Fast forward to 2030 and imagine a scene inside an apartment of say, Dhruv, a professional gamer somewhere in an Indian city. Even before he wakes up, there is a “system" planning his entire day for him. There are sensors checking whether his refrigerator is well stocked, or the food in his kitchen shelves is of the right quality. Or if, say, the box filled with rice has reached its minimum threshold as set by Dhruv, the sensors (based on his search history) pick his preferred rice brand at the lowest price available, and order as much as is needed to fill the box. And the order is delivered by a drone that lands on the roof of Dhruv’s apartment building in an area specifically designated for the delivery of packages.

This might seem like a sci-fi scene today but the influx of new technologies, together with increasing interaction between humans and machines, has the potential to catalyze new, disruptive models of living. For instance, in India, till just a couple of years ago, who would have imagined that technology could manage the health of cows? But today, there are firms like the Chitale Dairy that make just this possible. Local farmers collect data about the behaviour of their cows (through radio frequency identification labels attached to their ears), scan and transmit this information to the Chitale data centre, which then sends them periodic text messages after analysing the data. This data helps farmers understand when they need to change a cow’s diet or when to arrange a vaccination visit, among other things.

Chitale Dairy’s case is not an isolated one. According to research done by market research consultant Vanson Bourne, 38% of Indian industry leaders agreed that humans and machines are already working together successfully as an integrated team within their organizations. Emerging technologies—with data as their rocket fuel—are poised to radically transform the bedrock of our economy, remove age-old frictions, and usher in new ways of conducting business. All of this put together will lead to the dawn of a friction-free economy in 2030, as forecast by a recent Dell report titled The Future of Economy.

Emerging technologies

Recently, Dell Technologies has partnered with the Institute for the Future (IFTF), an independent futures research group, to explore ways in which emerging technologies will reshape our economy in the next decade. This research builds on the 2017 study conducted by the institute that highlighted informed opinion from industry experts from around the world who made their forecasts on the “next era of human-machine partnerships". The IFTF posits that to shift to a friction-free economy in which individuals, organizations and governments can collaborate more seamlessly, we will have to undergo three technical shifts.

Shift 1: Autonomous commerce—machines as consumers

Think of a scenario where your house could detect a problem with the heating, find and hire a repair crew, and pay for the repair—all while you are at work. Machines, using a mix of sensors, software updates and artificial intelligence (AI) will sense when they, and the people they serve, are functioning sub-optimally. They will then find a remedy—autonomously.

Most consumer devices in the future will move from transacting with one prescribed vendor towards becoming increasingly capable of open-ended action and decision-making. Objects will be able to comparison-shop among preferred vendors and make a purchasing decision based on filters such as quality, sustainability, cost and other variables in the same way a human shopper might. We’ll also witness the rise of “Meta-Making", i.e., people with limited resources manufacturing complex things and marketing them for a global audience. And contrary to the belief that digital forces will spell the death of the physical retail store, the transition to 2030 will bring about another exciting trend of experiential economy, where businesses will evolve with the increased focus on services and experiences.

Shift 2: Anticipatory production—meeting demand on the fly

The second shift will see some of these digital technologies provide real-world usage information to help manufacturers significantly reduce their time in identifying as well as understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their products. In India, 93% of firms believe they will use AI to pre-empt customer demands in the next five years and investments in AI will jump from 31% to 89% in the same time frame, according to the Vanson Bourne study.

Shift 3: Leapfrog economies—unlocking inclusive opportunities

As the cost of developing new technologies continue to decline, new opportunities will keep emerging to bypass traditional large-scale infrastructure and create more inclusive approaches to innovation, development and financial services. Emerging economies will leapfrog others held back by ageing physical infrastructures.

A use-case of this shift can be found in an example wherein the Indian government partnered with a few technology players to revolutionize the country’s rural healthcare. This led to the development of a modern digital healthcare solution called “Digital LifeCare", which helped auxiliary nurse midwives and doctors in early detection and management of non-communicable diseases. It not only helped in better addressing the health issue at large but also made rural communities engage with technology. The capabilities of mobile devices and distributed ledger technology could also create better records of identity, land ownership and other critical records. Similarly, blockchain can be used to authenticate people born in remote locations, who are beyond the reach of government infrastructure. The Indian government’s JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) trinity is the best example that corroborates this.

However, this economic utopia isn’t guaranteed. A degree of agency and preparedness is required—in the realms of how we regulate intelligent machines and address data privacy and security concerns, to name just a few. The next 10 years will set the stage for tremendous growth and opportunity but the time to act is now.

The writer is president and MD, enterprise-India, Dell Technologies.

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