This month we invited 30 of the UK’s brightest future business leaders to debate the impact of global changes on our future society and how we might address these through innovation.
We believe that by bringing the best minds together from across the public and private sector, we can fuel imagination, inspire creativity, and drive innovation to address the planet’s big issues.
The discussion focussed on the six Megatrends shaping business and society, globally: population growth, sustainable energy, healthcare, urban migration, ageing population and the internet of things (IoT).
So what does the future look like in the next 20 years and beyond? How will technology help us overcome these challenges? And how will this change the way we do business? Here are some of the key predictions and insights that came out of the discussion.
1) Smart cities will help manage urban swell
Urban migration is happening rapidly, so the race is on to create smart cities that can manage the challenges surrounding all these extra people.
This is about bringing together transport, parking, waste collection, building management and so much more through unified intelligent platforms. With the help of Fujitsu, Dubai has been blazing the trail so far, and other cities are set to follow.
Localising energy production could be one way of managing the surge in power demands from larger concentrations of people in urban areas. One group suggested decentralisation such as this could drive wider benefits.
2) The power networks need to change
To meet the growing global population (expected to hit 9.7 billion by 2050) we’re going to need more energy (while using fewer fossil fuels), and our power networks need to be more efficient.
Another group suggested the big traditional power plants could also become obsolete in 20 years, as renewable energy and power storage technology continues to advance.
As a result, the grid needs to become more flexible to deal with fluctuations in power, as well as having the ability to transfer electricity between countries and across large distances.
3) Get paid by the grid to do your washing, and charge your car
You heard that right. If we did all have smart meters in our homes, there was a suggestion the grid could pay for people to use power in times when it was over supplied.
Smart technology will know the exact time to start charging your electric car or turn on your kitchen appliances. That means less energy is wasted, and people can be rewarded for using electricity during these periods. This creates a win-win for both consumers and utilities companies.
4) Wireless charging is on its way
We’ve seen this on a small scale so far with smartphones. But imagine being able to drive your electric car into a garage and it charges automatically with no cable? Even better it switches on at the optimum time. This technology is in development and it has the potential to drive the adoption of both electric and driverless vehicles.
5) Creating a universal standard for IoT is key
Standardisation of the internet of things (IoT) across devices is a key challenge if we’re to ever realise the full benefits.
Our group of innovators believed the smartphone could be the piece of technology that acts as the conduit which helps to bring all of this together. This will help drive costs down, and consumer demand for IoT up.
6) IoT relies on people buying into data sharing
How do we get people to buy in to corporations sharing information about the consumer? The internet of things is a set of disparate platforms – the only way its full potential can be realised is if that data can be shared between them.
It raises bigger questions over who has access to what information, and what happens to that data. This will take time for consumers to understand (and for companies to be transparent about its use) before the benefits are eventually embraced and realised.
7) Insurance industry set for disruption
The collection of personal data on a micro-level has the potential to completely change the way the insurance industry operates. Soon you could be paying premiums on a daily or even hourly basis, depending your location, the amount of exercise you’ve done, and even your diet.
Getting ready for this new world will be paramount, as fresh business models will inevitably come into play. It also begs the wider question about how other industries are preparing for this disruption.
8) The future of healthcare is bright
Connecting people to medical professionals through digital channels can create huge efficiencies by removing the need to see a doctor face-to-face.
Elsewhere, 3D modelling of patients can help doctors better understand problems before going into surgery using virtual and augmented reality. Surgeons could also get hundreds of hours more training and practice, without the need to ever operate on a patient.
With an ageing population, demand for health services is only going to grow. Technology holds the key to not only improving the quality of care, while also driving down costs.
9) Culture challenges are holding back the march of technology
To realise this vision of the future, there are cultural challenges to overcome, including inertia and resistance to change. Would 10 to 15 years be enough time to change that? Our panel suggested it may even take a crisis to force a culture shift.
We see it’s more than thinking about the technology in isolation. Instead, solutions have to be built around the people using them – something that lies at the heart of Human-Centric Innovation.
Have your say on addressing these global issues – tweet us @Fujitsu_UK or by using #Megatrends
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