Futurists and smart thinkers weigh in on the technology that will change how you'll do business. The verdict? The future looks bright.
Just a few decades ago, the concept of cloud computing, where you access your email and files online through a trusted portal, was a distant dream. Even the gadgets we use every day—like a wireless mouse or a super-fast printer—seemed like something out of a 1970s science-fiction movie.
Over the next 15 years, technology will advance once again in ways that could change how you do business. Inc.com asked several futurists and smart thinkers to tell us what business tech will be like in the 2025. Here’s what they predict:
1. Augmented reality will go mainstream Augmented reality is already here—even the Yelp app on an iPhone lets you hold up your phone to see which coffee shops are nearby, with helpful pop-ups that appear over a camera image. Yet, according to Thursday Bram, a content marketer with Hyper Modern Consulting, augmented reality will be integrated in every shopping experience. For example, when you go to a store, you’ll walk up to a mirror and be able to see how a new shirt looks on you. The technology is already here, she says, but the next step by 2025 is to make augmented reality work everywhere you go.
2. Digital assistants will guide our every move The idea of a personal digital assistant is already here, but Rick Chin, the director of innovation at SolidWorks, says future technology will emphasize the “assistant” part even more. Like an advanced version of Siri on the iPhone 4S, this assistant will know your calendar, read your email, and store all of your photos and documents. Most importantly, the assistant will take a holistic view: Knowing where you need to be and why, the assistant will provide the documents you need; with short-term and long-term objectives in mind, the assistant will adjust your calendar accordingly. Best yet, the service—controlled by your voice—will run on every gadget, in your car, and at the office.
3. Everything will be translated on the fly Imagine having a meeting with a partner in Japan, a customer in Belgium, and a Chinese manufacturer over a high-def video conference feed. Today, language barriers might keep you from being productive. In 2025, natural language translation will occur automatically, says Hassan Sawaf, a chief scientist at the linguistic division of engineering firm SAIC. When you speak, a computer-based translation system will work much like a human translator, but speak what you say in the correct language. Sawaf says this will help small businesses become just as global-minded as larger companies.
4. We’ll be use digital scrolls Tablets like the iPad 2 are great for checking email and browsing the Web, but they still add weight and bulk to your laptop bag. Louis Rosas-Guyon, the president of R-Squared Computing, a consultant group, says technology will advance by 2025 to make the “digital scroll” a reality. This flexible digital display will roll out like a sheet of plastic; business workers can use a small section for quick email sessions, or roll out a much larger sheet for collaboration in the office. And, the scrolls would use much less power.
5. Some of our employees will not be human Patrick Cox, an analyst at Agora Financial, suggests that, by 2025, artificial intelligence will advance to the point where some work will be done by intelligent machines. Of course, the traditional view of a robot is a humanoid that looks like something out of Terminator, but future robots will take over mundane tasks and won’t look like humans at all: Smart machines will flip hamburgers at a local eatery, diagnose your illness at the doctor, serve as digital avatars during a meeting, and clean the office floors. Robots like the Roomba vacuum already exist, but Cox says intelligent machines will do most manual labor.