Every leader has an app, software package or other technological tool that they wouldn’t be without today. But what tools will they be using tomorrow? Four tech leaders share their views on the likely gamechangers of the next three years:
1. Delivery robots
“We’re due to see far more widespread proliferation of personal delivery robots, which will support the human labor force across multiple industries,” says Michel Spruijt, senior vice-president, international business, at automation company Brain Corp Europe.
He argues that this new breed of public-facing machines will be most prevalent within the hospitality industry, which is being hit hard by labor shortages. “I see a world where robots will increasingly deliver food in restaurants, run room service errands in hotels and generally be the first port of call when anything needs to be delivered to a customer,” he says. “Not only will this address some of the shortfall in the workforce, but it will also streamline deliveries and make them both more efficient and more trackable.”
“One of the most exciting developments on my radar is the use of technology to transform supply chains,” says Michael Scharff, CEO of artificial intelligence platform Evolv AI.
He believes the technology will change the way many industries maintain inventory, fulfil orders, and handle deliveries. “Key to this trend is the use of drones for deliveries and the increasing reliance on advanced robotics for production, sorting and packaging,” says Scharff. “We are also going to see the rise of anticipatory shipping, where companies will ship goods in advance of a consumer asking for them. This will be especially valuable for staples such as toilet paper, soap, and canned goods.”
3. Remote labs
“When the pandemic hit, we quickly had to pivot to a remote desktop solution that would allow our animation and visual effects students to access the immense power of our onsite computer labs, but from home,” says Catherine Tate, executive director of the School of 3D Animation & Visual Effects at the Academy of Art University in California.
The school’s “remote lab” was developed using PC-over-IP (PCoIP) technology. Effectively, it enabled the high-powered workstations onsite to be compressed, encrypted and streamed directly to students’ home screens and fingertips.
“It has allowed our online students to be on a level playing field with our onsite students,” explains Tate. She doesn’t just see the technology as revolutionary for creative arts, either. Over the coming years, she believes, it will enable a host of other industries, including healthcare and financial services, to give their people access to high-performance tools and technology without them having to physically move location.
4. Virtual and mixed reality
“Three years may be an ambitious timeline, but I think that’s around the time we’ll start to see virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) applications play a meaningful role in changing the customer experience,” says Jonathan Epstein, CEO of precision search engine optimization provider BrewCo Inc.
Whether it’s deployed within an office, a retail store, or at home, VR offers the ability to interact more deeply with other people, with objects, and with media. “The utility of VR for training and education of business teams is now well established, and will grow,” continues Epstein. “We’ll start to see VR change how products and services are sold, and how teams communicate.”
The future is hybrid
But when it comes to technology, it’s not just what you’ve got that matters, according to Jessica Nordlander, COO of group insight platform Thoughtexchange. “For leaders of new hybrid workforces, the future won’t be so much about using a lot of new technology, because we have that already,” she says. “It’s going to be more about using the tech they have intentionally and in a more holistic way.”
Nordlander believes there’s going to be an increasing need for a new category of specialists who are able to “architect advanced digital workplaces”. She explains: “Companies really only need to do two things: drive efficiencies and innovate. Digital workplaces need to be optimized for both, just like physical ones.”