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The technology influencing us today and into the future

Keynote: How to flourish in the digital age

Autonomous robots running a Japanese hotel and quantum computing solving our everyday problems are just two of the digital trends transforming our world according to WIRED Magazine Executive Editor, Greg Williams.

Williams opened his keynote presentation at CeBIT Australia 2017 by reminding the audience about NASA in the 1960s. They managed to make it the moon a processor 400x less powerful than the one in an iPhone 6. Yes, the power that it took to get man to the moon now sits in the palms of millions worldwide. This example gives us true perspective about the rate at which technology is advancing.

Spending his days interviewing technologists, entrepreneurs and many more in the technology space, Williams observed and interacted with much of the cutting edge technology we’re seeing emerge today. Along the way he’s made some predictions about what we can expect to see impacting our lives now and into the future. However he stressed while technology is wonderful, creators need to be realistic about their use case.

Greg Williams, WIRED Magazine Executive Editor

“Technology is only invented for human need,” he told the audience. “It’s not about the technology, it’s about humans."

Here are some of the digital trends transforming our world according to Williams.

Autonomous Robots

Robots are already impacting our world, he gave the example of elevators and ATMs - they’re technically robots that have had an impact on our lives for years. But the emerging autonomous robots take it to the next level. He discussed Henn-na Hotel in Japan, which is run completely by robots. And drones, while they were once exclusive to the military, they’re now at a price point the regular consumer can afford. Interestingly Williams said sometimes the way technology is used surprises inventors and creators. Using the drone example, he explained how drone pilots gather in London warehouses and in Dubai to have drone races. “Expectations are sometimes changed,” he said. Racing drones is fun, but he also sees a lot of opportunity for logistic companies to take advantage of the technology to find supply chain disruption and avoid congestion at a port, for example.

Autonomous Vehicles

With Apple set to release an autonomous vehicle by 2020 and Tesla lifting their patents and making them open source, a world filled with driverless cars is within sight. “Automotive companies are now technology companies,” Williams said. “They have to be.” He predicts in the future that teens saving for their first car will likely be a thing of the past and said he believes in 50 years, cars will be available on more of a subscription service similar to Netflix. And while innovation is happening in this industry, the rest of the ecosystem needs to start thinking about how they can fit in.  “The customer journey and the ecosystem connections need to be thought about,” he said. For instance carpark providers. Could parking be made more seamless so that credit cards are automatically charged on entry and exit so there are no queues to enter and leave the building? 

Mobile

“Mobile is the remote control for life,” he told the crowd. And the stats back it up. It’s a $3 trillion dollar industry and by 2020 there will be 4.6 billion unique mobile subscribers globally. But with so many people glued to their screens will we continue to interact with them through apps and websites as we do now? Not according to Williams. “It might be possible that the app boom is over,” he said. He believes messaging and bots are the future. “The average American spends more than half of their time on one app,” he said and asked the question, “Are chat apps the new browsers and bots the new websites?” 

And why do we love bots? Williams said as technology becomes more sophisticated, bots can deliver relevant updates which are within context and location aware. This is the game changer.

The Internet of Things

The IoT will change the customer and supplier relationship, Williams told the crowd. He used the example of an electric toothbrush. The traditional model is the manufacturer makes the toothbrush, sells it in bulk to a retailer, who then sells on individual toothbrushes to customers. The manufacturer has no idea about any of the end users details - sex, age, location, preferences, dislikes etc. But with a smart toothbrush, users would have to opt-in. And that means the manufacturer will have more details than ever about their customers - enabling them to deliver better service and quality and ultimately changing that relationship.  

Quantum computing

Solving problems at lightning-fast pace and optimising our lives is how quantum computing will change the world as we know it in the future. But Williams said we’re still awhile off any drastic changes. “The application will happen when we can translate our everyday problems into quantum,” he said.

These are just some of the insights shared with the audience at this year’s conference. We’ll cover more in an upcoming blog. Make sure you’re subscribed to the CeBIT Australia newsletter to stay in the loop.

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