New Decade, New Tricks: The Future and How We Get There

ByRichard Griffiths

January 15, 2020

Richard Griffiths

The new decade gives us the opportunity to make a few predictions about where we will be in ten years’ time and chart a course to get there. It’s a decade of unbridled promise with mobile and ICT technologies converging to unleash a bold new future. To put this in perspective, let’s remember where we were ten years ago.

There was no Uber or Grab or Didi and we arrived in new cities at the mercy of the local taxi companies. There was no Huawei Pay or Apple Pay or WeChat Pay and we carried leather wallets containing an archaic artefact called cash. There was no Waze to direct us down the backroads to avoid traffic jams and we relied instead on dumb GPS terminals that took us along the same congested highways as everyone else. And AirBNB was a mere start-up offering budget nights in strangers’ living rooms on airbeds with breakfast thrown in. We take these apps for granted now.

So, let’s get out the crystal ball and make a few predictions. Some of the scenarios may feel oddly familiar to viewers of the TV show Black Mirror.

Death Proof

Let’s start with an easy, uncontroversial, one. By the end of the twenties we will be driven around cities and across countries by autonomous vehicles that drive better and safer with greater awareness than humans. Drink driving will cease to exist and with it the accidents and deaths that it causes. Car ownership will dwindle as it will be cheaper and more convenient to call up a shared autonomous vehicle whenever you need to go somewhere.

Read more: How Will Driverless Cars Change Your City?

Conventional transport from buses to taxis will have to fundamentally change their business operations or cease to exist. Traffic jams will improve as AI determines the best route based on local conditions. We will raise the first generation that no longer needs to learn how to drive a car. Our journey will instead become free time to work or entertain ourselves as the interior of the car becomes an extension of our offices or living rooms.

Total Recall

Retina implants will capture everything you see and hear in UHD video and transmit it in real time over ultra-high speed mobile networks to massive amounts of cloud storage. AI will instantly recognise and record each frame’s people, places, and things that will be used to retrieve digital memories more accurate than anything recalled by Maximilian the Amazing Memory Man. Can’t remember that address? Spin back and find it instantly. Missed photographing your cat slipping on ice? Replay the moment time and again. Forgot what that argument was about? Relive it in all its glory. Our digital memories will be perfect.

And in the cinema, there will be an abundance of terrible political thrillers about the perils of deep fake videos.

Christmas Vacation

The digitalisation of the home has already begun but to date it’s largely been focused on getting a smart speaker to do something we used to do ourselves such as set an alarm or play a particular piece of music. In ten years, AI, environmental controls, UHD screens, and holographic projections will have matured and converged to take control of the whole home.

The living room will detect your mood and set the environment accordingly from temperature to view from the window while holograms will replace flat panels as the main means of visual communication. This means that on a dark, cold winter’s morning, your living room will detect your bad mood and automatically set the environmental controls and view to be an idyllic Caribbean beach. Holidays will begin at home.

The Sixth Sense

Impossible though it may seem at the start of the decade but we are probably at peak mobile phone right now and the device itself will rapidly become obsolete.

The smart phone will give way to smart wearables which will rapidly give way to tiny devices absorbed into the skin complete with an augmented reality display. We will no longer need a powerful computing device and screen in the palm of our hand because all the processing will take place in the cloud delivered to us over these super-high speed mobile networks. The era of seamless mobile communications as an addition to our current five senses will be a reality.

Office Space

While our personal lives and homes are being transformed, our workplaces will also undergo a radical digital transformation. Factories, manufacturing plants, production lines, healthcare, agriculture, heavy industry, all enterprises will be cloudifying their operations and introducing AI to deliver the next phase of automation. Great efficiencies will be achieved across many industries transforming the way that we work together, requiring new skills and competencies.

Read more: Is Education Today Teaching the Skills We Need Tomorrow?

Swing Shift

Underpinning all this will be three major social shifts. First, an increasingly aging population will force a great increase in productivity through automation.

Second, sustainability issues will become increasingly dominant demanding new efficiencies across the board.

And third, ICT vendors must work with regulators, governments, and service providers to create a bond of trust between industry and the consumer that is equivalent to (and similarly complex to) the civil aviation industry, otherwise any attempt to deliver the promise of 5G and digital transformation will be doomed by customer resistance.

Electric Dreams

The five key technology components that will enable this future are: 5G networks, cloud computing, AI, new devices, and new apps.

These technology enablers will increasingly become a co-dependent ecosystem where no one component stands alone and everyone works together and interoperates together to deliver a better future.

At Huawei, we are clear what our role and focus is. We will continue to invest up to 15% of our annual revenue back into Research and Development focusing on next-generation computing and connection technologies. As well as delivering industry-leading ICT networks and infrastructure we will invest more in fundamental R&D: the new theories, new materials, and new engineering that will produce truly innovative ways of thinking and doing. We will employ more mathematicians, physicists, and chemists, and challenge established industry lore such as Moore’s Law and Shannon’s Theorem.

The new decade begins with such unbridled promise for transformation in our lives. Let’s get on and deliver it.

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