Change is constant as the saying goes. In fact, it’s already a cliche when it comes to daily life, especially in terms of technology. Tech today is so much integrated in our lives that we’ve almost forgotten when it wasn’t around.
When was the last time you left home without a mobile phone or were not connected to Wi-Fi? Did you pay for your artisan coffee with cash or a mobile wallet on your smartphone? Have you written a review of that product you ordered online and had delivered to your door? Have you updated your Facebook status or uploaded an Instagram photo? Lest you forget, it’s been 30 minutes since your last post. Yet only a decade ago, some or even none of these were part of your regular daily chores.
As another decade is about to end, people wonder what lies ahead. However, many don’t realize that the future that technology has in store for them is actually available now. Many future trends are already here. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, blockchain, internet-of-things, and 5G are just examples of what lies ahead but are also already in use today. The only differences are that these “future” technologies will be even more refined, enhanced and ubiquitous as more and more people have access.
Let’s drill down to some of the technologies people will eventually face technologies that will be part of their daily grind in 2020 and beyond:
5G is probably the most hyped, next only to the yearly upgrade of the Apple iPhone. So, is 5G an evolution or a revolution? It’s both. It’s an evolution of a telecom platform that started in the ‘70s when mobile phones were in their infancy, evolving to the networks that now connect our smartphones and other mobile devices to the internet. Back in the day, we actually needed a telephone line to get connected to the internet. Nowadays, it’s the other way around: we need the internet to get telephone-like communication.
It’s also revolutionary because many future technologies, particularly those discussed later in this article, will rely directly on the infrastructure 5G will create. Telecom providers such as Huawei and Ericsson are now in a global race to deploy 5G. Likewise, local telcos PLDT-Smart and Globe are now rushing to grab the first piece of the 5G market sans the final draft of 5G standards, yet to-be-released by the end of 2019.
And what can 5G do other than the promised faster internet connection? Well, it can connect everything. Everything that can communicate via the internet will be linked through 5G with lower latency or delay for that much-needed instantaneous or real-time communication. Autonomous vehicles, global navigation, surveillance cameras and remote medical surgeries will greatly benefit from a 5G connection, aside from your refrigerator texting you that you’re running out of eggs, milk and butter.
Every time people talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) ,“The Terminator” often pops up in the discussion as some see a dark future similar to, God forbid, that of James Cameron’s 1984 doomsday movie. But AI and ML are nothing new. If movies are basis of this fear, Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”, where AI leads a world of automatons, was almost a century ahead. And what about “Colossus: The Forbin Project”, based on the 1966 science fiction novel by Dennis Feltham Jones where two supercomputers created by the two Cold War superpowers take over the world because they learned too much from humanity? These are the AI and ML tropes from science fiction that we were warned about.
So, are we doomed? No. Not yet. We still have to see and enjoy the benefits of AI and ML when it comes to automation and production, beyond the digital assistant you call to play your favorite music or ask the whereabouts of your missing car keys. Today, despite continuing ethical questions, consumers can see AI moving driverless cars and machine learning-enabled contact centers trying to grasp your need to book a flight or your order of Hawaiian pizza without the pineapple toppings.
Also, don’t believe the PR reassurances when companies say that AI and ML won’t replace jobs. It already happened and will continue to happen.
Blockchain is probably the most misunderstood technology platform that has taken the world by storm. Bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency where trust is based solely on a secured blockchain, was conceived exactly ten years ago. Now, everyone wants to blockchain everything, from music to supply chain, from asset management to the electoral process (if that’s even possible). In the book “Blockchain Revolution”, Don & Alex Tapscott define blockchain as “an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Definitely, blockchain won’t be going away any time soon; it will just work silently in the background for years to come.
In places like the US, Amazon and eBay have already perfected the logistics for the continuing success of e-commerce. We’re just starting in the Philippines. Nonetheless, in less than five years, we could see the impact of online shopping and online retail and this will continue in the years to come. The enduring presence of Lazada, Shoppee, old-timer Olx.ph (now Carousel) and even Facebook Marketplace is proof enough that a large online community of shoppers now exists in the country. Not to mention the growth of door-to-door delivery services and, most importantly, fintech companies such as PayMaya and GCash catering to those without credit cards but are still be able to shop online. Combine these with the notorious traffic jams plaguing the country’s metropolitan areas. Now, who would want to even go to the mall? Checking-out your shopping cart is now as easy as ordering food from McDonald’s on a smartphone.
Business intelligence (BI) and analytics have already become big business in the past ten years and will continue to grow. Analytics can determine your overall market penetration and success and what you might be missing to gain that success. Data scientists or AI-driven data science can process huge amounts of raw data that could be useful for your business through tools that will be essential to every business now and in the future.
All the technologies mentioned above are part of what the industry aptly calls digital transformation (DX).
Together with tech buzzwords such as cloud computing and big data, digital transformation is the use of new, fast and frequently-changing digital technology to solve problems.
In recent research from “The Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study,” Philippine organizations were found to be in different stages of digital transformation. Forty-three percent are in progress with a specific DX strategy; 32 percent have a full DX strategy and 25 percent have limited or no DX strategy in place at all.
If the latter continues with their status quo, the possibility is great that they could “be less competitive or even obsolete as they face disruptions in every industry” if they do not evolve fast enough with the changing times, The year 2020 could just be the right time for their own digital transformation.
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by technologies. Some companies are still afraid to delve into it. Others will adapt the soonest technologies available, Many will take it one at a time. A few will try to go off the grid, well, at least on social media, but might not be able to resist what is new out there. Nonetheless, one thing is certain: Like change, technology will constantly evolve. Will it be for the good of all? That we always hope for. And we also hope that no one is left behind.