4 Years From Now (4YFN) was part of the GMSA Mobile World Congress attended by more than 8000 people from across the start-up world. 4YFN is about sharing knowledge, finding investors and showcasing what their founders believe to be the next ‘unicorns’ that will change the world.
Following an invitation from the 4YFN organiser during the Island Innovators event in 2014; I travelled to Barcelona to participate in the 2015 edition. It was a good opportunity to promote Jersey from a business development perspective, and to participate in the debate about the future of technology.
Although I was amazed from day one by how the different tech sectors would evolve in the near future I was only convinced of the necessity to write this blog when I heard these words during a workshop delivered by serial entrepreneur and active angel investor David S. Rose: “Everything you think you know… is wrong”
So, what is going to happen in four years from now?
Today, 2/3 of the world’s population, or 4.5 billion people, do not have internet access. However, in four years from now, an increasing part of the world population will have a mobile phone with internet access. This will:
- Foster globalisation and the development of Smart Cities
- Expand even more the availability of apps providing critical data
- Consolidate the use of mobile phones to solve real problems e.g. health
Internet of Things and Smart Cities
Today, there are a handful of Smart Cities that are leading the way in which their municipality interacts with their citizens or tourists. In Tel-Aviv, for example, anybody can register in the town hall and receive selected live information on their mobile phone.
However, technologists believe that this ‘top-down’ approach will shortly evolve into a ‘peer to peer’ model. This model will empower citizens to decide how to make their city a better place to live. For example, London cyclists are now using ‘Fill That Hole’ app to identify road hazards.
In comparison with computer desktops, the reduced size of mobile screens today is limiting the capacity of the media industry to develop profitable revenue models. How will the expansion of mobile Internet and increasing size of mobile screens, e.g. that of the iPhone 6, shape the industry?
In the near future, media industry will find profitable revenue models for their mobile services. This will translate into a consumer migration from computer and mobile desktop to mobile apps. It is estimated than an app user consumes 11 times more media than a mobile desktop.
Financial Technology and eHealth
Four years from now, the term ‘FinTech’ (Financial Technology) may be obsolete. Currently, new Great Powers such as China see ‘FinTech’ as an old western term and prefer the concept ‘Internet Finance’. Similarly, the concept of eHealth is now evolving into the broader concept of ‘Digital Health” to embrace new areas such as genetics.
Within the fast moving cryptocurrencies (CC) world, we may see a radical behavioural change from the banking industry. Banks will evolve from ignoring the existence of CC, to actively promoting CC services as a new revenue model. For example, the Spanish start-up Coinffeine, has partnered with Bankinter to offer its clients new CC services.
The European Space Agency is on its way to making Europe’s own global navigation satellite system Galileo fully available. Four years from now, position and navigation services will be more accurate, down to the metre range, guaranteed, under civilian control, and more reliable.
Initiatives such as Galileo are enabling the expansion of space technology from just satellite services (e.g. Jersey based internet provider, O3B) to other uses on Earth. Examples of this are the use of space materials for orthopaedic legs and the use of space energy consumption models or robotics.
In events like 4YFN, it seems that we can more or less accurately predict the latest technology trends and even the world’s future.
However, in 1985, exactly 30 years ago, ‘Back to the future’ failed to anticipate today’s reality. Similarly, in my favourite movie, ‘Terminator 2’, the Judgement Day was meant to be on the 24th August 1997. That day, Skynet was supposed to remove human decisions from strategic defence and initiate the war against humanity.
The reality is that we tend to overestimate current technologies and underestimate the ones that do not exist yet. It is these ‘unkown unknowns’ that will almost certainly be the ones driving the most disruptive or significant global technological evolutions.
10 years ago could anyone ever have imagined the impact of iPhone apps, Facebook or the disruption caused by the Amazon Kindle to centuries-old book shops and libraries?
As David S. Rose said, the truth is that eventually, everything you think you know is wrong.