New technologies that are still gaining steam have the potential to change the way work is done. But it's not just the technologies themselves that will make the difference, it's how they work together to create new opportunities.
In a workshop at Dreamforce2018 , Scott Likens, new services and emerging technology leader with professional services network PwC, along with other PwC representatives, sketched a picture of emerging technologies that are changing every industry today and how they are converging to create the next wave of innovation. Sixty-four percent of CEOs believe technology will disrupt how they will do business in the next five years, Likens said, as customers and employees both expect interactions to be social, seamless, personal, transparent and secure. Likens asked attendees to imagine a world where data is safe, collaboration is global, routine business tasks are completed for you, communication across the supply chain is seamless and everyone has a virtual assistant.
The eight technologies that form the foundation of this revolution, according to PwC, are:
- 3D printing
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- The Internet of Things (IoT)
- Augmented reality (AR)
- Virtual reality (VR)
“If you're not investing in these technologies," Likens said, “you're falling behind." But it's when they're combined that “real disruption happens," he said.
—Scott Likens, new services and emerging technology leader, PwC
Likens called out five particular ways these technologies are converging and what that will mean for business today:
- Conversational interfaces—voice and text agents that make it seamless for users to interact with technology.
- Intelligent automation, or adding a layer of intelligence to basic process automation.
- Embodied AI—physical IoT-enabled devices embedded with AI.
- Automating trust, or ensuring data authenticity and identity verification.
- Extended reality, or expanding user interaction using virtual worlds and data overlays.
Conversational interfaces are starting to move out of consumer spaces—which are “point" solutions—into the enterprise space, which is more connected and therefore more complex, Likens said. Enterprises are developing conversational front ends to their processes: “Every major platform either has chat or is developing chat," he said. Coupling that with intelligent process automation makes it possible to use voice to control business processes.
By creating a reliable, ledger of transactions, blockchain fundamentally enables agents to communicate without some other entity in the middle. That will help enable companies to build trustworthy supply chains, for example, by being able to view a product's provenance and know that it isn't counterfeit, or that a food product has been safely handled. Likens pointed out that the same issue of trust applies to everything from finance to HR, and blockchain will have a role there as well.
“Embodied AI" refers to the ability of physical IoT-enabled devices to now be equipped with onboard AI, decoupling them from the cloud so that they're able to make choices on their own. To illustrate the possibilities, PwC showed a video showing an autonomous drone they had built with thirteen cameras and AI on board. The drone was capable of facial recognition to determine who to follow, and then follow that person through trees, under bushes, past other people trying to distract it, and so on. All the processing was done on the drone itself and in real time.
The final demonstration was of the capability of extended reality. The demo showed how multiple users could view and manipulate data displayed in 3D in a virtual space.