I Know What It Means To Work Hard On Machines.

The Future of….Technology
– by Carolina Vicente, Director of Digital Marketing, Google

It’s the crystal ball moment we all love, folks. What will be?

We are all in a relentless search for answers in our everyday lives and look to the future of technology with anticipation, hoping it will bring an elixir of eternal wealth and power where the possibilities are endless. In this new world (enabled by technology), the future looks sunglass bright, promising and full of possibilities.

Technology enables the creation of data at phenomenal scale and speed. Thinking about the fact that well over 90% of today’s data has been generated just over the last 2 years, the jaw-dropping dimension of it all starts to sink in.

It’s a little like the good ol’ chicken and egg scenario, where the generation of more data is also allowing new technology to be developed – think programmatic and the subsequent incessant rise of new algorithms, businesses and products, all promising to be the solution we are looking for when it comes to having one-to-one conversations at scale over the web – or finding the answer to the elusive 360 degree view of the customer.

But I digress. There are truly impressive uses of technology being discussed at large scale within several businesses today. From renewable energy to ‘humanised’ drones – the sky is (quite literally) the limit.

With renewable energy, wind energy is possibly one of the mainstream technologies that needs a complete overhaul. Only 3% of the world’s energy comes from wind, and incremental technologies are not cutting through this reality, with only about 15% of land around the world being suitable for the next turbine iteration – in other words, we need to start over.

While it may often seem like we have a long way to go when it comes to sustainable renewable energy generation, there are a few countries that show us this is entirely possible – Costa Rica has shown the world last year how it’s done by drawing 99% of its energy consumption from renewable sources. Pretty impressive.

Biotech is in my opinion, one of the most exciting areas where technology can shine and truly improve (if not completely transform) how we live today – and how long for. Looking at the human body as a series of separate systems and addressing longevity as you would address oiling a machine (system by system), means we could be living exponentially longer in the not too distant future.

The application of nanotechnology to medicine could mean diseases like cancer will be a thing of the past. Equally, could neurohacking mean our own brains could ultimately engineer the makeup of our bodies and by definition, determine how long we live for – and what quality of life we can have?

Today we can already see companies like Google & Novartis partnering to alleviate diabetes management through the use of a microscopic technology attached to a contact lens. The gadget measures insulin levels through tears, which is ironic, as constant, tearful stabbing of one’s finger to draw blood several times a day is now not longer necessary.

Robotics is yet another trend looming in the horizon. Images of human-like creatures spring to mind – much like Atlas Robotics’ drones. This area could improve the way logistics and elderly care are conducted in the future. In fact, many companies have already acquired licenses to use drones commercially, with France and the UK leading the way. Industries like oil & gas, transportation and even Insurance are all jumping on the robotics bandwagon, all hoping to be first to the future.

All of these technologies are generating more and more data. In fact, so much of it exists and is being captured, that companies today are struggling with what to do with it and where to start.

Thinking of the customer first might be a good starting point. This is where innovation comes in. How can we change what we do today (and how we do it), anticipating what people will want next? Innovation through technology then becomes a critical catalyst to change. Making use of today’s technology, we can create solutions that did not exist yesterday.

Think of the driverless car. A fundamental economic and sociological change in the making, that made use of existing technology to address several world problems. All of a sudden, those who are visually impaired can drive and be more autonomous going from A to B all on their own.

Addressing mortality on the roads (not only from a life preservation perspective, but also with an economical lens) is yet another issue driverless cars are trying to solve. According to a recent report, road accidents cost the global economy over $500 Billion annually. Wouldn’t it be great if technology could solve this… oh wait a minute…

Changes such as these will reshape economies profoundly. Thinking not only of the driverless car but also the sharing economy, who is the end customer? Will insurance companies insure the manufacturer, the vehicle, the driver or will the sharing economy mean we will need a hybrid insurance model?

It is important to constantly question ourselves and our businesses to determine if the road to obsolete is unavoidable, or if true technological transformation could act as an accelerator to positive change.

And then there is everyone else racing to the same finish line. Former GE CEO Jack Welch said there are only two sources of competitive advantage: Know more than your competitors and act faster than anyone else. I would add a layer to this and say we need to be able to generate more ideas and encourage creativity to use that knowledge to its true potential.

Disrupting yourself as a business is key to survival. If you are not disrupting your business, chances are you are being (or will soon be) disrupted – possibly irreparably, in a “close the front door” kind of way.

Startup incubator units are a great way to ensure disruption can accelerate within traditional businesses.

In a reality where technology is already enabling exponential economic growth (more investors, fractional comparative/like-for-like costs, more wealth and 100 times more power), looking ahead no longer seems like we are gazing into a crystal ball. The future really is here, and things are only going to get faster. Successful businesses will need to lead trends, not follow. By the time you have geared yourself to follow a trend, it will already be too late.

Get in the front line of the race or risk being left behind.

– with thanks to the author, Carolina Vicente, Director of Digital Marketing at Google. Please note that the author writes in a personal capacity and her views are not necessarily reflective of the views of Google.