It is this time of the year again to share my personal thoughts & predictions for how the world will change more in the new year with all the tech, business & economic developments taking place around the globe. Do you feel the world is a smaller place with all the direct global communications and consumption of media content? As we are bombarded daily with massive information through social media platforms, subconscious confusion is lurking in our rational thinking and we crush in perception walls of not understanding the events or the international forces that affect and shape our lives as economic entities & citizens. These global powers are aggressively shaping urbanization and the future which is now.
What a year for Bitcoin. There will be more excitement for cryptocurrencies as some financial institutions are starting to see opportunities where other bankers or governments see a growing threat for traditional currencies, trade and exchanges. History teaches us that when regulatory agencies tried to limit a new technology embraced by millions, they ended up strengthening these movements instead of stoping their activity. Just check the global news on Bitcoin to see that it is here to stay.
Bitcoin technology is hard to attack because of its decentralization core features making it less vulnerable to hackers and cyber attacks, in comparison to traditional online banking systems which are far more centralized as financial data stored or customer records can be broken (See Equifax). Cybersecurity therefore will be vital for customer trust and the IT infrastructure of banks needs to be updated, an opportunity for fintech startups. Goldman Sachs has decided to trade bitcoins which is a positive sign for potential investors of cryptocurrencies. The expected fluctuation of the Bitcoin price is normal because of its natural risk. Blockchain technologies supporting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will be an attractive field for investors willing to pour money in startups that develop blockchain to secure these systems from hacking or create new business models. Blockchain will make sure that data communications and financial exchanges will remain secure across the manufacturing, processing, distribution chain in various industries.
The banking and finance industry has started adopting mobile applications to serve their customers where a physical presence is not needed. In Asia, more and more people are using their smartphones for various payments, a trend grasped by local banks to offer payment methods through fintech applications. China is leading online payments as millions of people are skipping credit cards, cash, choosing mobile online payments (see Alipay).
Artificial Intelligence: Chatbots are gaining ground and although still in experimentation mode for advanced usage, virtual assistants will start replacing customer support jobs as bots will evolve to serving more complicated tasks and interacting with customers in real time. Bots will soon process our health records, financial records and consult us to optimize our diet or purchases when exceeding our card limits.
Because we are at a critical point where we are closer to creating computer systems that will surpass human performance, marking the beginning of the Singularity era and a new industrial revolution, a wave of change will benefit the world and bring domestic & international problems at the same time. AI will be generating so much data that data analytics will become a new science already taught across universities of the world and through online seminars. Understanding big data means a competitive advantage in global sales, operations and growth for companies. Internet-of-services (IoT) will also produce vast amounts of data and information gathered through sensors applied in house devices connected to the web (See Amazon’s Alexa).
Back in the offline world, Brexit is still discussed and negotiated between UK and EU casting shadows for the unity of the eurozone in 2018. Catalonia is another example of separatist national voices supporting analysts fears for the possible long term collapse of the European Union. A neo-liberal EU where economic and monetary policies are mainly set by Germany and Brussels, find opposition from populist parties and far-right politics. Euro-skepticism and separatism is an important threat to Europe’s unity.
Greece is and will remain the weakest link across all member states of the eurozone with a striving economy and highly indebted. Presenting a budget surplus due to over-taxation and not through real growth prospects is clearly a negative sign for the future of its economy. If Angela Merkel’s coalition government weakens more, we might see a different picture in European politics.
According to the IMF, India will be the country with the highest growth in 2018 leaving even China behind. Asia is the hot bed for watchers of global economic growth. This is because China is focusing on consumer growth along with product innovation. Networking effects will take place as the fruits of China’s economy will positively boost the economies neighbor states. If the world does not face an armed conflict between NK and the West in 2018 (US, SK, Japan), analysts expect moderate economic expansion in Asia although more reforms will be needed to meet global trade policies. Geopolitical tensions of late 2017 in the Eastern world for Jerusalem led by Trump might not scare global markets but Syria is a field where powers will not easily withdraw. Climate change is already affecting our economies and cities, countries should collaborate to further reduce the carbon print.
Global firms, institutions, companies & people, need answers. The way to provide reasonable answers today for the immense changes shaping our lives is by leveraging the power of technology and especially big data generated by smart applications, AI, IoT, Blockchain, online payments, etc. Globalization expressed through technological progress, geopolitical tensions, and the free movement of capital also creates inequality in countries where governments are corrupted or unfriendly policies are imposed upon citizens and entrepreneurs. The global economy is a playfield of technological disruptions, geopolitical tensions and political fragmentation, which will become more intense in 2018. By working together and understanding domestic and international powers will fill us with hope for the future.
Happy New Year!
I dedicate this blog entry & analysis to my daughter, Jenny, who turned 2 in December 2017.
The globally connected world is moving fast. Technology is everywhere, shaping our lives online and offline. The following trends are just the natural continuation of what has been happening in the world of tech the past few years. We can definitely spot an acceleration, market penetration and customer acceptance of new technologies. Some political and economic trends will also be discussed further down below.
Smart homes using IoT (internet-of-things) have started being advertised on TV. Controlling your house through applications and interconnecting all devices will be the house of future, maybe closer than we think. What needs to be solved first is the protocol harmonization for the devices by various manufacturers. A standard protocol is needed so your house devices run smoothly when cooperating with each other thus securing the IoT system against external threats for example.
AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) have already started going viral. Think Pokemon Go (AR) which went global with millions of downloads. Similarly with IoT, AR+VR applications will need more market testing and acceptance by users not only for entertainment but also business purposes. VR can revolutionize the way companies do business as they will be able to showcase their products & services in a completely innovative way which will alter customer experience. Note that the VR market based on forecasts, will be a 30$ billion market around 2020. We will see many tech players and manufacturers launching their own VR hardware and gadgets. Fierce competition will rise to grasp the market pie & profits.
AI (artificial intelligence) through machine learning. The world of big data is feeding more and more data into machines and the latter developing complex algorithms are actually making the machines smarter. With the constant development of natural language processing, machines learn fast (imagine a small child developing its core knowledge center in the environment of the adults). Machine learning can generate AI systems that threat to replace thousands of jobs in various fields. See here.
Smartphones and mobile tech spreading to more isolated parts of the developing world. Applications will be developed for these uncharted markets for local populations counting the factor of Internet penetration, 3G & 4G telco networks. The distribution of global information to local places will help people develop skills, educate themselves, sell their products & services in other markets and develop their domestic economy.
The rise of Uber – everything: Giving power to the individual to offer services and generate profit. Shared car rides, bed and breakfast companies like Airbnb. Who knows what company will come next? Think Schumpeterian technological distruption with thousands of self driving cars taking over existing jobs causing upheaval and national court cases as labor markets will be earthshaked. Taxi & professional drivers currently use the cars by giant manufacturers but the latter strategically plan to keep producing these cars but also focus on producing driverless too. The Uber and Airbnb economy will enforce political decisions and civilian engagement. Autonomous cars will be a test & market field not only for traditional auto-makers but also tech companies. Tesla is leading the experiments with Google following, Uber, etc.
Drones: amazon is pushing US law makers to license drone fleets which will fly and deliver orders to customers. Until this will happen, we see drones massively advertised which carry HQ cameras transcending film production into new levels of experience. Retail players like UPS and Wallmart have their own plans to launch drones as well. To increase speed in delivery, this will immensely alter the current job market as more drones might mean less delivery services. How many orders a drone will execute in a single day compared to a delivery vehicle? Do the math to grasp the frightening truth.
All the aforementioned trends and possible developments will walk in line with economic factors like increased or decreased labor productivity and productivity of ideas. In a globally connected world, some economies will benefit from these technological breakthroughs while others -not prepared- will suffer.