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Technology’s immediate future

Andrew Clark

Predicting technological advances can be a minefield – we’ve yet to start teleporting a la Star Trek, after all. But looking around us at what’s occurring now, there are a few areas where we can see how tech will advance over the next year in both the business and domestic arenas.

Right now, the world is waking up to the Internet of Things, in which smart sensors and connected devices allow us to manage our homes from our phones - switching on lights and appliances, using digital assistants to shop for us or find out real-time news or weather - and improve our urban and rural environments, transforming data on air quality or traffic flow into easily accessible information, creating smart cities and campuses.

But when IoT meets another huge tech advance from the past few years, Blockchain, we’ll see the introduction of systems that are less prone to hacking (because of the way Blockchain creates a digital record across thousands of computers). Shipments could be tracked more easily and the distribution pipeline improved securely. Think about how this might affect pharmaceuticals – medicines could be transported to where they’re needed without waste.

Healthcare and pharmaceutical manufacturing will certainly benefit from 3D printing. This process can also be applied to making prosthetics. Moreover, there’s an ongoing research into tissue engineering, exploring the possibility of 3D printing being used to regenerate damaged human tissue.

“Business digitisation” is a buzz phrase right now, but what does it actually mean? We can already see ways in which digital developments are shaping the way we work. For example, technology facilitates flexible working, allowing virtual meetings, home-working and therefore, reducing the environmental impact of commuting as well as heating and lighting office buildings. Instant communication is also a massive part of the way we work today, with messaging services allowing for immediate responses to decisions even if workers are not physically located in the same place. Furthermore, artificial intelligence, closely related to automation, is key to aspects of data analysis – and, of course, it creates algorithms.

But what about the future? Well, innovation in technology allows companies to optimise the way they manage and organise work, develop new ideas, and get products to a wider audience, leading to more satisfied customers. AI may also help businesses move into new areas. But perhaps the most fundamental reorganisation will come with the rethinking of the business model itself. Accessing online information and using technology to optimise use of resources as well as personnel will give organisations the opportunity to create business models suited to their own needs and adaptable.

And let’s not forget about augmented reality: beyond Pokemon Go, we’ll soon see smart glasses supplying us with information as we walk along (without being hunched over phones). The possibilities for instant translation, fitness and health monitoring, and communication, of course, are limitless.

Read our related blog: How digital centralisation has changed

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