Digital Disruptors

During 1800’s investors in the stock market traded with paper securities, yelling and screaming at the top of their voices in order to ‘transact’ and own stacks of those paper. Little did they know that those physical papers would fade in oblivion in future and that securities would be held virtually in digital formats.

Although the transition from physical world to today’s all-encompassing virtual lives has been slow, such changes have been important catalyzers for technology companies to begin innovating and redefining how traditional processes work. Paper security converted to virtual demats was just one of the numerous examples of how technology made its way into traditional processes.

Ones and zeros are eating the world. The creation, storage, communication, and consumption of information is being digitized – turned into the universal language of computers at breathtaking pace. All forms and types of enterprises – from small businesses to large corporations, from non-profits to government agencies – are going through “digital transformation”, taking the help of digitisation to create new processes, activities, and modes of transactions.

Digitization is changing the way we work, shop, bank, travel, educate, govern, manage our health, and enjoy life. The technologies of digitization enable conversion of traditional forms of information storage such as paper and photographs into binary codes (ones and zeros) of computer storage. The process of converting analog signals into digital signals is a sub-set of such a workflow. Its noteworthy to note though that the digital transformation of economic transactions and human interactions is more pronounced than conversion of various forms of media into bits and bytes. In the last decade or so, the rates at which technology has been evolving have become overwhelmingly steep. From driverless cars to artificial intelligence, high-tech companies are competing to strive to achieve the unthinkable; a life where WORK IS FOR MACHINES AND LIFE IS FOR HUMANS.

Recent developments in technology industry has been quite fascinating. Artificial intelligence (AI), which refers to the use of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human understanding, has been around for nearly 60 years. But, it is only recently that AI appears on the brink of revolutionizing industries as diverse as health care, law, journalism, aerospace, and manufacturing, with the potential to profoundly affect how people live, work, and play.

Within 3 to 5 years, it is expected that commercial uses of AI would increase exponentially. The idea is that AI embedded in product applications would benefit end customers. AI is also being used in process applications and in corporations to automate processes and enhance customer satisfaction. Automated voice response systems have been used for a few years now to replace human customer service agents for customer support. Eg. The Hong Kong subway system has employed AI to automate and optimize the planning of workers’ engineering activities, building on the learning of experts. Insight applications harness advanced analytical capabilities such as machine learning to uncover insights that can inform operational and strategic decisions across an organization. Chipmaker Intel employs predictive algorithms to segment customers into groups with similar needs and buying patterns effectively using this information to prioritize its sales efforts and tailor promotions (Intel expects that their AI-based approach will generate an additional $20 million in revenue once it is rolled out globally).

The next big disruptor is the Blockchain technology. Blockchain is a secured and reliable technology that is used to securely stock and share data or list transactions on an infinitely large and democratized networked system called the ledgers. It enables to perform transactions in a relatively fast and cost effective manner and ejects brokers out of the system leading to direct peer-to-peer interactions.

The Blockchain data storage technology is predicted to be a massive disruptor in the next 3-5 years. Because the existing cloud storage services are centralized, users have to trust a single storage provider. With Blockchain, this can become decentralized. Eg. Filecoin is testing cloud storage using a Blockchain-powered network to improve security and decrease dependency. Additionally, users can rent out their excess storage capacity, Airbnb-style, creating new marketplaces.

Blockchain technologies make tracking and managing digital identities, both, secure and efficient, resulting in seamless sign-on and reduced fraud. Be it banking, healthcare, national security, citizenship documentation or online retailing, identity authentication and authorization is a process intricately woven into commerce and culture worldwide. Blockchain offers a unique service called smartcontracts. These are legally binding programmable digitized contracts entered on the blockchain. What developers do is implement legal contracts as variables and statements that can release of funds using the bitcoin network as a ‘3rd party executor’, rather than trusting a single central authority. For example, if two people would like to exchange $100 at a specific time in future when a set of preconditions are met, the conditions, payout, and parties’ details would be programmed into a smart contract. Once the defined conditions are met, funds would be released and sent to the appropriate party as per terms.

Virtual reality is all set to take over the way we experience and view media. Some experts call it the ultimate empathy machine because VR helps to live vicariously in others’ shoes. Currently, the gaming industry has the hottest VR applications because it is fun and people can understand easily why VR adds value to their experience.

The education industry has started to embrace VR for teaching students. For example, Schools would invest into Google Cardboard (VR Headset), give it to students in classes and experience the Google Expedition app on Android/IOS. This app allows students to go on field trips from Galapagos to the International Space Station. It makes learning more interesting because it is more likely that they will remember what they have experienced rather than just reading a book.

As the advertising space becomes more and more congested with competition, VR has opened up a new space for brands to communicate to their customers. For example, Audi´s Sandbox experience which uses real-time trackers, an Oculus Rift, a driving seat and a sandbox to create a unique experience. The idea is that you can create a real track in the sandbox that is referenced in VR where you drive an Audi.

The real estate sector is also set to benefit from the VR technology. Companies are giving virtual tours on VR headsets for prospective buyers, with just a camera and software that is available on cloud. The whole process of making a Virtual tour of a mansion takes around 2 – 3 days. In addition, the camera only costs $3600 and the software is around $49 – $149 a month. The speed, price and ease of doing, makes this a real disruptor in the industry.

Disruptive technologies usually start out performing worse than their current generation counterparts, which are much used and are, so called, incumbents. This leads to a tendency to ignore disruptors until it’s too late or ‘in your face’. History is testament to the fact that transformational ideas emerge victorious in the end. So could be the cases of AI, Blockchain, AR, VR, Drones etc., and a few others that are hidden but lurking around the corner.