I love to look into the future and think about where the various technology trends are taking us. Recently, Upfront Ventures held a conference for the top technology venture capital investors and before that conference they asked those investors what they foresaw as the biggest technology trends over the next five years. Five years is not the distant future and it’s interesting to see where the people that invest in new businesses see us heading in that short time. Here were the most common responses:
Talent Goes Global. Innovation and tech talent has most recently been centered in the US, Europe, Japan and China. But now there are tech start-ups everywhere and very talented young technologists to be found in all sorts of unlikely places.
For many years we have warned US kids that they are competing in a worldwide economy, and this is finally starting to come true. In a fully networked world it’s getting easier to collaborate with the brightest people from around the world, and that’s a much larger talent pool. The days of Silicon Valley being the only places developing the next big thing are probably behind us.
Sensors Everywhere. There will be a big increase in sensors that are going to supply us feedback about the world around us and will provide feedback in ways that were unimaginable. Assuming that we can find a way to tackle the huge influx of big data in real time we are going to have a whole new way to look at much of our world.
There will be sensors on farms, in factories, in public places and in our homes and businesses that will begin providing a wide array of feedback on the environment around us. There are currently hundreds of companies working on medical monitors that are going to be able to tell us a lot more about ourselves, which will allow us to track and treat diseases and allow older folks to stay in their homes longer.
The First Real Commercial A.I. It’s hard to go a week these days without hearing about an A.I platform that has solved the same kinds of issues we face every day. A.I. systems are now able to learn things from scratch, on their own, and self-monitor to improve their performance in specific applications.
This opens up the possibility of automating huge numbers of repetitive processes. I have a friend who is a CPA who has already automated the tax preparation process and he can go from bank accounts and create a set of books and tax returns in an hour or two – a process that used to take a week or longer. And soon it will be totally automated and not require much human assistance at all until the finished product is ready for review. People think that robots are going to take over physical tasks – and they will – but before then expect to see a huge wave of the automation of paperwork processes like accounting, insurance claim processing, mortgage and credit card approval and a long list of other clerical and white collar tasks.
Better Virtual Reality. The first generation of virtual reality is now hitting the market. But with five more years of development the technology will find its way into many facets of our lives. If you haven’t tried it yet, the first generation VR is pretty spectacular, but its potential is almost mind-blowing when plotting it out on a normal path of technical improvements and innovations.
New Ways to Communicate. The VR investors think that we are on the verge of finding new ways to communicate. Already today a lot of our forms of communication have moved to messaging platforms and away from phone calls and email. With the incorporation of A.I. the experts predict a fully integrated communications system that easily and automatically incorporates all kinds of communications mediums. And with the further introduction and use of bots companies will be able to automatically join in conversations without needing piles of people for much of it.