10 changes of the future: Bye bye apps, hello robots and blockchain

20 Oct 2016

Future. Image: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

The digital world is forever changing, with the app-filled hysteria of the past decade now vanishing from sight. Gartner predicts more to come.

As 5G comes into view, our entire technological environment is due a modest, yet notable revolution.

In the early 2000s when 3G came to mobile, it boasted broadband-like speeds and amazing superpowers. Its sibling (not successor) 4G was all about speed, increasing capacities to 150Mbps in some cases.

Future Gartner

5G is being trumpeted as the next step in this tradition. But it will be very different in its arrival. As we recently reported, various elements like power management, localised cell ‘towers’ and dramatic advances in infrastructural layouts are due, soon.

What will that mean for society? Quite a lot, according to Gartner’s 10 predictions:

1. Immersive shopping experiences

Gartner claims 100m consumers will be shopping in augmented reality (AR) by the end of the decade. This seems a bit much at the moment, with AR a world away from a genuine consumer-facing mass market – but it’s coming down the line.

“Popular applications such as Pokémon Go will help propagate the technology and bring it into the mainstream. Watch for one-in-five global brands to use AR for shopping by the end of 2017.”

2. Voice first browsing

A surge in web browsing sessions without any screen is another trend Gartner expects, with voice-activated interactions such as Google Home or Amazon Echo set to soar.

“By eliminating the need to use your hands and eyes for browsing, vocal interactions extend the web experience to multiple activities such as driving, cooking, walking, socialising, exercising, operating machinery etc. By the end of 2017, watch for room-based screenless devices to be in more than 10m homes,” said Gartner.

3. Mobile apps decline

By 2019, 20pc of brands will abandon their mobile apps, according to Gartner. This is something many people are predicting, some more enthusiastically than others. “Conversational commerce already happens in various messengers,” said Erik Meijer recently, heading up Deutsche Telekoms’ group innovation business.

“Look at WeChat as an example. There are 10 to 12 services included on that. You can get tiny loans of $20,000 within your messenger. You can talk to a local store. You can pay for something on JD.com.”

Over 600m WeChat users are all cutting out the various apps of old, Meijer claimed. The trend is here.

4. Algorithms at work

Big data is set to directly impact on consumers and, more importantly, workers by the end of the decade.

“JPMorgan Chase uses an algorithm to forecast and positively influence the behaviour of thousands of investment bank and asset management employees to minimise mistaken or ethically wrong decisions,” said Gartner.

“Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic uses influence algorithms to guide pilots to use less fuel. By year end 2017, watch for at least one commercial organisation to report significant increase in profit margins because it used algorithms to positively alter its employees’ behaviours.”

5. Blockchain grows up

Everybody seems to be in agreement about blockchain, with Gartner’s prediction that the entire sector will be worth $10bn within five years.

“By 2020, new businesses and business models will emerge based on smart contracts and blockchain efficiencies,” said Gartner.

We’ve already seen significant growth in the amount of money and time that major financial institutions are investing in blockchain. Accenture, Bank of America, Bank of Ireland and Barclays are just some examples in recent months.

“These smart contracts automate at a reliability, customisation level and speed not achievable with traditional business systems.”

6. Digital giants everywhere

Gartner says by 2021, one-fifth of all activities an individual engages in will involve at least one of the top seven digital giants (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent).

“As the physical, financial and healthcare worlds become more digital, many of our activities will be connected and within reach of the digital giants,” it said.

“Note that collectively, the digital giants will have direct and indirect knowledge of what we do as individuals and the fundamental issue will be what they do with the data.”

Should they get into banking, it could rock the entire financial industry too.

7. Innovation requires greater investment

Pretty self-explanatory, new technologies need new money. Through 2019, every $1 that enterprises invest in innovation will require an additional $7 in core execution, according to Gartner.

Despite the ‘fail fast’ model that so many companies are flying the flag for of late, “those that do receive approval for implementation involve a level of complexity, scale and business change ramifications that may not have been considered in the initial planning stage”.

8. IoT data storage stays low

A surprising prediction is just how little strain the wave of connected devices will put on our current stock of data centres. Gartner reckons data centre storage demand will rise by less than 3pc by the end of the decade.

9. IoT saves trillions

However, IoT’s lack of impact on data centres will help it lead to huge financial savings; $1trn globally by 2022, apparently.

Maintenance on cars, for example, can be managed in a cyber world where duplicates can reflect wear and tear accurately, providing timely warnings to drivers when they need something fixed.

“Consumers, too, will benefit when they can extend the life of the oil in their cars from a prescriptive replacement ‘every 5,000 miles’ to replacement triggered by a measurement of the engine’s performance.”

10. Wearables cut healthcare costs

The final, perhaps more obvious suggestion is that the growth in wearables will, should they be fully incorporated into healthcare systems, greatly reduce consumer costs in that area. By 2020, 40pc of employees will cut their healthcare costs by wearing a fitness tracker, according to Gartner.

This is happening already, with US healthcare provider Aetna giving an Apple Watch to each of its 50,000 employees, and subsidising a “significant portion” of the cost of the watches to select large employers and individual customers.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic