Granted, the line about robots coming to take our jobs isn’t the average Nigerian’s cup of tea. For all we know, we’re still gropping our way through a far from fully automated lifestyle; erratic power supply, sluggish but expensive connectivity and a populace that’s largely behind the global tech adoption curve are real logjams impeding any robots from conquering our industries.
But there’s more to the future than humanoids dislodging us from our factory lines and office swivel chairs. A whole lot more.
Things change. They always do.
Business, like every other aspect of life, will change with the passing of time. These days, the rate of change is accelerating as well. What gets hailed as innovative and smart today is, in a matter of months, waved off in favour of a newer, more efficient (or shiny and sleek) replacement. This applies to products, brand strategy, marketing, and many other aspects of contemporary business. Customers‘ demands are evolving quickly too, and keeping up with them is not as easy as it used to be.
We know what has made commerce- and the world in general -what it is today. Technology, particularly digital devices, social media and boundless connectivity, have shaped a business landscape many didn’t see coming only two decades ago. But what trends will define the future? What should you as a businessperson look out for going forward, to exploit or mitigate against?
If you would like to put your business in good stead to ride tomorrow’s norms successfully, you’d be wise to keep your eyes on the following developments.
What to watch
Remember the fuss about 4G networks a few years ago?
The speeds they’ve achieved might be great for current purposes. With them, we’ve linked up to the rest of the world much faster and accessed information more easily than ever before. But they are on their way out.
The era of 5G is upon us.
Think about this: in a few years, we’ll have average download speeds of 1GBps (one Gigabite per second), and the potential to traverse the web at a near-surreal 10GBps. This opens up new possibilities for businesses.
It’s easy to imagine that whole procedures will get sped up along with connectivity. Very large files will be sent and received instantly. Companies will get large amounts of customer data and decipher important patterns with them in real time. A spin off of this could also be automated decision making on complex information enabled by interconnected systems from several locations.
- Artificial Intelligence
Today, we already have Artificial Intelligence (AI) being used in targeted online advertising, and automated customer service assistants on web pages. Apple’s Siri, Diamond Bank’s ‘Ada’ are examples. These systems are able to interract as humans do, learn from these interactions, and display problem solving skills.
In the future, they’ll be even smarter. And their growing intelligence will have consequences for businesses.
On one hand, they’ll do a lot of our hard work for us: self driving cars, automated office attendants and content delivery systems are some of the realities that AI will birth. But this will mean that many of today’s jobs will have to go (yes, the robots are coming).
How will your business benefit from AI? Could it survive the coming mass automation of jobs presently being done by us humans?
Before you chuckle at this question, consider that your favourite smartphone didn’t exist two decades ago. Today, you probably can’t imagine living without it.
- Smart cities
Thanks to the incredible speeds of 5G and the move towards greater connectivity, whole districts and cities will be complex webs of interconnected devices, infrastructure and data censors. Because devices, vehicles and public infrastructure are linked up through the data grid, it’ll be easy to collect and use the information passed on by censors to determine how .
Here’s one example: a smart cab company could collect, analyze and utilize real time data on city wide traffic from the public data grid, and predict the areas which will have a shortage of taxis or buses in the next thirty minutes. They could then deploy cabs to those areas ahead of time. Big data analytics will be a part of everyday business in tomorrow’s world.
There are a few smart city projects already being planned in various parts of Nigeria, including at the Eko Atlantic City and Ibeju Lekki.
Blockchain technology is associated with cryptocurrencies. It’s the structure that’s allowed for the decentralized trading of bitcoins and guaranteed it’s popularity among free ranging profit seekers. But it could be applied to things other than cryptos.
Blockchain could be deployed in the trading of actual tangible commodities, data storage, and even payroll.
- Remote working
There’s a growth in the percentage of employees telecommunting and working remotely. This trend is being enabled by technology, and it’s only going to get bigger with time.
Managing projects from somewhere other than a head office and in collaboration with others in different locations is already a reality. Given faster connection speeds, Virtual Reality Conferences and other related future technologies, an even larger chunk of work will be done outside the premises of companies.
For many businesses, this could mean smaller (or fewer) offices. If we throw in the rapid population growth and the resulting increase in rent costs, remote working and smaller formal offices might be an almost certain outcomes. In this situation, coworking spaces could play a more prominent role as shelter for smaller businesses.