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In an event I attended last week, Rachel Maguire, Research Head at Institute for the Future (IFTF), EMC President Jeremy Burton, and EMC CMO Jonathan Martin shared their insights on a research study sponsored by EMC, conducted during 6 months by the Institute of the Future with the help of Vanson Bourne for the quantitative part. 3,600 business leaders in 18 countries were surveyed until January 2015 across eight major industries.

The report has been published last Thursday (April 16th) and is articulated in three major parts: first, it shows what are today’s five key business attributes as a consequence of the four tech mega trends of Big Data, Always-Connected Mobile Devices, Social Networking and Cloud Computing, that are reshaping the world.

According to the findings from the Institute of the Future, those five current key business attributes are the ability to spot new opportunities, to innovate in an agile way, demonstrate transparency and trust, to deliver a unique and personalized user experience and to operate 24/7 in real time.

The second part describes the impact of those five key business attributes, and how it is changing both customers’ behavior and the way companies operate. In this part, the report digs deeper on the results by geography and by industry.

The last and third part identifies five key directional shifts for 2025. In this near future, we will see the rise of the Information Economy where data will be traded like commodities, the Networked Ecosystem a.k.a. the context-aware and responsive environment, the Augmented Decision-Making capability enabled by AI systems, the Multi-sensory Communication that leverages all five human senses, and the Privacy-enhancing Tech for “helping consumers achieve privacy fairness”.

For anyone covering tech, these trends are not really new, however, it is interesting to have a study backed by real data to confirm what we knew about the future of tech, you can read more details and my insights on the IFTF’s findings in the complete article below.

The recent explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) alongside the mass adoption of the smartphones (1 billion units shipped in 2013 and 1.3 billion units shipped in 2014) that exponentially increase the generation of data are obviously the major factors leading to the Institute’s predictions. While offering tremendous opportunities, some of these shifts are very scary, and even top leaders who are building this future at full speed have already warned us about artificial intelligence (AI).

However, even the legitimate fears related to the lack of control on our personal data can foster tremendous innovations and opportunities.  So let’s see how those five key directional shifts can be beneficial:

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Information Economy

For instance, in its Information Economy, the Institute of the Future envisions an organized marketplace for personal data, hopefully controlled by the users who will be able to monetize the best of their encrypted intimate life.

As a matter of fact,  Datacoup , a startup founded in 2012,  has already started that business (see detail p 59 in the online report). As I pointed out during the event, we already are in the Information Economy, we currently trade our data for “free” services, for instance, Google apps (Gmail, Chrome browser, Google Search, Google Docs….) are a perfect example.

At Ubergizmo, we are always very enthusiastic about any new connected object that offers a genuine value to consumers while producing petabytes of data, and the recent years have been filled with incredible innovations, thanks to the success of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Network Ecosystem

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Nue 100 chip by Audience uses Audience’s Neuroscience intellectual property (IP) to provide smartphones with a higher level of context-awareness

So that brings us to the second shift, labelled Network Ecosystem in the report, which predicts that the multiplication of sensors and interconnected objects will create an always-connected world that isaware, responsive and informed”.

The first scary thought that comes to my mind is the book 1984 by George Orwell that describes a totalitarian society with a dictator who can spy on anyone, anywhere at any time… but we can also shift our brain towards the great opportunities hidden inside this Network Ecosystem.

Thanks to sensors, our surroundings, every task we perform, every move and every objects we interact with will be monitored, and it has already started: we have seen the smart cup that analyses the chemical components in your drink, or the smart helmets that can measure your biometrics or provide views of the road you cannot see. The cars and the cities are getting smarter everyday, just like the home and our usual utensils, so we can imagine a future where our entire environment will be connected, responsive and hopefully “smart”.

In my opinion, just like we pay more today for organic food since processed food has become the norm, which was the opposite 100 years ago, we will probably pay a lot to be kept off the grid and enjoy some privacy in this bright future.

Augmented Decision-Making

stroke detection wearable

Samsung works on a wearable with early stroke detection

Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates recently warned us against artificial intelligence (AI) pitfalls, as it looks like it will inevitably be part of our life some day. Labelled Augmented Decision-Making by the Institute of the Future, the AI assisted systems will enhance our decision-making capabilities and as responsible human beings, we have to try to keep the innovations in that field beneficial and harmless.

For now, robots are just capable of mimicking the brain of a worm, but we can imagine, as Stephen Hawking predicted, that they will become smart enough to replace us in an awful lot of jobs.

According to the study, “analytics – including linked data, machine intelligence, predictive analytics, computational and virtual simulations, and autonomous algorithms” – will produce meaningful insights from the “massive amounts of data generated today”. Additionally, new user interfaces, specifically those using natural language, “will support an increased role of smart automation in all kind of work, including knowledge work”.

The Institute of the Future projects that “there will continue to be types of decision-making that human beings are uniquely suited for.”  Well, we are reassured then, humanity will not become obsolete in the near future.

Multi-sensory Communication

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Inside the FeelReal sensory mask that can be added to any VR helmet – adds vibration, heat( and smell (the 7 tubes in front) to the gaming experience

As sensors allow to make our devices and our environment aware and responsive, we will be able to get information from brands and other people via the full spectrum of our senses.  Currently new interfaces rely much more on audio for communication, specifically in the cars, thanks to voice recognition technology and natural language algorithms.

Soon we will not need to type anymore, all our devices will understand and respond to what we say, and instead of reading about a wonderful vacation resort we will just put on an enhanced version of Oculus Rift that will reproduce temperature and humidity perception, to experience it with all our senses.

Actually we have seen some attempts to augment the Oculus Rift, for example, the FeelReal adds smell and vibration to the experience. Having tried the Oculus Rift and other VR headsets, I can tell you that the user experience is not really “seamless”, as marketers love to say, but we will certainly get there one day.

Privacy-enhancing Tech

Privacy… this is the elephant in the room at any conference related to big data and IoT, the one thing that stands  between the innovators and the ocean of opportunities promised by the billion connected objects and petabytes of data they will collect. Policy makers know it and sometimes they discard any concerns about privacy while other day they try to address the issue.

Where there is a challenge there is always room for innovation and market opportunities, as it has been described in the first part of the study, demonstrating transparency and trust is a key priority for businesses, surely because people already know that they have no other choice than trusting corporations with their personal data.

People seem to have accepted that absolute privacy and security for their data will not be possible, however they are probably willing to pay for more.

Privacy concerns may limit the scope of research and innovation that could highly benefits humankind, such as disease prediction and early detection which requires to constantly collect our most intimate data (heartbeat, breath quality, sweat density, brain waves activity…). .

In conclusion, the Institute of the Future predicts that “wiring security and privacy into all devices and algorithms will be paramount for us to realize and enjoy the full benefits of the always-connected, sensor-enabled and location-aware technologies of the next decade.”

Research study methodology :

Between November 2014 and January 2015, Vanson Bourne surveyed 3,600 leaders in 18 countries (including USA, China, India, Western European countries, and some LATAM countries) across eight major industries. 1,800 respondents worked in companies with between 250 and 1,000 employees, and the other 1,800 worked in firms with over 1,000 employees. The Industries represented are: Financial Services, Insurance, Retail, Manufacturing, Media and Entertainment, Life Sciences and Biotech, Telecommunications and Mobile Service Providers, Oil and Gas, and Other. For more information about the process refer to the complete report (pdf) here  (page 10-12)

 

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