What digital will deliver by 2027

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“There are new forces at play in the old world that we know so well. We are at the beginning of a revolution and are beginning to perceive the true potential of tomorrow’s world.” You could be forgiven for thinking that you were reading the opening of a science fiction novel, but in actual fact, these words formed part of the opening of Saphila 2017, the African SAP User Group’s (AFSUG) biennial conference for SAP users, which took place at Sun City on 5 and 6 June 2017.

The theme of this year’s Saphila conference is the invitation to ‘reimagine infinite possibilities’. This message was brought home in detail by the opening speaker Tom Raftery, vice president of SAP, who gave a presentation on 10 predictions of what digital will deliver by 2027. In 2007, Facebook and Twitter had just started, the world had not yet been introduced to WhatsApp, Snapchat and Kindle, and there were no smartphones.

Raftery says, “In 2007, Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone, which had 16 gigs of memory and no 3G. Today, an AI-equipped Apple Watch can detect the signs of a stroke with 97% accuracy. This is the context we are talking about regarding the level of change in the world of technology. Let’s see what the world might look like in 10 years from now.”

There have been changes in manufacturing so that products will be sold as a service. For example, Kaiser Air Compressors have presented a different business model in which they give the customer their compressors and charge them per cubic metre of the air that the compressor produces.

He also predicts real transformation in the energy industry, particularly around renewable energy. Solar is taking off. The price of batteries is coming down and the energy density is increasing. This means that batteries are holding more energy and becoming cheaper to buy. An increase in wind and solar energy will allow people to reduce the carbon footprint of energy generation. In addition, the demand for Tesla’s electric vehicles is increasing all the time.

There will also be changes in the transportation sphere. Cars will have predictive maintenance and will become a lot safer, including driverless vehicles. This will have implications on insurance models and, ultimately, could see a reduction in pollution and congestion, as cars will drive you to your destination and then drive off. Further, we are also going to see the advent of flying motor cars.

Agriculture will change. “I see the advent of vertical, indoor hydroponic farming, which will use 95% less water, and also far less fertiliser as well as pesticides. Vertical farming can occur in the middle of cities – what about re-using all those multi-storey car parks that will be phased out due to the rise of driverless vehicles? We could return the farms to biodiversity, for example growing forests or reintroducing territory for wild game animals,” he explains.

Raftery sees changes in healthcare by 2027 as well. “What if your health data is sent to a network in the cloud, via a network app that has data constantly updated. A notification gets sent to the appointed doctor when there are warning signs, an appointment is made and when you arrive, the doctor has your data already. This is essentially preventative maintenance for people.” New organs could be grown from your own cells, the use of robots to assist with healthcare for seniors or those with special needs, and the use of virtual reality in medical training.

There will be the rise of business networks, including a health network as outlined above, and the rise of blockchain. Blockchain will do to the financial system what the rise of the Internet did to traditional print media.

There will be ongoing rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) but he notes that, as with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, this does not automatically mean job losses, but instead job creation as well and the creation of different industries.   

In the 1926 words of Nikola Tesla, a futurist thinker and physicist, inventor and engineer, ‘When wireless is perfectly applied, the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, when in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole.’ In conclusion, digital is taking off; it will change everything and the time to reimagine and move is now.