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The Future is Exciting. Ready?

You will by now have seen Vodafone ads celebrating their new brand: ‘The future is exciting. Ready?’. It was a great privilege to keynote at the brand launch in Budapest, Hungary, in December and to be part of the biggest brand campaign in their 33 year history. But are you excited and are you ready?

There are certainly reasons to be excited. The new waves of technology from VR to AR, Big Data to 3D printing, AI to Blockchain, to name but a few, suggest that we are only limited by our imagination. As Arthur C Clarke, the futurist and writer, said: ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ And some of the uses of technology do indeed seem magical. I wrote recently on brain-computer interfaces and in particular the ability of EEG devices to read, interpret and harness the electric pulses that our brain cells exchange when we think. This technology has been used to enable a fully paralysed man to kick the first ball in the World Cup Football competition in Brazil in 2014 and to enable a man previously unable to move his arm to play the guitar. And this is just one area of the magic of technology. So what magical ability do you want?

Want to read someone’s mind? EEGs can read your brain waves so you can see what your customers really think about your new marketing ad - oh how Dove and Pepsi will have wished they had that power prior to launching ill-fated marketing campaigns last year.

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Want to be able to travel anywhere in the Universe at the touch of a button? Virtual Reality enables us to be present anywhere our imagination desires, whether a real life view or a imagined reality. For I enabled Chinese students and their parents to walk around student accommodation in the UK without leaving China and so took away the fear of a new experience.

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Want to be able to enhance your view of the world? Augmented reality allows virtual information to be overlaid over your real life view. Ikea’s Place AR app lets you put its products in your house to see if they are to your liking.

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Want to be able to tell the future? Big Data can reveal what your customers are about to do before they have done it. At Christmas, Amazon was using vast data patters to ship your presents to a distribution centre before you’ve even ordered it. And the New York Police Department is putting officers on the corner of a street where a crime has yet to be committed and are so preventing it happening at all based on previous data.

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Want to conjure up any product you want? 3D printing allows you to download designs of products that you can print out on a range of 3D printers suitable for home or work. I met a company last year called Cellink who are even printing human tissues and organs.

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Want superhuman intelligence? There are now a range of AI as-a-service products that you can use to enhance your cognitive capabilities from IBM Watson’s Bluemix API, to Phrasee’s ability to enhance your emails or Automated Insights to write your content.

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And I’m sure after last year’s cyber security scares, we all want a super-secure system for doing everything from transactions to contracts, product authentication to record keeping. Blockchain is not just for bitcoin, but has the potential to create the level of security and resilience that is a high priority for 2018.

So plenty to be excited about. But are you ready? I spent a lot of time talking with people and organisations in 2017 and it is clear to me that very few are ready to take advantage of the exciting future that could be ahead. 2018 is the time to improve fluency in the new technologies, get curious about what you can do and to start experimenting with ideas, products and services. That’s why I’ve set up the Digital Disruption School to get people understanding the new technologies, being inspired to exercise their imagination and create ideas for products and services to make the world a better place. Ready to find out more? Then click here.

Martin Talks


Digital Disruption School