The pace and scale of technological progress is set to play a greater role than ever before in shaping the world we inhabit over the coming years.
Geopolitical, social and economic forces will, of course, continue to dictate global balances of power, the strength of worldwide and regional economies and demographic changes.
Asia will continue to grow and eventually surpass North America and Europe combined in terms of global power, based on the key indicators of GDP, population size, military spending and technology investment.
Governments and societies will also have to deal with increasing scarcity of resources, rapidly ageing populations and ‘black swan’ events such as pandemic and rapid climate change.
But the pervasiveness and penetration of technology will make it just as critical in transforming the world we live in over the next decade and beyond. So important, in fact, that technology is cited as one of six key ‘game-changers’ over the next two decades in the influential Global Trends report by the US National Intelligence Council.
Here are the four significant technology ‘game-changers’ I believe will have the biggest impact on business, government and society both in the next few years and for the next decade and beyond.
Cloud-based consumer and business services will become more accessible and pervasive fuelled by both smarter mobile devices and superfast connectivity. Utility-style on-demand computing power and services will enable businesses to boost efficiency, productivity and flexibility, and empower an increasingly mobile workforce. Google predicts that cloud and mobile technology will combine to cut business IT costs globally by $28trillion by 2015.
2. Smart Cities
Smart communications technology will be one of the key infrastructure pillars of future ‘megacities’, helping to improve quality of urban life and conserve precious resources. A report by the GSMA, for example, predicts that commute times can be cut by more than a third by 2017 through intelligent transport systems that monitor traffic flows. One of the big trends to enable this will be an intelligent ecosystem of machine-to-machine (M2M) technology that uses sensors embedded in a wide array of objects and systems to automate tasks and deliver real-time analysis and monitoring in everything from health and utilities to transport networks.
3. Automation and manufacturing
New technologies such as 3D printing have the potential to improve boost manufacturing and herald a next-generation industrial revolution. Even in its relatively early stages of development, 3D printing is already being used to produce everything from action figures and manufacturing parts to prosthetic body parts and surgical implants. In fact, I recently visited a Formula One factory where the engineers showed me a part of the F1 car that they had printed – incredible.
4. Mobile devices
In 2013, there will be more cellular connections in the world than people and, for the first time, smartphones are outselling non-smartphones. The traditional PC continues to decline and tablet device sales will outstrip those of laptop and PCs by 2015, according to market researcher IDC. This is all converging with ever more ubiquitous and superfast connectivity such as 4G, enabling us to do everything from accessing work information and systems to watching the latest HD movies on-the-go and from any device.
The pace of technological change is having a rapid and transformative effect on our personal and professional lives and the opportunities and benefits for individuals, businesses and society at large are – and will continue to be – vast.