Monday, 2 November 2015

We've barely begun

Despite 30 years of digitizing analogue information and connecting devices to networks; despite the obvious explosion of eCommerce, mobile, social media; despite the massive disruption to the music industry, newspapers, books, retail, advertising; the digital technology revolution has barely begun.

According to Cisco's former CTO, Padmasree Warrior, we've only reached 1% of the potential connectivity that we will see in the next decade. The exponential growth in connectivity will be driven in part by connecting the remaining 40-50% of the world's population who today do not have access to broadband (most of the technology giants have ambitious programs in place to make this happen via internet balloons or solar powered drones). But the real explosion in connectivity will come through the embedding of sensors, chips and SIM cards into everyday objects – things we wear, things in our home, our infrastructure, factories, machines, buildings, cities; even a bottle of beer can now be connected.

Connectivity on its own is not particularly disruptive, but the combination of the explosion of connectivity with wave upon wave of new technology, (including artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, blockchain etc) will transform previously dumb products into smart, connected products and previously isolated “things” into nodes within smart, self-learning networks. A connected thermostat that previously offered only remote control access via a mobile device, may be transformed into a device that optimises energy consumption and group-buys energy on behalf of a collective. A medical device that checks blood pressure, may be transformed into a diagnostic device that combines multiple sources of data and compares health data with millions of users. Cars may be transformed from metal boxes on wheels into smart fleets of autonomous driving taxis.

Today the speed of change is uncontrollable and unfathomable to most businesses. Today a new technology can reach a critical mass of 50m users in just 35 days. However, what’s both frightening and exciting in equal measure is just how nascent some of these developments still are and how much disruption is yet to occur.

  • Within Healthcare - Genomics England aims to sequence 100,000 genomes, which would create 21 Petabytes of valuable data. A huge step forwards for medical science but still only 0.15% of the UK population.
  • Within Automotive – we’ve already seen Tesla release a software update containing the capability for level 2 auto-pilot, but IHS Automotive estimate that it will be more like 2030, before we see self-driving only cars on our roads.
  • Within energy, there are currently around 2 million smart meters already installed in UK households. Smart energy GB aims to see connect 26 million households by 2020, so today we’ve reached less than 10% penetration of smart meters.
  • According to Canalys, the Global 3D printing market was $3,8bn in 2014, but is set to grow to $16.2bn by 2018. Today, the vast majority of people and businesses do not yet use a 3D printer.
  • A slightly more advanced market (but one with an equally long way to go) is the industrial robotics market, where nanorobots may fuel the next wave of growth. However, the consumer robotics market is set to grow 7 times faster by 2019.
  • After "60 years of false starts", the Artificial Intelligence market also looks set for exponential growth. Tractica estimate growth from a surprisingly low $202.5m in 2015 to $11.1bn by 2024

The combinations of these technology-driven developments will impact every company in every industry sector. Companies that have previously only digitized their front end web sites and apps, will see impact up and down the value chain. If every car is connected and autonomous, will motor insurance be needed? Will consumers still buy cars or will cities buy them under peer to peer schemes? If every aspect of my health and wellbeing is connected, how will my health insurance policy change? How will the healthcare system change from treatment to prevention? How will the pharma sector shift from selling pills to delivering outcomes? If robots are set to take 35% of UK jobs, what new careers will emerge? If 3D printing significantly reduces customs and excise duties, how will the tax systems around the world respond? Moreover, if we are already 20 years behind the skills needed in the market today for cyber security, what on earth will the deficit look like when we reach 50, 70, 90% connectivity?

The previous decade of technology-driven disruption has already brought  profound change, but things have barely started. Today the questions are getting more and more interesting.

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The Customer Revolution Blog by Laurence Buchanan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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