How will you make your technology so smart it’s invisible?

By

Ken Englund

Ernst & Young LLP US North America Technology Sector Advisory Services Principal

Focused on helping technology, consumer electronics, internet, social commerce and software companies solve critical business issues.

6 minute read 10 Oct 2018

In the future, consumers won’t think about the technologies they use. We explore how companies can set themselves apart anyway.

FutureConsumer.Now is a look at customer experiences and how they will evolve and transform our world over the next 12 years. If you don’t think it will be dramatic, take a look at the changes over the last 12 years and know the rate of transformation will compound exponentially due to innovation and new technologies. Consider our hypotheses about technology use for 2030.

Consumers won’t think about the technologies they use

Often, they won’t even notice them. Invisible technology and pervasive data will make our lives smarter and friction-free.

How consumers interact with brands and each other will be transformed with immersive interfaces such as virtual and augmented reality, providing unique personalized experiences. Robotics and intelligent automation will create a seamless integration between the physical and digital workforce, optimizing the deployment of talent for high value added functions while enabling efficiencies elsewhere.

Consumers want convenient, seamless and frictionless interactions with content and information delivered in the least intrusive way. They also want to interact with devices and platforms in a way that is simple, intuitive and accessible. Companies that can provide this will have the ability to redefine the digital experience creating a much deeper, immersive experience blending the interface between technology and life.

Technology will blend seamlessly into our daily lives

The seamless integration of pervasive data and invisible technology will have a significant impact on the relationship between consumers and businesses as interactions will focus on distinct personalization, integrating artificial intelligence with augmented and virtual reality. Current forms of predictive analytics and automation are driving change in the daily lives of consumers, but the future will see a growing amount of virtualization to increase our ability to augment and enhance how we live and work.

While technology today is primarily used to automate and decrease workloads, immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality will blend seamlessly into our digital experiences, removing the barriers between computer and human interactions.

Infrastructure enabling the shift

New computing environments will evolve driving a dramatic shift to optimize more processes and functions operating outside of and at the edge of the cloud. Investment in 5G computing will play a pivotal role in building the infrastructure of the future, creating seamless technology integration to deliver and receive content anywhere, across devices and networks. These new infrastructure enablers will lead to increased computing speed with extremely low latency. The ability to process information and respond in near real time will drive the immersive integration of technology further into our daily lives.

Advances in 5G networks, edge computing and distributed Wi-Fi networks will further enable TMT companies to provide an ever increasing range of applications via the cloud and mobile platforms. These innovations will allow systems to run faster and more efficiently and in turn drive more integrated applications including block chain, artificial intelligence, data analytics, voice and facial recognition.

Interaction will be less about selling a product and more about creating a compelling experience.

Driving dynamic, real time business operations

The use of technology in the future will not only change the end users of TMT services and solutions, but also impact the ways businesses interact with one another. As consumer preferences and expectations for interacting with brands evolves into a more seamless, digital environment, so will that of the enterprise.

Traditional channel and distribution strategies will be disrupted as B2B companies take their cue from consumer-facing business models. Businesses will seek to provide omni-channel, platform-driven experiences. They will look to engage with social media platforms for product reviews and work much more dynamically with developer communities and ecosystems.

Commerce and purchasing enabled via the cloud will simplify the process to provide faster implementation and price transparency. Similar to the consumer experience, digital selling to the enterprise will be focused on content, networks and affiliations. Interaction will be less about selling a product and more about creating a compelling experience.

Blurring the lines between human and digital experiences

The future of technology at its best will mimic humans in many ways, not just in processing information, but also in its ability to sense and interact with its surroundings, other systems and especially humans. Advances in areas such as robotics, sensor technology, computer vision and voice and facial recognition will continue to improve, blurring the lines between human and computer capabilities.

Tension will grow between how these technologies are supporting and enabling our lives, while also causing disruption as they begin to replace familiar human experiences, such as driving a car, shopping or even interacting with other humans leading to the potential disenfranchisement of individuals.

For example, as artificial intelligence enables conversational technology to become increasingly integrated, consumers will be unable to tell the difference from a chat bot and an actual human. From this will arise an ethical or even legal requirement for disclosure, awareness and consent when an individual interacts with an intelligent, automated system.

Addressing increased cyber security risks

A larger network of connected devices operating in open source environments will lead to more potential avenues for hackers, malware and spyware to steal, corrupt or manipulate our data and devices. As the use of technology proliferates to become seamlessly integrated into our lives, a sense of ‘cyber insecurity’ will develop among users as the risk of data breaches, hacks into our devices, homes, cars and even potentially our bodies grows exponentially.

This will put not only our personal information and privacy at risk, but also our physical safety. There are already instances of cars, smart homes, infant monitors and even pacemakers being hacked, altered or used to further disrupt the lives of individuals with harmful consequences. As the use of technology becomes more pervasive in our lives and bodies it will be essential to protect the system as well as just the data it holds.

How rules regarding the use of customer data, privacy, and security evolve will dictate the pace of innovation and the speed at which technology pervades our daily lives. Regulatory issues and policies around these issues will prove to be the greatest obstacle to how consumers use technology in the future. Technology innovation will continue to progress at light speed and regulators will remain challenged to keep pace. As new ground breaking technologies emerge and become more commonplace, such as autonomous vehicles, drones, robotics, artificial intelligence and biomedical implants, governments and regulators must be become more agile to address an increasingly complex legal and ethical landscape.

What tech companies are saying?

Ease of use and consumer-centric design will be even more important in the future as technology becomes increasingly more complicated. As technology becomes seamless and pervasive, the underlying applications and systems that support it will become more complex. Technology companies must address the paradox of – the more complex things become, the simpler and more intuitive they must be to use. Providing a system that is easy to navigate and operate will be essential in creating a differentiated user experience. The perceived value of the technology will not be its complicated algorithms, but in the simplicity of its interface and application.

For technology companies, core capabilities and solutions will remain their strongest assets, however technology alone without content will be meaningless in the future. Content will become even more critical in how these companies differentiate themselves in the market, as the overall ways in which devices work will not be much different in the future.

Technology companies will need to decide their place in a rapidly changing and competitive market. Traditional proprietary, vertically integrated companies will need to invest in new digital capabilities to increase their reach with consumers, to add value and provide more open, connected, and seamless interactions. Success will not only be driven by how efficiently and effectively they make these strategic decisions, but the imperative to also own, develop, and manage content that offers a differentiated user experience.

How consumers use technology in the future will be more than just accessing a service through a device. The experience attached to the interaction also will need to leverage proprietary content or data such as media, weather data, retail consumer reviews, etc. through a unique and engaging platform.

The influence a few major technology, internet and social media companies have on the market due to the amount of revenue they generate and innovation they drive, will have a significant impact on the competitive environment and how different industry ecosystems come together. The growing influence of large global industry conglomerates will further require a layer of regulatory scrutiny and oversight to ensure systems remain open and integrated for new market entrants.

Most importantly, technology companies must understand the value of being good stewards of the systems and devices they offer and the customer data they house, with the level of brand trust that goes with it. It will be imperative for technology companies to not only keep those devices and information secure, but also to maintain public trust in how they deal with it. How their products are kept secure, trusted and always connected will ultimately become the key buying criteria for consumer and business in the future.

  • Methodology

    Through research and interviews with global innovators, futurists, business leaders and our own professionals, EY has identified over 150 drivers that could shape the future consumer.

    We used those drivers to create eight powerful hypotheses, each of which relates to a key aspect of the future consumer: how people will shop, eat, stay healthy, live, use technology, play, work and move.

    We then held a series of hackathons and innovation workshops around the world to explore these hypotheses further and to imagine the future worlds they might create.

Summary

To succeed in the future, technology companies will need to develop their place in the market and figure out how to own, develop, and manage content that offers a differentiated user experience.

About this article

By

Ken Englund

Ernst & Young LLP US North America Technology Sector Advisory Services Principal

Focused on helping technology, consumer electronics, internet, social commerce and software companies solve critical business issues.