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Reimagining Human Activity in a Digitized and Connected World

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, and Alexandra Whittington
Industry and Business 4.0 – The Industrial and Technological Revolution

Every business sector is coming to terms with the technological shifts enabling the fourth industrial revolution – an era of “cyber-physical systems” where intelligence is the primary driving force in society – mirroring and potentially surpassing the impact of steam, electricity, and computing in previous industrial revolutions. This new era is characterised by the use of artificial intelligence (AI) – converging with other potentially disruptive technologies and helping organise and exploit the data that they generate. Given the extent to which technology is being integrated into wider society, organisations will need to ensure their digital strategy includes constant scanning and rapid assessment of the potential of emerging technologies such as AI, digital twins, blockchain, digital currency, robotics, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), the Internet of Things (IoT), and 3D printing. This article depicts a few of the potential big developments coming down the pipeline.

Quantum Computing

This form of computing uses the ability of subatomic particles to exist in multiple states at one time. The behaviour of particles allows computing operations to be performed potentially thousands of times faster and with lower energy consumption than traditional digital computers.

Avatar Companions / Enterprise use of Digital Twins

We are already used to rudimentary digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa. These are set to grow into more functional companions, and evolve into a next generation of potentially holographic, avatar companions that can interact with human users.(1) There are avatar entertainers already, but the rise of meaningful human-avatar relationships and business avatars could force new thinking about how to accommodate these more obtrusive developments in future service and product design. Digital twins are digital world replicas of living and inanimate entities in the physical world, with data transmitted seamlessly between them.(2) This is the core concept underpinning the Internet of Things and allows developers to simulate the behaviours of complex systems – which contain a mix of human, physical, and digital components.

Implantable Phones

These would literally place the mobile device in the user’s body and possibly connect it directly to their brain.(3) This might mean greater privacy control over our data and, for example, that electronic documents such as E-tickets would no longer be at risk of being lost or forged. Similarly, digital forms of ID might be more secure on an implanted device.

Personal Digital Shields

Personal digital shields might operate at two levels. Firstly, tight access controls would put severe restrictions on who can use our data – with our personal AI acting as the gatekeeper. Secondly, we could see super smart software and hardware shields serve as anti-hacking protective measures on our digital devices and around implanted, embedded, wearable, or medical technology on a person’s body.(4)

Lifelong Personal Avatar Assistants

Digital avatars such as Siri or Alexa could evolve to the point where they are completely personalized to serve as our assistants for an entire life, aiding the user through school, work, and retirement.(5) This could lead to a day when the future workplace becomes capable of communicating with the staff’s avatar assistant each morning to tee up tasks before their human counterpart awakes.

Computerised Shoes and Clothing

Computerised shoes and clothing could be the next manifestation of wearable devices as smart garments.(6) Such clothing may contain high-tech adaptations which make them more expensive to replace if lost or damaged.

Smart Glasses and Contact Lenses

Smart contacts or glasses provide the wearer extra information about their environment, acting either as a display screen or by providing an augmented reality (AR) overlay to a given location or object.(7) Smart glasses could have applications from customer service and training through to security and facility management.

Life-like Mixed Reality

Mixed reality is where virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) coexist with normal reality, creating an environment where people can create, work, or learn with VR and AR digital tools at their disposal. Such tools will prove particularly valuable during construction projects to help visualise structures, design changes, and traffic flows.

Implementation of an International Identification System

Nations may harness the power of big data, biometrics, global positioning software (GPS), and, potentially, blockchain to create a single form of personal identification that is internationally accepted.(8) The leaders in the definition and development of the enabling systems might find commercial advantages not yet imagined.

Autonomous Physical and Virtual Things

Inanimate objects may gain the capacity for autonomy through embedded cameras and speakers, motors, wheels, and the use of design elements such as biomimicry that allow them to move independently or respond dynamically within their environment. Hence, the potential for autonomy could spread well beyond drones and vehicles.(9)

Unpredictable Futures

Will digital avatars become our lifetime helpers? Can implantable phones replace the handheld mobile device? Are we on the verge of a self-driving world? These are key questions with hotly anticipated answers we all seek to help us make sense of what our techno-enhanced world might be like. The future will eventually surprise us all.

This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

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[1] Accessed 01/04/2019.

[2] Accessed 01/04/2019.

[3] Accessed 01/04/2019.

[4] Accessed 01/04/2019.

[5] Accessed 01/04/2019.

[6] Accessed 01/04/2019.

[7] Accessed 01/04/2019.

[8] Accessed 01/04/2019.


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