We meet Future and Technology Analyst Claudia Olsson and Business Developer Peter Tyreholt at Cybercom to discuss the future and what digital technology will mean for our society.
Claudia and Peter, what opportunities do you foresee with the connected world in the future?
Claudia: New technology could, for instance, contribute to an improved quality of life in the healthcare sector, where there is greater scope for taking a proactive approach to keeping patients healthy. We can also improve psychiatric health using technology. If you look at the education system, courses will increasingly be based on the individual’s circumstances and knowledge to offer the right level. At the wider social level, safety will improve, such as through autonomous cars on the road. Of course another incredibly important issue is sustainability, which is an area where technology gives us the opportunity to better conserve our resources. Ultimately, we will also be able to strengthen our democratic systems using technology, and allow for secure digital voting.
Peter: Another aspect is that, in the future, we will be able to measure the results everything we do to a greater degree, and ensure we are doing the right thing. Today, many things are done on the basis of opinion. If you instead measure your results every time and get rapid feedback, then you’re also able to make corrections early on. A good example of this is the world of apps and the internet, where rapid developments are driven by instant feedback. The steeper the learning curve, the better the things we can build – and that has a positive impact on our world.
What barriers need to be overcome for technology to achieve its full potential?
P: Many of the barriers are there for a reason, such as legislation, privacy and security. So although the technology may already exist, it’s often a matter of timing. If we can adapt the legislation and try to remove some of the barriers then we can be more effective at a significantly lower cost. Healthcare is a good example. Many healthcare appointments do not currently require a physical presence but, despite this, digital appointments by video were long impossible due to regulations. Nowadays, a number of county councils are even replacing their healthcare providers for digital appointments, which saves substantial resources for society. Another barrier is the major focus on technology, when instead we should be discussing customer value and what we are looking to achieve. Only then can we choose the right technology.
C: It is also becoming incredibly important to convey the value of sharing data. Regardless of whether we look at healthcare systems or traffic systems, there are vast optimisation gains to be made for society as a whole. In Silicon Valley, I have often seen autonomous cars driving around. This can feel disconcerting since we’re used to having eye contact with a driver, but we also know that autonomous vehicles are safer than human drivers and implementing them will save many lives. This needs to be clearly conveyed so that more people are willing to adopt the technology.
Could the Western world be overtaken by developing nations due to being stuck with antiquated mind-sets and outdated technology?
P: I certainly think that’s a possibility. Several of the companies I’m currently working with have a long history, which used to be a competitive advantage. Now that all data suddenly needs to be shared and all IT and business systems communicate with one another, this heritage instead becomes a considerable disadvantage. This allows new operators that have based everything on modern technology right from the very beginning to easily overtake us. Many African countries are already way ahead of Sweden in terms of mobile-first solutions, mobile money and mobile banking systems like M-Pesa.
How likely is it that we will see drones delivering packages to us?
P: I think it will be challenging to use drones in densely built urban environments but, if we look beyond cities, this is already a reality. The Finnish postal service, for example, is using drones to send medicine out to islands on a trial basis. Inner-city transportation routes can be optimised using efficient logistics, and other solutions are also possible for making deliveries. Volvo’s In-car Delivery concept, which delivers packages to the boot of your car in the office car park, is interesting in terms of deliveries, as are food deliveries straight to your refrigerator using a digital one-time code for a security alarm on the front door.
C: When it comes to drone technology, there are clearly safety issues over urban deliveries that need to be overcome. It is currently more common to use autonomous flying vehicles in areas such as agriculture, forestry and surveillance.
|Further down the line, countries that lack traditional established infrastructure may be potential markets for drone deliveries. In many cases, drone technology may even be faster to implement for transportation than building traditional road networks and transport systems. However, making this possible requires improvement to technological skills and investment in knowledge transfer in emerging areas.
Food production is currently a significant problem and could lead to even greater burdens on our world in the future. What opportunities are available?
P: There are considerable advantages to be gained from developing digital technology in food management. Today, much of this is based on centralisation and economies of scale to enhance efficiency and reduce costs. However, just as AirBnB has revolutionised the housing industry by creating an effective platform that allows you to rent to the right people for a small administration fee, this same approach can be implemented in the food industry.
Local small-scale producers have had a tough time reaching a wider market, but as an example, ICA, a Swedish grocer, has now built a platform that allows all shops to buy local products, and allows local producers to be listed in the system despite having limited production.
C: I see three distinct food trends. First, the safety aspect of using blockchain technology and other secure database technologies to be able to track where food comes from and what additives are in it. I also think we will identify new sources of protein in the future, ranging from various types of 3D-printed and lab-grown foods, such as meat and milk, to new types of crops produced through technological advances in synthetic biology. The third strong trend that I believe in is functional food. In the future, food will have more properties than it currently does, such as healing characteristics.