2018 Predictions, Pt. 1: VR for Doctors, Smart Cities Grapple with Trust, AI Shakes Up Sales

Would you consider tipping a robot for room service at a hotel? Instead of a spoonful of sugar, might a good dose of virtual reality help your doctor be more empathetic to the effects of your illness? What are your expectations for trust in how the government handles your data? Will artificial intelligence (AI) be all that it’s cracked up to be, or will it just confound us as yet another promising but imperfect technology?

These are some of the quandaries you may be faced with in 2018, according to the experts who appeared on SAP Game-Changers Radio 2018 Predictions, presented by SAP. The first installment of a five-part series, the show aired live December 6, 2017.

Host/moderator Bonnie D. Graham asked 15 leading experts, academics, and business influencers what they see in their crystal ball for 2018. Each person was given just two minutes to share their predictions for what the next year holds for their industry, business, the world, and technology.

What the Experts Foresee for 2018

1. 2018 will be a breakout year for service robots. The market is interested and the technology has matured. We’ll start seeing these robots in public-facing roles and business operations, like fulfillment, hospitality, and security.

– John Santagate, Research Manager, IDC Manufacturing Insights

2. Smart cities will be a growth area for 2018 because governments need to do more with less due to budget cuts; the perceptions of risks around security, climate, and employment; and a lot of new technologies that are specifically aimed at government. The big challenge, however, will be establishing trust around data privacy and the role of government.

– Andrew Mack, Principal, AMGlobal Consulting

3. In India, expect to see promising developments from Aadhaar, an effort by the government of India to digitize the data and biometrics of all 1.2 billion residents. With Aadhaar, the government expects to improve efficiency; implement a single, nation-wide tax system; better track down tax evasion, corruption, and false land records. All this put together means there will probably be a far more efficient, digitized India with paperless, presence-less, and cashless methods for delivery of services. There will however be concerns about trust and consent around data.

– Prof. Rajeev Srinivasan, Adjunct Faculty in Innovation, Indian Institute of Management

4. Current conversations about difficult issues will shift training and human resources from the current “don’t get sued” mentality to actually looking at the opportunities in diversity instead of the fear-based viewpoint.

– Nance L. Schick, Esq., Attorney, Arbitrator, Mediator, and Founder of The Law Studio of Nance L. Schick

5. In the retail ecosystem, there will be a continuation of the reinvention of the brick-and-mortar physical store towards becoming an experience center. Related to that is the use of information technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), to create very personalized value propositions for consumers. Retailers will also need to consider creating a digital overlay of the physical operating environment and think about how consumers will interact with that digital twin.

– Brian Kilcourse, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research LLC (RSR Research)

6. Virtual reality (VR) in its second phase is really taking off. In the U.S. alone, we’re going to see a doubling of a $6 billion market in 2018. We’re looking at VR being used in all kinds of exciting ways, like enhancing medical applications; empathy training for doctors to support, for example, what it’s really like to feel disoriented if you have dementia; and virtual tools for marketers. We’re looking at multi-uses of different kinds of VR.

– Dr. Sara Diamond, President, OCAD University

7. Creativity works best when we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’ve had a lot in the news lately about travel, as well as self-driving cars, buses, and planes. This is all I want: self-service snacks on the airplane. I want to sit down, select my snack, and have it delivered to my seat [in an automated way] to eliminate the flight attendant blocking the aisle for an hour while delivering snacks in person. I think it’s not too far off.

– Sherryanne Meyer, Human Resources and Technology expert, Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG)

8. We are going to be seeing far more simple and practical applications of emerging technologies penetrating into the under-serviced parts of the developing world. The first wave involved mobile technologies. There’s going to be a second wave integrating people into richer services than what’s already available. We expect to see a lot of failures as well as breakthroughs, because you are also looking at the social angle when you look at the impact of the technology.

– Prithvi Sen Sharma, Founder, Prakshep

9. My prediction for 2018 is that what I call the social architecture – meaning how can technology and humans blend – will be the new guidance and whoever doesn’t follow this will perish. Digitalization is already leading change; humans must follow. In this regard, what will be important for 2018 will be collaboration, coexistence, and symbiosis.

– Otto Schell, Member of the Board of Directors, German Speaking SAP User Group (DSAG)

10. What’s coming is the use of voice recognition in combination with finance. For example, I would be able to ask my phone, “What is the inventory of a specific store?” and the phone will tell me that. This is similar to having something like a Siri or Alexa, but being able to have a finance “voice” in there that will be able to tell you your financial information.

– Elizabeth Milne, Senior Director, Product Marketing for Finance Solutions, SAP

11. Companies will continue to invest in digital business by digitalizing business processes. It’s going to be a real redesign of the business process as a revolution, not just an evolution. That ties in with more computing power, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI). A lot more companies will adopt these technologies, especially in the healthcare sector and services industry.

– Dirk Lonser, DXC Technology, SAP Go-to-Market Director and Client Principal

12. The future of work really involves a much more distributed team with remote workers. The companies that figure out how to keep their teams collaborating and working well, even though they are not in the same place, will rise above their competitors. We’re going to see more tools to help us collaborate better and hopefully a much better video chat platform. Any investment in technology to help people work across time zones and places will set companies apart.

– Tami Reiss, Founder, Good to Great Product Strategy

13. Particularly in consumer products, we’re going to see a move towards outsourcing the annual sales planning and execution process. We’ve seen teams build up their own skill sets in sales planning, trade marketing, and account management. But given the sophistication required, the next logical step is to start to out-process the pre-planning and analytics by turning over the data and requesting back two or three plan options to assess and go-to-execution on, with the possibility to monitor, track, and be quick, nimble, and collaborative around those very sophisticated algorithmic-driven, multi-dataset-driven plans.

– Gary L. Adams, Industry Principal, Vistex, Inc.

14. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will become mainstream in business in 2018. You can break it down into three categories: 1. Advanced analytics and big data plays, where the aggregation of data will allow the creation of new business models, 2. Business process automation, where we’ll see a high degree of back-end business processing, and 3. Customer experience, where we’ll see more intelligent layers between humans and systems, like voice navigation and human-like virtual assistants.

– Thorsten Leiduck, Global VP Ecosystem, SAP Cloud Platform Go-to-Market

15. Sales experience will be more focused on better messaging, insight when engaging buyers, and much more strategic in the way that salespeople will think about creating great customer experiences from the first moment they interact before a prospect becomes a customer. Tying onto that, we’ll see the evolution of AI in selling, so it’s going to be more sophisticated and help sales leaders focus on things like sales rep quality, lead and opportunity quality, and surface opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell, and identify barriers.

– Barbara Giamanco, CEO, Social Centered Selling


You can hear the full show at
SAP Game-Changers Radio 2018 Predictions


SAP Game-Changers Radio 2018 Predictions Special: Upcoming Shows

For dozens of other insightful predictions that can impact you and your business in 2018 and beyond, listen to all five episodes of SAP’s Game-Changers Radio 2018 Predictions Special.

Part 2 will air live on Wednesday, December 13 at 11:00 a.m. EST/ 8:00 a.m. PST at http://spr.ly/SAPRadio.

Additional shows in the series will air on January 3, 10, and 17, 2018. You can listen to the shows live here.

The experts’ predictions have been edited and condensed for this space.