This year was no exception: an opportunity to rub shoulders with movers and shakers across the tech industry – and hear expert analysts stick their necks out on what the near future may have in store.
Here are my key takeaways:
- If you were wondering who the ‘Agenda setters’ are today by all means look West (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft) – but don’t forget to look East (Alibaba and Tencent)
- And if want to know the new battleground they’re fighting over – it’s 6 key things: Blockchain; Edge Computing; Super Computing; AI; Digital Business & Workplace; Security & Trust
- We’re just a step away from another Black Mirror episode becoming a reality: Social credit scores could become a very real thing sometime soon. They’re already in development by Tencent in China to rate the trustworthiness of people in order to allocate school places.
- Quantum Computing is both mind boggling and mind blowing, promising to smash through the limitations in silicon and Moore’s Law to massively boost computing performance. But it also requires cryogenic cooling, sub-atomic processing and no ‘interference’ to succeed (hard).
- If Quantum Computing does become a reality, we should also be a tad worried. Look at it this way: today’s computers would take 1 billion years to crack existing security encryption standards. Quantum will take just 100 seconds. Gulp.
- All those other buzzword technologies you’ve been trying to ignore, are going to be a force to be reckoned with. IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are going to be mightily important in the age of the data economy – and we can expect them to become highly integrated and interdependent by 2021.
- Yes IoT means loads more connected things. But the big issue is how we extract value from the sheer volume of data generated. Without the aid of AI, that data will remain pretty darn unintelligible.
- AI is also making headway at work: over half of people surveyed expect to see digital assistants in the workplace in 12 months. A third are already using them. How long before Alexa is not just able to book your meeting room but take and action notes for you?
- Everyone’s making a play for the Digital Workplace. 320k organisations may well have adopted Microsoft Teams in just 18 months. Slack may well have 8 million active daily users. But want to know the app most used by employees? WhatsApp.
- Sonos could be coming to your meeting room very soon. CEO Patrick Spence was making noises that the smart speaker company could soon be making a play for the enterprise market. Who knows could Sonos, in partnership with Microsoft Cortana, deliver a simple voice activated solution to address the complexities of jumping on conference calls? No more 12 digit pins or crap hold music then.
- A big question is how telecoms operators stay relevant. Only 4 telco operators feature in BCG’s Top 50 Innovators globally. A combination of heritage, fragmentation, regulation and just plain inertia have hindered innovation to date – but that needs to change. The advice from CCS Insights: it’s time for telcos to diversify beyond connectivity, take risks and make some big investments.
- In Africa, people pay more for the electricity needed to charge their phones than for their mobile tariffs. No surprise some like Orange are moving into reselling electricity.
- 5G could be the last roll of the device for many mobile phone operators. And the big bet shouldn’t be about the role of 5G in the consumer space (don’t expect Joe Public to pay a premium for 5G). Also, a huge variation in users’ experience of 5G in 2019 and 2020 are likely to create ‘marketing headaches’ aka. punters that are promised the earth and find the actual 5G experience is not quite there yet
- The real commercial opportunity with 5G will be in the enterprise space. It’s going to provide the ‘connective tissue’ and unifying fabric to cope with all those new connected IoT devices and machines sending data over the airwaves. But it also demands huge investment to make it happen – with more than 400,000 new masts needed in the UK alone.
- There’s this thing called Mobile Edge computing that’s going to see a shift in the cloud as we know it. For instance, as your autonomous car tootles down Tooting high street sometime in the future, you don’t want it to be dependent on sending and receiving data from a cloud somewhere in Arizona to get you from A to B safely. Instead, we can expect to see the cloud at the network edge – which may mean servers being put into base stations much closer to home. Overall, it’ll mean a lot less latency, which is kind of important when you’re taking part in a Virtual Reality teleconference or trying to do remote heart surgery (probably not from a car anytime in the foreseeable future though).
- Blockchain actually looks like it’s got a place in the world. Walmart is already using it for commercial purposes to track its sliced mangoes from producer to store. It used to take 7 days to work out where a product is and its origin. Not good if you’ve got a recall issue on your hands. Blockchain is enabling a single, tamperproof shared view of the supply chain. Now it takes 2.2 seconds to know where that mango came from and where it is right now. You could say this Blockchain thing is starting to make sense.
- 63 mobile phones are sold every second. It’s now the most prolific consumer electronic device on the planet.
- In 2025, average smartphone usage in the US will rise to 4 hours a day. Expect digital detoxing to become even more of a thing
- By 2020, Internet users will on average generate 1.5Gb of data per day. Smart factories will generate 1,000,000Gb data per day.
- Amazon is likely to buy a major retailer in Europe in 2019. Could Lidl or Morrisons be fair game?
- Chances are Netflix will open its own branded cinema by 2022 (as another channel to distribute original content)
Big thanks to CCS Insight for the predictions. For some proper expert analysis check out their own blog here: https://www.ccsinsight.com/blog
Header photo by Florian Pérennès on Unsplash