Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Undergrad Students Predict Technology Trends

I have been working as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate e-business class for the Communication, Culture, Information and Technology program at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus , which gives me the chance to talk about some cool tech, trends, and their possible ramifications for business.

Last week the students presented on four different technologies that they anticipate becoming increasingly applicable for businesses: drones, m-Payments, wearable technology, and holograms & virtual reality.

Below are my notes from the presentations, with a few points thrown in from the course instructor and some polishing and links by me. I thought the class did a great job in the short time they had to prepare. For those new to these areas, this is a good brief primer with some key considerations.

- drones can be used for various consumer uses beyond its military roots
- Amazon experimented with delivery drones,  but wasn't yet viable for full-scale deployment [I think this was actually a publicity stunt]
- "selfie drones" available to photo-document your life
- can be used for emergency medical response, e.g. sending a defibrillator
- drones are useful for investigations into environments where people
can't easily go (e.g. hydro towers, hostile places)
- various socio-political concerns limit uptake such as: privacy, spying, possible terrorist use, airspace regulations (i.e. flight paths and height and restricted zones)
- technological issues also remain, such as: weight they can carry (limits quality of cameras they can carry), poor battery life (but this may soon be solved)

-mobile commerce (m-Commerce) definition was given as "efficient, on-the-go
interacting with commerce through one's mobile device"
- anticipate m-Commerce will be huge and grow in tandem with e-Commerce
- for higher adoption rates would be a triggered by a killer app, which hasn't yet appeared (a killer app for gunpowder was not original use for fireworks, but rather for guns/canons or email for the Internet)
- a single, unified payment and loyalty system could be this killer app (for instance people wouldn't need a special Starbucks app for payment and loyalty privileges and similar apps for the other businesses as this could be offerred in one app)
- for m-Payments to flourish there needs to be a critical mass of businesses offerring the option and no barriers to use between the merchant and mobile user - Bluetooth or Near Field Communications (NFC) already installed on many mobiles can enable frictionless payments
- security concerns are still limiting uptake - but this could be mitigated by adding a biometric verification (e.g. fingerprint) with payments and fraud protection
- facilitating peer-to-peer mobile payments could penetrate new markets based on socio-religious barriers limiting existing electronic payment methods as credit cards are not suitable for Muslims due to usury prohibitions or people unable to get credit cards such as youth
- could be used in conjunction with digital currencies such as Bitcoin

- brand names dominant in this sector at present (e.g. Google Glass
and Sony SmartWatch), yet this area has lots of current development by less high-profile companies that is not widely known
- wearable tech used in health sector, e.g. diabetes RFID tests,
Alzheimer guard tech, etc.
- also used for entertainment, communications, and sports and fitness
- security and reliability are a big concern limiting uptake, particularly applicable for health sector and fitness, e.g. Nike SportWatch calories burned functionality is not very accurate (particularly considering its cost, which sets up expectation
of good accuracy)
- may soon have embedded tech, e.g. chips in our body
- wearable tech is still a new market so it is anticipated that new developments and refinements will come and accuracy will improve
- customization of product offerings needed to help differentiate similar products

- recently this sector has become more notable due to Microsoft's
much-hyped launch of Microsoft HoloLens
- HoloLens uses glasses to combine real world images with augmented
reality (i.e. information/representations overlaid of real world
imagery) and virtual reality (i.e. fanciful or other types of imagery
such as images of Mars)
- holographic computing and virtual reality has been hyped for many years as the
next big new thing, but fails to catch on
- technology still needs to improve - needs to be lighter, less bulky, and faster processing speeds for wider adoption
- current viable use for this tech would be for consumers to aid in-store shopping

The students raised some of the key potential features of these technologies and the barriers to widescale adoption. My take is that technology never progresses as fast as visionaries or young people think it will. But that doesn't mean we won't continue to see some really interesting developments in these sectors over the next few months/years.

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