Bright FutureOn September 24th I will be presenting at the Digital Leaders Trends Briefings 2015 on the topic of technologies set to impact on business. Ahead of this event I had to reflect on what I have seen recently and what I have learned.

In an average week (when do we have one of those?) I will receive 10-20 business plans, pitch decks and summaries by email. I’ll attend at least one pitch event, one networking event, one workshop or coaching session and mentor my normal tally of businesses in accelerators and incubators.

All-in-all that amounts to somewhere around 2,500 “new” companies a year mostly from the UK and mostly in some form of technology. Add in the work I do with Universities across the UK and you can take that to 3,000 a year with ease.

Understandably some trends emerge, and from these I have picked 5 technology trends that I think are going to be commercially significant in the next 12-18 months. Most of these technologies have been around for a while – it is the broad scale adoption and availability that I think will be commercially relevant.

In particular order:

  1. Additive Manufacturing (formerly known as 3D printing)

What?          3D printing has grown up! Aircraft parts, UAVs, complete assemblies and even fighter aircraft are being made this way. We can make plastic, glass, food, living tissue, metal, paper… and combine them.

Why now? In the USA, 11% of the top 100 manufacturers use it in volume. Creating design files for other people to make is becoming the norm.

Impact?       Our whole infrastructure will have to change. The way we design, create, manufacture, market, sell, ship, stock and maintain products will start to change.

  1. Augmented & Virtual Reality

What?          Creating digital overlays for real world views.

Why now? After many false starts the technology is there and the need is becoming evident. With the release of Google Cardboard, which turns your SmartPhone into a VR headset for less than £20,anyone can try this.

Impact?       The “immersive consumer experience” is just around the corner.  It will find its way into tourism, navigation, medicine, architecture, design.

  1. Analytics & Machine Learning

What?          Hidden in large volumes of data are patterns and useful information about patterns and processes – we need help finding them because we can use them to our advantage.

Why now? We have had the understanding and technology for a while. As long ago as 2006 Netflix held an open competition to find the best filtering algorithm to predict user ratings for films – without knowing either the users or the films. It was won in 2009. There is a massive trend to develop algorithms that analyse and adapt software in real time.

Impact?       Predictive health care, economic forecasting, movie choices, buying patterns, recommendation engines – all proliferating as AML goes main stream at last.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

What?          Not robots, androids or other movie material (yet). Intelligent analysis, anticipation of behaviour, decision making and support, contextual intelligence.

Why now? Data – the ever rising tsunami is being fed by increased connectivity and the exponential growth of sensors. We need help. AI is a key component that will transform our user experience.

Impact?       Context rich experiences. We need filters that remove irrelevance – which requires AI. We will slowly learn to trust the machines around us to make decisions for us. Hopefully they’ll still want us around.

  1. Programmatic Everything

What?          Automatic buying and selling of media

Why now? Internet of Things (first coined 1999!) – the proliferation of ways to interact with consumers, the rise of mobile company personal profiling. We are willing carry a device that records where we are, what we do, when we do it and who we do it with.

Impact?       Personal advertising, increasing relevance of promotions and recommendations, high speed, automatic auctioning of access to us (from which we arguably do not profit).

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