The eight technologies businesses need to plan for

Fibre optics
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

14 September 2016

New research from PwC has identified the eight technology 'megatrends' that businesses should consider in the coming years.

The study assessed emerging technologies based on business impact and commercial viability over the next five to seven years, identifying those which will likely have the biggest global relevance.

As the rate and scale of disruption caused by developing technology continues to grow, the report states executives face the challenge of implementing sustainable innovation strategies in their businesses.

PwC’s Global New Business Leader, Vicki Huff Eckert, said: “Most companies have laid a foundation for emerging technology, investing in areas such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud.

“Now it’s time for executives to take a broader view of more advanced technologies that will have a greater impact on the business.”

PwC's 'Essential Eight' technologies that matter now

1. Artificial intelligence

Generally defined as software algorithms that are capable of performing tasks normally requiring human input, artificial intelligence (AI) can carry out speech recognition, decision-making and language translation tasks.

AI is being used by the Big Four and on Wall Street for predictive and data analysis, while the world's first AI lawyer was recently hired by a bankruptcy practice.

2. Augmented reality

Augmented reality is the addition of information or visuals to the physical world to improve the user experience for a task or a product, via a graphics and/or audio overlay.

The most popular current example is the Pokémon Go gaming app that allows players to see collectible animated creatures in a real life setting via their smartphone camera. The technology has future implications for marketing campaigns and retail.

3. Blockchain

Essentially an electronic ledger for bitcoin payments, blockchain uses software algorithms to record and confirm transactions with reliability and anonymity.

Banks have taken an interest in the potential of the technology and venture production studio Consensus Systems are reportedly working on a triple-entry bookkeeping application using blockchain as a third variable.

4. Drones

Drones are air or water-based devices and vehicles that fly or move without an on-board human pilot. PwC recently valued the marked at $127bn and this is predicted to rise even further. 

Companies including EasyJet, the BBC, Amazon and even YO! Sushi have been using drone technology for logistics, services and data acquisition.

5. Internet of Things (IoT)

A network of objects embedded with sensors, software, network connectivity and compute capability, the Internet of Things refers to the collection and exchange of data online.

General Electric (GE) Digital's Industrial Internet of Things, for example, uses performance data digitally gathered from machinery to develop workflow tools for companies in the IoT. GE announced a partnership with EY earlier this year.

6. Robots

The term 'robot' can refer to electro-mechanical machines or virtual agents in the form of computer programs that automate, augment or assist human activities.

Drones, for example, are robots but are listed separately due to their specific potential for commercial growth. Other examples include Nao, a customer service robot being piloted by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.

7. Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality refers to immersive computer-generated simulations of 3D images or environments within a defined and contained space.

As well as huge potential for entertainment applications, VR is currently being utilised for product development and as a presentation tool at several companies.

8. 3D printing

Widely available, 3D printing uses additive manufacturing techniques to create 3D objects by layering or “printing” successive layers of materials based on digital models.

The technology has become almost commonplace in the manufacturing industry, adopted by the likes of Nike, Ford and Boeing.

The three key areas determined by PwC's study for consideration by business leaders are:

  1. Do we have a sustainable innovation strategy and process?
  2. Have we quantified the impact of new technologies? If not, how can we do that - and how soon?
  3. Do we have an emerging-technologies road map? If so, are we keeping it up to date?

Before developing these actions, it is important to fully understand the most important emerging technologies and their potential, PwC said.

ICAS will be hosting events on the 'FinTech Revoution' in London and Glasgow during October. Speakers will be discussing technological advancements and the applications of Big Data, cyber security and AI in the financial sector.


  • Technology

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