How Digitalisation Will Change the World

The world will be a very different place in 10 years’ time, largely thanks to rapid advances in technology.

But it’s hard to predict what the world will look like in 10 years’ time – so it’s worth looking back at the last 10 years.

Tom Raftery, vice-president, futurist and global Internet of Things evangelist at SAP, speaking at Saphila 2017, points out that Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone just 10 years ago – and compared to the smartphones available today, it was primitive.

“If I had said to you then, that phones could be used for tracking the health of pregnant women, you would have thought I was off my head. But now there are applications for pregnant women that will do that.

“Likewise, if I had said 10 years ago that your watch could predict the onset of stroke with 97% accuracy. But today using data from Apple watches, researchers can do that.

“This is the world we live in today; and the context we need to keep in mind.”

He predicts that digital technology will make the world a different place in the next 10 years.

The world of manufacturing is already being significantly changed with IoT.

We are seeing connected manufacturing thanks to the concept of product as a service. Instead of selling a product, manufacturers sell the service provided by that product.

The idea of products as a service will reduce the cost of entry for new players in many industries, Raftery says.

Meanwhile, manufacturers can also customise the products they create.

“This mass customisation will become the norm,” Raftery says. “If you want a pair of running shoes, you could design them online and they will be 3D printed for you.”

The next prediction is around energy, which is seeing massive changes.

As the cost of solar energy comes down, and the industry becomes more connected, many of the barriers to using technology are overcome.

“Solar is taking off,”Raftery says. Meanwhile, the cost of storing energy is coming down too, along with increased capacity in those batteries. He expects that utility companies will soon switch their pricing models to “all you can eat”, making money from value-added services.

The information around energy usage has value to users, and this could be provided by utility companies, along with smart home solutions.

The transportation industry is currently changing, and will be completely different in a few years, Raftery says. Technology will make cars more reliable and safer. This will have a knock-on effect on insurance.

“You will have less pollution and less congestion as we move to a ride-sharing model,” Raftery says.

In the future, we may well see flying cars – in fact, Uber is already testing the technology and other companies already have prototypes.

“The manufacturers are not making cars anymore; they are making computers that move.”

Agriculture is going to become much more important as the world has to feed more people, Raftery says.  IoT will be used to monitor plants in hydroponic environments, reducing the inputs required to grow food, and increasing the ability to grow more food in smaller places. Soon, we may eat meat that is grown in laboratories as well, he adds, reducing the carbon footprint of our food sources, and returning land for biodiversity or reforestation.

Healthcare will be massively impacted by digitalisation in the next few years. Already wearable technology can be used to monitor people’s health, but if this data could be monitored in the cloud, with patient and doctor notified if there is an anomaly.

“It’s preventative maintenance for people,” Raftery says.

Going further, body parts could be 3D printed. Robots could be used to look after the elderly or to educate children with special needs.

It’s obvious that education will be transformed by technology, but the way everyone interacts with the world will change, according to Raftery.
Wearable lenses, virtual keyboards and more will change the way we live.

Enormous networks will soon come into being, driven by the fact that more connections increase the value of all the connections.

“As we add more things to the Internet of Things we get a lot more value out of it.”

Blockchain will change many aspects of our lives, he adds. It is expected to do to financial systems what the Internet did to media. Going further, blockchain will reduce a lot of administration, dropping healthcare costs, assisting in logistics, and even transforming the energy industry.

“Another area where blockchain will have a huge impact is in the field of corruption,” Raftery says. Some countries are using blockchain to ensure no fraudulent activities take place. In Georgia, the land registry is on blockchain.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to have a massive impact on people’s jobs – and Raftery likens it to the Spinning Jenny that kicked off the Industrial Revolution.

He points out that history demonstrates that as old jobs are phased out, new jobs take their place.

But soon the technologies that drive change will become background. “No-one will be calling it digitalisation in 2027 – because everything will be digital.

“Digital is going to change everything – so the time to reimagine and move is now.”