Every technology goes through a Development Phase before entering its Application Phase. The tech-advancements below are all entering the Application Phase. They are ready to be used as innovation tools — and to be used to solve your company’s and your customers real world challenges.
Innovators in large multinational organizations, as well as small and mid-sized firms are discovering creative ways to deploy these technologies to acquire new customers, enhance existing products, increase employee productivity, and otherwise invent the future.
Take a look:
1. 5G Tech: Coming Soon to a Network Near You
Unless you live in China or South Korea, 5G technology may not be available in your area until late 2019 or 2020. Nevertheless, when it does arrive, 5G will be 10 times faster than 4G, and will enable you to remain connected wherever you go, and to download full length movies in seconds among other applications. The reason there’s so much hoopla around 5G is that it promises to be a huge enabler of innovation for a wide variety of industries, professions and populations! Some estimates are that one billion people will be “5G enabled” within five years, so we’re talking about a game-changing technology, rather than an incremental improvement. The combination of speed, responsiveness and reach is certain to be a further catalyst to the full-blossoming of such tech-trends as self-driving cars, telemedicine, big data, drones, virtual reality and the internet of things.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now a mainstream technology. Leading players are already using it to achieve competitive advantage.
First mover firms in a growing number of industries are applying AI to give them an edge going forward. Some are automating routine tasks like accounting and billing, while others are pursuing ever larger opportunities. Leading law firms now use AI to scan thousands of legal documents in minutes, rather than weeks, to build stronger cases at a fraction of the cost. Bloomberg’s AI software writes routine articles without human intervention. John Deere’s new tractors rely on AI to apply micro-squirts of pesticides, replacing crop dusters. China’s AI industry has grown by 67 percent over the past year and has produced more patents than its U.S. counterparts. Suggestion: Become the AI “point person” in your firm and be on the lookout for new applications. Scope out the rise of AI, it’s benefits and dangers, and look broadly for ways AI could be used ethically to make existing products and services better, to lower costs, and free up people to perform more creative and higher value tasks.
3. Apps are now essential tools for adding customer value and aiding employee productivity. What are you app to do next?
Fort Worth, Texas-based startup Booster Fuels saves time-strapped motorists a trip to the gas station. When you order fuel on your Booster app, they bring the gasoline to you. Startups like Booster Fuels are taking advantage of the app trend to address unmet customer needs. And established companies like Safeco auto insurance are finding new ways to use apps to add value to customers —and improve worker productivity.
Safeco’s auto insurance customers can now report an auto accident using the company’s app. Right from the accident scene, customers can submit photos, report what happened, and arrange for a tow — all by using Safeco’s innovative app. Fast movers will increasingly use mobile apps for on-the spot-troubleshooting, managing inventory, providing on-site estimates, generating invoices, and gathering data that can be used to better understand customer preferences.
Pest control operator Rentokil uses a proprietary app to give its field technicians a productivity edge. When confused by type of bug or rodent, they simply snap a photo and run the app, which sifts through a data-bank of pest images to quickly identify the intruder. The app even suggests remediation solutions. Voila, problem solved.
4. Wearable technology is enhancing guest experience at Carnival Cruise Lines. How might you (and your organization) profit from wearables?
Modern cruise ships carry over 6000 passengers and offer everything from violin concerts to bungee jumping to belly dancing classes. But there’s a problem. Carnival Cruise Lines’ research showed that so many choices were overwhelming guests and creating an anxious-prone customer experience. So, Carnival created a wearable technology to help customers avoid “over-choice.” Passengers are given the option to wear a wristband device synced with a companion app on their smartphone to serve as a kind of constant guide while onboard. As you partake of various onboard activities, the wearable tool responds by guiding you to activities that you’re bound to like, providing a new level of customized service for passengers. Result: Carnival customer data shows that guests come away happier, less stressed, and more apt to return to Carnival for their next cruise.
5. Big Data empowers Starbucks’ location scouting. Are you and your firm looking far enough ahead of the Big Data Curve?
Ever wonder how Starbucks can open multiple shops in the same neighborhood without cannibalizing existing store traffic? Answer: they use big data to scout locations that will grow revenue and avoid shortchanging existing stores.
Until now, big data was available exclusively to big companies. No longer. As more and more digital data gets collected (as when you give your phone number to the clerk at the grocery store), mid-sized and even small firms are now able to tap the power of big data analytics to carve out new strategic advantage: to lower the cost of customer acquisition, find new ways to cut costs, increase sales, personalize product offerings, and enter new markets.
Starbucks was a first mover in using big data to give their location scouts a tool to reduce guesswork. Big data — the technology that allows more people to analyze more information from more sources in more ways than ever before — helps Starbucks’ staffers crunch data on foot traffic patterns, area demographic trends and customer behavior profiles, greatly reducing the complexity of decision making.
6. Alexa and Google Assistant have emerged as the leading voice-control platforms. Is now the time to embrace the Internet of Things?
In November 2017, Enrichment Federal Credit Union became the first credit union in the United States to link to Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled smart speakers. Members of the Oak Ridge, Tennessee-based credit union can now move money between accounts, make loan payments and access balances and account histories using convenient voice commands.
Enrichment’s move is just the latest application of an exploding techno-trend where tiny sensors embedded in homes, buildings, and everyday objects such as smartphones, are connected via the internet, to comprise what is being called The Internet of Things (IoT). While Alexa is out front, Google’s Assistant is coming on strong, followed by a host of others just now entering the race to wire the living room.
IoT technology first burst on the scene in 2015, when a startup called Nest reinvented the thermostat and made it “smart,” which is to say programmable, and connected via the internet to the consumers smart phone, and voice-controlled speaker. Nest went on to reinvent smoke alarms, home security and a growing list of other products, and the technology is exploding. In home security, for example, for a fraction of the cost of traditional home security- service, consumers can set up the new do it yourself system — you set up the alarm system yourself by placing the easy to use sensors and cameras and motion detectors around your home, and connect to a control hub, and an app on your smart phone.
Action step: Look for ever increasing numbers of homes to be united with the IoT, and new entrants wishing to dance in the voice-control platform space.
7. Advanced robotics are moving out of the factory and showing up everywhere. Is it time you made a bot on the future?
Hotel chain Aloft uses robotic bellhops to supplement their bell staff — delivering extra towels, keys and whatever else to guest rooms without delay. Suddenly, agile, trainable, lightweight robots aren’t just found on the factory floor, they’re showing up everywhere. And they won’t replace workers in most cases, they will enable smarter labor deployment by taking on repetitive, backbreaking and higher risk tasks and introducing logistical efficiency. Look for robots to expand exponentially over the next decade to where every industry will utilize them in some capacity.
8. Drones are experiencing growing pains, but their uses are exploding. Is there a drone in your company’s future?
In a year of setbacks for the drone movement, airports in New Jersey and England were forced to shut down because of dangerous near-misses with drones. But these setbacks should not deter exploration of the many potential uses of unmanned aerial devices. Last year, a New Zealand couple became the first to have a pizza delivered by drone. These days drones are finding their way into the insurance, construction, real estate, news, wedding, sports and other businesses at a rapid clip. The commercial drone industry already touches almost every sector of the economy, 38 types of businesses have already been approved for drone operations, and the industry is poised to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. From inspecting infrastructure, to providing farmers with aerial views of their crops, to enabling rescues of swimmers in heavy surf, to allowing law enforcement agencies greater access to monitor criminal behavior, it’s no wonder businesses — small and large are clamoring to use this technology.
9. With Virtual Reality, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Home improvement pioneer Lowe’s created Holoroom, where customers plug in the dimensions of a room and can then see a VR mockup of their renovation plans, transfer design to Google Cardboard and take the VR mockup home. Cirque du Soleil’s traveling Kurious exhibit puts VR users in the center of the action via a 360-degree camera in the center of the performance. North Face brings the Yosemite wilderness to retail stores. Thomas Cook, Europe’s biggest tour operator, uses VR headsets to show customers what certain vacations would be like.
Virtual reality — computer technology that uses special headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical environments or props, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations — is poised to take off, and not just in the consumer space. Increasingly, firms are using VR to lower the cost of training.
As you review these nine techno-trends below ask yourself: how might you and your business unit apply them to your challenges? What are applications that you find unexpected and exciting? And: how long will it be before your competitors move ahead of you if you don’t act?
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Robert B. Tucker is one of the most in-demand innovation speakers and workshop leaders in the world today. A former adjunct professor at UCLA, Tucker is president of The Innovation Resource, a consulting firm specializing in helping leaders and their organizations invent higher growth futures. The author of seven books, his international bestseller Driving Growth Through Innovation: How Leading Firms are Transforming Their Futures was translated into 17 languages. As a thought leader in the growing Innovation Movement, Tucker is a frequent contributor to publications such as the Journal of Business Strategy, Harvard Management Update, Strategy & Leadership, and Innovation Excellence. He has appeared on PBS, Bloomberg, CBS News, and was a featured expert on the CNBC series The Business of Innovation, hosted by Maria Bartiromo. Details: www.innovationresource.com or contact (805) 682-1012.