expected to reach a value of 6.4 trillion US dollars by 2025. Many manufacturers are now talking about the possibility of so-called “dark factories”, which are factories without any human workers at all where lights and air conditioning can be kept off completely. You simply leave the robots to do their work – nonstop.
In industry, the Swiss lift-maker Schindler has installed sensors in elevators to monitor vibrations, energy consumption, temperature fluctuations, and other variables. The data they collect supports preventive maintenance, heading off problems before they occur, reducing downtime by 90 percent and cutting maintenance costs in half. There is also change afoot in the food and beverage industry, which has up to recently been a bastion of traditional business practices.
In healthcare, the activation of intelligence is saving lives. As you read this, machines are analyzing patient scans for cancer cells and other illnesses. And they are doing it better than doctors. They are able to do this thanks to big data and machine learning.
Highlighting the importance of data, Deutsche Telekom has worked with scientists in the UK to develop a virtual reality game called Sea Hero Quest to advance research into dementia. The millions of user-hours spent each week playing online games are tracked through VR sensors, giving researchers more than 12,000 years of data for the largest dementia study in history.
We’re entering an era defined by intelligence, collaboration, and openness – it’s not a time to go it alone. Boundaries between industries are disappearing. Powerful new computing power, algorithms, and smart analysis are changing the way people, homes, and organizations operate, and the world won’t wait for those who don’t go digital. We all need to recognize the trends, analyze them, and then adapt.
Do you see the same trends occurring around you? If so, what is your organization doing to keep pace with the changes in technology occurring all around us?
Leave a comment below and make sure you join us at Huawei Connect where we’ll be exploring the concept of “Activate Intelligence”.