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Disruptive Changes in Technology: 2017

Today, technology is disrupting products and services across industries faster than ever. Where there is disruption, there are winners and losers. Disruption leads to new opportunities and approaches to provide value for customers. At ITX we regularly look at a few of the trends that promise to disrupt a variety of industries. These are hot topics in the press right now, but only time will tell if they will truly cause the disruption that many are predicting. These trends, if they come to realization, will bring with them profound disruption; the real test will be adapting to the changes: which companies will be able to capitalize on them, and which companies will go out of business?

Trend: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is progressing at dramatic rates (AI here is being used as a general word to cover machine learning). Today, an AI can diagnose skin cancer just as accurately as a panel of dermatologists. From image processing to voice and data analysis, AI and machine learning are on the cusp of drastically shaking things up in the industrial world. There are hundreds of AI startups in almost every area, from finance to development to marketing. Many of these start-ups will be forced out of business, but others will be able to expand massively in their industries.

To take one small example, imagine how different things will be once many of the “marketing” functions in business (A/B testing, multi-variant testing, emailing, etc.) are done by an AI. All of that setup, tweaking of language, and messaging could be done by an AI, and get much better results, because instead of managing only a handful of profiles, an AI could handle thousands, even millions, of alternatives, making things more personalized and customized for each user.

From a development point of view, there is, which is an impressive “AI code copilot”. The video is very impressive, recommending how to proceed based on the code you are writing. The next step is for the AI “copilot” to start writing some of the code, which will reduce the frequency of errors and improve developer productivity.

Investor and Sun co-founder Vinod Khosla believes 80% of IT jobs will be replaced by AI in the near future.

The CEO of eBay says: “AI’s not a feature, it’s the next major computing platform shift. And it’s going to have a really profound implication on computing, on how people interact with machines, how machines interact with each other. It’s right there. I’m not sure everybody sees that, but it’s right there. And the breakthroughs are going to be profound, and they’re going to come quick.”

Clearly, AI is a trend that we all not only need to keep an eye on to help our IT organizations, but also back off functions that can be automated.

Trend: Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR superimposes a computer-generated image on the real world, thus providing digital images overlaid on reality or mixed reality. VR, on the other hand, provides a 3-D-immersive experience that can be interacted with.

Peter Diamandis feels that AR will be as prevalent as cell phones are today. He makes predictions that AR will make up ¾ of the market, with VR taking the remaining ¼. His demos are compelling. There is skepticism, that it will be as prevalent as cell phones, for example, but AR/VR could be close. The creator of HoloLens, Microsoft’s AR headset, stated that the killer app for AR is presence. Presence in time and space – imagine being “present” in the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, and watching the Red Coats coming up the hill, or being “present” with a virtual team, all in one room, despite really being in many different physical locations. See here for an example that redefines the concept and need for the co-location of teams, as one small example.

One example is Thyssenkrupp, which is one of the largest elevator companies, with thousands of technicians out in the field. They are using HoloLens to present elevator schematics prior to going into the field to prepare. Plus, when in the field workers can place a video call to experts to ask questions. In their experiments, the company takes a typical 2-hour onsite service and completes it in 20 minutes. On top of that, experts can be video conferenced in, rather than having to go all the way to the site, saving even more time.

Another compelling example is Case Western medical school, which uses HoloLens to display and explain human anatomy. As a result of this practice, they find themselves with students who say that this method of teaching helped them to finally understand how body parts fit and work together. The initial feedback shows that AR/VR greatly enlarges the capacity for learning.

Trend: 3D Printing

We’ve all heard a lot about 3D Printing and the power it carries. However, the pace of change is accelerating more rapidly than ever. Many materials can be printed at higher speeds and in almost any size. There are people 3D Printing everything from tiny molecules all the way to massive buildings and everything in between.

3D Printing has the real potential to “digitalize” manufacturing. Want new plates, maybe a new vase? Find what you like in a digital catalog and simply print it. Today, you can print in over 500 materials with full color, including things like houses, cars, metals, and circuit boards.

This tool will, of course, profoundly impact industries, ranging from retail and distribution to manufacturing. Think of the potential when most of what is bought in a store can be 3D printed.

The expectations are that in 5 years, we will be able to 3D print finished products at mass scale. However, this will, inevitably, disrupt the entire supply chain, and businesses all around will be forced to adapt to the change.

Trend: Robotics

Robots are getting better and better at having human-like mobility, dexterity, perception, and intelligence (when combined with AI). With that in mind, think about robot delivery services that would do on land, what Amazon has been doing in the air with drones; imagine robot butlers serving you dinner. With advanced robotics, manufacturing will be done with robots, not people.

The “real world” is becoming programmable

The Qualcomm VP of Technology predicts that in just a few years, we will have trillions of sensors in the world. 3D-Printing is allowing almost anyone to create anything, from houses to toys to parts for a machine, almost anywhere. Powerful computers are enabling the modeling of molecules so that they can be assembled into substances that weren’t possible to create before. The real world is going to become as malleable as the digital world is now; we are going to be able to program biology in order to create new things like food, and maybe even new life.

There is talk of being able to create substances that combat carbon and other greenhouse gases so that we can start to reverse the negative effects we’ve had on the environment. The potential for positive change here is endless, and in short, we are transforming the notion of what it means to have a physical object. Complexity comes free, and can be built almost anywhere. This will have profound impacts on many industries.


The convergence of these trends is where the real opportunity lies.

The future of our world is now changing more rapidly than ever. For example, there is huge potential in education, with AR and AI particularly, as well as with field service teams, and manufacturing with 3D printing. Financial services have huge opportunities to recommend products that better fit each user and allows virtual connection with advisors located anywhere. There is going to be a multitude of industries that are transformed within the next five to ten years, with changes that will require massive investments in new products to leverage these new technologies.

What we all need to do now is simply continue to watch these trends. There is enormous potential that can be drawn from all of these technologies. They are going to transform industries, and many companies are going to have to retrofit their products to suit them. However, we don’t know how many of them will really succeed, so keeping an eye on them and making sure we are aware of the impacts they could have is critical. We don’t want to jump in too early when the technology isn’t quite ready, but if we wait too long we’ll lose to competitors. Therefore, experimenting with these technologies today is essential for business growth.


Taylor Kubota (2017, January 25). Deep Learning Algorithm Does as Well as Dermatologists in Identifying Skin Cancer.

Venture Scanner (2016, March22). Artificial Intelligence Q1 Update in 15 Visuals.

CB Insights (2017, January 20). The United Stats Of Artificial Intelligence Startups.

Kite. The smart copilot for programmers.

Matt Weinberger (2016, November 8). Investor and Sun Cofounder Vinod Khosla Says 80% of IT jobs Can Be Replaced by Automation and it’s ‘Exciting’.

Ben Fox Rubin (2017, February 16). eBay CEO: Supersmart AI Will Help You Sell Everything.

Peter Dimandis.

Microsoft HoloLens.

Microsoft (2016, March 30). Microsoft HoloLens: Partners make It Real.

Thyssenkrupp (2016, September 15). Bringing New Vision to Elevator Maintenance with Microsoft HoloLens.

Microsoft (2015, July 8). Microsoft HoloLens: Partner Spotlight With Case Western Reserve University.

Kevin Dolohanty (2017, June 19). J. Crew vs. Domino’s: Competition in the Digital Age.

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