Megatrends: Thinking machines are within your reach
MegaTrends shed light on how different industries are collaborating together to shape a new future society. Read MegaTrends to gain a glimpse as to what products or services will become standards in the near future.
The next global MegaTrend is Smart Machines, which are robotics with the capacity to think and respond to questions or commands. Though not quite a human clones yet, the industry is moving toward that outcome. This trend is driven by the growth of ecommerce, more online activity, and consumer demand for low cost delivery. Drones, robotics and artificially intelligent machines are being used to manage big data, increase efficiency and lower overall costs according to Deloitte.
Deloitte reported that expected sales of nonmilitary drones to be about 300,000 units with total industry revenues to be between $200 and $400 million. Though not a breakthrough product yet, there are many applications. For example, Amazon, Google and DHL have tested these devices for shipping and delivery though the cost savings have not yet met expectations. There are still limitations of battery life, costs and usage restrictions. Companies have also used drones as inventory managers with great advantages over a human.
Robots have long been in use to automate manufacturing and improve efficiency on production lines. However, they are increasingly being developed for personal use. Deloitte estimated that 6million personal use robots would be sold in 2015. However, in 2015, 70% were expected to be sold for domestic use such as lawn mowing, 15% would be toys and 15% would be for the education and health sectors.
Some brands and retailers are experimenting with using robots to assist consumers while shopping. The Pepper robot is used to converse with shoppers and provide information about the products through an artificial intelligence interface. At $1,700, it interprets voice, touch and emotions as well as understands 80% of conversations. Nestle purchased 1,000 Pepper robots from manufacturer SoftBank to use as customer service operators in Japan.
OSHBots were developed by Lowes and are being used in their subsidiary company Orchard Supply Hardware also as customer service robots. Costing $150,000, this robot can speak 2 languages as well as recognize a product immediately.
The costs for developing and operating robots in these scenarios compared to employing a person has yet to be favorable but that is likely to change as technology costs decrease. For now, the economics of robots in the logistics and warehousing sector are more proven.
Gartner report that, in 2013, IBM Watson grew from being a game-playing machine to a real-world business advisor in healthcare, finance and customer service. Bridgewater Associates hired a former IBM Watson engineer to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to macroeconomic modeling and predictive systems for investments.
Another iteration of AI is Smart Assistant technology that has loudly become the biggest trend. Siemens reported that digital assistants are expected to grow at a CAGR of 30% to $8billion by 2024. With products like Siri by Apple and Cortana by Microsoft, the market shows no signs of slowing down. Future trends include integrating AI into all devices such as automatic transcription of conference calls to complete voice control of household appliances.
These MegaTrends are changing the way we work and communicate at home and in business as technology becomes more integrated into daily lives.