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A Frictionless Future: Seven Day After Tomorrow Trends For The Years To Come January 18, 2018

Leadership Photo By Etienne Girardet On Unsplash

Every New Year brings heaps of trend forecasts for the coming year. Though we obviously have nothing against those – we loved Pieter Van Leugenhagen’s recent review of VR for our blog – we always prefer to look a bit further ahead ourselves: to those Day After Tomorrow trends that will have a major impact in the years, beyond 2018.

 The nexxworks (partners) forecasts below may seem eclectic at first sight – from blockchain and automotive to retail, invisible learning, brain interfaces, human transformation and Chinese AI – but they all do tell one Big story. They all illustrate the removal of friction: between tech and human, between travelling from point A to point B, between data and truth or value, customer and brand and information and our brain.

Enjoy! And let us know what YOUR Day After Tomorrow forecasts are.

The Internet of Trust – Peter Hinssen

Without any doubt, one of the technologies that will have the most impact on our lives and our businesses in the years to come is the blockchain. For those who have been living under a rock: the blockchain is the Global, Decentralized, Distributed and Peer-to-peer Ledger that is the foundational layer of cryptocurrencies. Though cryptocurrencies like Ether and Bitcoin are absolutely fascinating, what’s really riveting is how the blockchain has the potential to solve a problem that the original Internet could not: one to do with identity and trust.

The first Internet freed up information. Whereas information used to be scarce, its access now grew exponentially, which in the process changed the world. Valuable though most of this data was, there was never any certainty over its reliability. Assurance of value was only possible through third-party gatekeepers like banks, insurers, notaries or tech giants like Facebook and Alibaba. The blockchain solves this problem: it’s a network of trust beneath the web’s raw information recording everything that happens and freezing it in encrypted “contracts”. No wonder that the Economist called this the “The Trust Machine”: it has the same potential for change as the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1995.

 The blockchain will transform how people and businesses cooperate. William Mougayar - author of “The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology” – brilliantly explained this: “Today, we Google for everything, mostly information or products. But tomorrow, we will perform the equivalent of ‘googling’ to verify records, identities, authenticity, rights, work done, titles, contracts and other valuable asset-related processes on the blockchain.” In essence the blockchain could become the New Google. It’s The Internet of Trust.

New interfaces will transform retail as we know it – Steven Van Belleghem

On June 16, 2017 the retail world changed forever. Amazon bought Wholefoods for 13 billion. This was the first time that one of the tech giants placed their feet on the ground. The digital world invaded the physical world. The next few years, we will see more of that. Alibaba is investing a lot of money in brick and mortar retail venues. The big difference in the physical approach compared to the traditional retailers is the way they treat these physical spaces. The tech giants see their physical locations as digital platforms that happen to be offline. Amazon invented shopping interfaces where people just walk in, grab what they need and walk out. The whole process of waiting in line and paying disappeared. They removed the frictions of the offline process. They are bringing their digital interfaces to the physical world. The next few years, I expect to see more of this. The physical world will disappear completely, and the physical locations will become offline digital platforms. 

Another big move for retail are voice assistants. At this moment, voice is becoming mainstream in the US. The bestselling product of the entire Amazon store during the holiday season was their own Amazon Echo. Voice is not just a fun gadget, it will change the relation between companies and customers. Amazon, Google, Baidu and others will make the buying process effortless. It just takes a ‘word’ to order a product. Digital buying is evolving from a ‘one button’ interface to a ‘zero button’ interface. The rise of the voice assistants is a challenge for companies like Unilever, Nestlé and P&G. Their business model is under real pressure. Filling the shelves with beautiful packages and advertising those to us, will become less impactful with the rise of voice assistants. Retailers also have to prepare an answer for this. The moment that the interface of a digital platform becomes mainstream like the smartphone is mainstream today, that could become the biggest threat for the existing players in the retail industry. Knowing that one of Amazon’s big competitors ‘Best Buy’ is already working together with Amazon, is an important signal of this evolution.

Learning will become invisible – Laurence Van Elegem

Learning used to be exhausting: you had to transport yourself to a place where you had to listen in a focussed manner to one person talking. You tried to absorb as much as you could but then you had to repeat that process again and again until you could duplicate what that person told you almost perfectly. Learning was reproducing. It was static and it tended to be specialized: the huge effort and energy needed to ‘learn’ prevented one from being able to diverge too much from the subject that was focussed upon. Basically, there was an enormous amount of friction in the process of information trying to become knowledge. When the World Wide Web launched the age of information, that changed massively. Learning was no longer reproducing. Learning became finding and filtering: discovering the right information, finding useful patterns - and insights - in a sea of data, locating the newest information, connecting found data into something new. It leaped from being static to fluid: from storing to streaming and filtering. 

What I’m really excited about, though, is the next phase: where the friction between information and knowledge will be completely removed and information will be literally plugged into our brains. Learning will become invisible: requiring very little effort and energy. This may sound incredibly Day After Tomorrow-ish - up to the point of science fiction - but major players like Neuralink, Kernel and DARPA are operating in this market. And where there’s talent ànd money, there is usually speed and exponentiality.

So. Let’s throw all of our study books and degrees out of the window? Not quite. First of all, we’re not there yet, obviously. And there will be major implications for privacy, as Nancy Rademaker explains below. And we’ll need to solve the Internet’s problem of reliability first (what’s fake, what’s real,…), though this is something where the blockchain might come in handy. Above all: how will our brains react to this overflow of sudden information? There are some fascinating problems to be solved first before learning will become invisible.

A learning community that's also a trend platform?

The future of automotive is ACES – Rik Vera

The future of automotive is ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared) and is happening right now: Uber, Lyft and Waymo have autonomous cars on public roads, GM and Ford announce mass production of EV’s without a steering wheel and pedals in 2019 and 2021 and car sharing services are popping up in cities all over the globe.

Actually, the evolution of automotive is a perfect example of the TREE principle (a new concept I am developing for my new book Managers The Day After Tomorrow) of exponential disruption.

Technology first
The car of the future is a robot, powered by AI and big data and so are all business models involved. Technology evolves exponentially.

Red Ocean
Cars are too expensive and complicated to own. They have 90% idle time, create immobility, ruin the environment and kill millions of people every year. These billions of frustrated users equal free and exponential feeding ground for disruption.

Engaged customers
Customers that flip over to a customer centric digitized mobility experience, will never go back. In our connected world, they will drag their peers into the new behaviour and serve as an exponentially growing sales and marketing division.

Ecosystem
Universities, start-ups and huge tech players developing all aspects of ACES, speed up each other and attract huge amounts of capital in yet another exponential way.

When a business cracks the code of this TREE principle, it outruns competition in an exponential manner and will win the world as fast as ACES will.

The importance of human transformation – Julie Vens De Vos

The new normal is losing its newness. Companies are aware of the rise of technologies like AI, blockchain, virtual reality, etc. They’ve embraced the evolution and are eagerly experimenting with how to restructure their strategies and operations in order to survive in the Day After Tomorrow. Yet, to succeed in these (ongoing) technological and organizational transformations, more and more focus will shift to the human transformation. How will we handle the integration of robots in our lives? Will we ourselves become cyborgs, augmented humans or even genetically programmed superhumans?

True, these new friends might not pop up on your work floor tomorrow, but question remains who will lead the decision-making process. How will generations work together? How will governments position themselves? Let’s hope for an inclusive and positive approach in which government and industries collaborate. In which the current, experienced leaders collaborate with younger and older employees. With the 100-year life on the horizon, let’s put energy to engaging older individuals into these transformations too. Let’s make it a human transformation we’ll be proud of, featured by trust and ceasing opportunities instead of protectionism and regulation. 

Whichever way it will go, it will define not only the day after tomorrow of your business or your life, but of human society as such.

Your Brain as the New Interface – Nancy Rademaker

Over the last two years, much progress has been made in the area of Brain-Machine Interface (BMI). Several start-ups as well as established technology companies have conducted research allowing for easy access to information that would otherwise require a brain scan. Sophisticated brain-sensor implants represent the more ‘invasive’ type of hardware, imposing quite big barriers for larger use, but the new sensor-equipped headbands for which Microsoft has recently filed a patent and a company like Brainco already has a working prototype, could start the revolution as the new human-to-machine interface.

Already, our brain data are used to control prosthetic limbs, keyboards, and other machines, enabling e.g. paralyzed people and stroke victims to “type with the mind” and control external machines with their thoughts.

The devices of the future will be “trained” to decode EEG readings to allow users to launch and operate certain apps using their minds. In the ongoing race towards ‘ultimate convenience for the customer’, this will be a major breakthrough. There would hardly be anything else that would beat this type of simplicity for any user interface.

Or would there? Just imagine neural networks trained with our neurological data can recognize patterns and make predictions about our “intention” to perform some sort of action. We might end up in a future where you don’t even need to “think” about what you want to do, but the app will predict that itself. Where does that leave the concept of your own free will be? Scary.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in China - China Evangelist Pascal Coppens

To get a glimpse of what the Day After Tomorrow looks like, we should watch closely to what is happening in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in China. Last summer, the Chinese government has created an investment plan to become the world’s AI superpower by 2030.

Mobile use in China is light years ahead of anywhere else, and with it the huge supply of data, the lifeblood of AI. With 730 million tech-savvy online consumers, it makes China the largest experimental lab for building exciting AI applications. Every tech company, from Alibaba to the smallest startup, is now experimenting in that same lab. For giants like Baidu, it’s an opportunity to become the global leader in an industry that is being rewritten by AI – for example self-driving cars. For Chinese scale-ups AI offers a unique way to create a smart product under the radar of larger players, and realize their new dream to go global. Thousands of Chinese AI driven products and services will very soon flood all Western markets, of which a first impression was prominently visible last week at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. China is already the factory of the world, and AI is making any Chinese product now smarter, better and even cheaper!

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