How to use a simple and powerful tool to unlock the future of technology

If we only have one crystal ball, every time we have to make a strategic decision, we can dust and wave our hands. If you like, you can use technology to peer into our future. Should we invest in artificial intelligence? Will smart home become a reality? Will Industry 4.0 still be a "thing" in 2025? Just ask the crystal ball.

Recently, I met a customer of an energy company, and he asked me to do this more or less, and to present my predictions from a technical perspective in their field over the next 20 years. Customers say that based on these insights, his company can plan to invest in technology.

Naturally, this question has led me to reflect on the technological changes of the past two decades. About a decade ago, the iPhone didn't even exist. People have to navigate around towns without Google Maps or Waze, and Uber and Lyft won't be there for a few more years. Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp have all been invented over the past decade, and this list continues. A major technology, product and business model innovation came after. If you go back to the time before the iPhone was released in June 2007 and try to tell people what will happen, they might think that you are referring to the plot of a science fiction movie rather than predicting the future. The world today is very different from that at that time, and no one has seen it.



So, how can we predict what will happen 20, 40, 60 years from today?

The truth is, I am not sure what it is to try to predict what will happen in the distant future. I can easily tell you that by 2079, the car will fly, the aircraft will be completely autonomous, the meat will no longer exist, and the blockchain technology will be your only wallet. Who knows, why not? At that time, I may not be at all, so I am not worried about being responsible for my own predictions. Most of us are only responsible for the results in the short term, but it is difficult to predict in the technical field.

Why is it difficult to predict the near future?

In its purest form, technology is the way to solve human problems. The thing about the problem is that not all issues are equal. Some issues may be more important than others, but because they do not generate revenue, they may not receive the same attention as other issues that seek greater financial gain. These types of undercurrents or inconsistencies can lead to accelerated development and peaking of technology segments, and at an unbalanced rate. Since these content are not easy to identify in real time, it is difficult to predict which market segments will grow faster and to what date they will be put on the market.

There are some key factors that contribute to these inconsistencies:

Industry-led investments: When specific industries identify the advantages of a particular technology, they tend to invest in it. For example, a bank or insurance company may be interested in fraud detection and may invest in technologies such as machine learning (ML) to solve this problem. These types of industry-led investments enable specific functions of a wider range of technologies to evolve faster. Other market segments of the same technology have not caught the interest of the industry and tend to lag behind.

Accessibility-led investments: When companies such as Google provide basic development tools for specific technologies, such as neural networks or computer vision, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to jump into games and create new ones. Once again, we see that peaks in some aspects of technology are accelerating.

Venture-led investment: When venture capital firms (VCs) correctly or mistakenly believe that certain technologies are the key to creating index value creation, they will invest money in this area, thus accelerating development.

Use-case-led investments: Acceleration can be achieved when technological breakthroughs occur or new use cases emerge. For example, both Magic Leap and Microsoft are investing in a wide range of Mixed Reality (MR) capabilities, the "MR that can be seen everywhere." In this way, the MR will appear in all directions seen by the MR earphone wearer. Now, consider the upcoming desktop game product Tilt Five, which will provide a very clear vision for the MR experience, "MR in one place." So what is the future of MR? Tilt 5 is a breakthrough in determining the market, or is the slow running of Magic Leap and Microsoft's HoloLens breaking the road? Will we use an MR headset that expands any environment in the future, or will it interact with the MR next to the defined space? Or maybe there will be new subversives to get rid of the "iPhone style" shadow and redefine the market. Hard to say.

Technical stack of crystal balls

So, with the development of these factors, how do we predict the recent development of technology?

We must first identify the constraints that will help accelerate the development of technology. Some of the usual suspects are listed above. We need to consider which industries will benefit from which technologies, which technologies are available to entrepreneurs and where to invest in venture capital. We also need to pay close attention to the “wildcard” innovations that will suddenly be reorganized. Most importantly, we need to consider the technology stack.

In order for any product to work properly, a powerful technology stack is required. Take an IoT product as an example, we will need:

*Sensor capture data
*Communication layer for transmitting data
*Cloud features make data meaningful
*An application layer that transforms our data-driven insights into
 action

These layers form the layer that is widely known as the IoT technology stack. Without it, IoT products will not work.

Let's take a look at the technology stack of autonomous vehicles (AV). From a sensor perspective, the battle between radar or lidar (or both) has not yet won. From a communication perspective, the amount of data that needs to be processed in real time is incredible. Edge calculations that can help reduce the amount of data sent to the cloud, as well as 5G, which is not yet widely available, have the opportunity to break this layer of the stack. From a data analysis perspective, some use cases (such as highway driving) may be on the cloud and at the edge, while other use cases (such as parking at Wal-Mart during peak hours) remain unresolved. We can't even get into the application layer until all the layers are resolved. Through the lens of the technology stack, we can find many gaps, and bridging these gaps will take time.

I like to use the technology stack to assess when a technology will mature because it is a simple and logical tool that reveals a lot about the near future. It doesn't take a lot of time to research. Instead, you need to understand the production of technical solutions and the development status of different stacks. If we focus on the technology stack, we will no longer need a crystal ball to tell us about the future of technology. We can have an in-depth understanding of the recent developments in technology and make the right business decisions.

More information on the above Tilt Five and HoloLens products:

Tilt Five CEO and co-founder Jerri Ellsworth and Tilt Five product reviews showcase innovative approaches to “somewhere MR”.

In contrast, HoloLens demonstrates that "MR is everywhere." Don't get any benefit from the MS schedule, but still involve operating the dashboard. Now, the dashboards and controls no longer float on the screen, but float in the air.

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