Blog by: Ray Hammond

Recent achievements in artificial intelligence are breath-taking. And the new environments created by augmented and virtual reality technologies are immersive, powerful and compelling. At the same time, the Internet of Things (IoT) is just beginning to take shape and the speed and capacity of mobile and fixed networks continues to increase year by year.

But it is when these amazing technologies begin to work together – in a form of super-convergence – that the true, awesome power of our digital future will emerge.

The famous futurist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” He wrote that in the 1960s, but he could have been writing about today. Digital super-convergence is already starting to produce results that seem truly magical.

Couple an A.I. which has deep learning capabilities with a large-scale internet of things – perhaps an oil refinery, a chain of supermarkets or a large airport – and completely new efficiencies and working methods emerge from analysis of the super-scale data.

The AI may scan billions of weather images and ground temperature recordings to suggest optimum times for chemical reactions in the refinery, or for maintenance operations at the airport. It may correlate purchases in a supermarket to upcoming sports events, political rallies or local outbreaks of infection (allowing buying patterns to be predicted). And it may analyse the impact of traffic flows on nearby highways to predict the knock-on effects of construction or congestion at both supermarkets and airports (as well as sports venues, hospitals, commuter routes, etc.).

Superimposing an augmented reality virtual world on top of the physical environment is already a powerful tool, but when that technology converges with super-fast 5G mobile networks and social media, the value of a pair of AR spectacles, contact lenses or an AR-equipped smartphone becomes enormous.

On the streets, AR technology and super-fast networks will identify every object in sight and, accessing social media, every person in sight (providing he or she allows such identification in privacy settings).

The physical world will seem to come alive as personal AR provides information, shopping offers, history and background information on every building, vehicle and object you encounter. The Internet of Things will also feed information into your virtual world and, as you navigate your way through an information-rich world, you will wonder how earlier generations coped with landscapes that were mute – which told them nothing.

Virtual reality is still in its infancy but clunky headgear, tethered connections and the need for extraordinary processing power will soon disappear as super-lightweight VR glasses and fast networks make virtual reality available everywhere, and at low cost.

We will slip in and out of VR worlds at will. Surgeons will rehearse procedures in VR before switching to AR in which to conduct the operation (with AR systems guiding the surgeon and providing biometric information provided by the IoT in the operating room).

Schoolchildren will step into historic battles and meet the famous kings from history as they prepare for exams and lovers will meet in virtual spaces, even though they may be thousands of miles apart. All these encounters will become possible through the convergence of digital reality and super-fast networks.

Of course, the technology with the greatest potential of all is Artificial Intelligence. As AI grows in power and understanding, it will start to dominate all areas of the digital domain. AI will inform us about both the trivial and the vital.

AI systems already know which is the best route we should take to work to avoid the jams, but it can also work out the optimum flight paths around a busy airport. AI algorithms can sift through millions of body scans to diagnose disease more accurately than any human doctor, and it can scan every legal precedent for a major trial.

But we are still only at the beginning of our digital future. As the great technologies of AI, AR, VR, the IoT and super-fast networks enter super-convergence, we will begin to see completely new possibilities emerge, possibilities we cannot yet imagine.

To us, and to Arthur C. Clarke, the super-converged digital future will seem truly magical, yielding business efficiencies, new business opportunities and improved standards of living for all.

Editor’s note: Tech Mahindra is already enabling some of this super convergence through their technology research and investment. The company is focusing on creating convergent experiences for customers through the interplay of design and digital technology. To achieve this, they are creating the Networks of the Future to build a fully-connected world. Tech Mahindra has built IoT solutions that provide real-world experiences. With DevOps software techniques, cloud automation and, of course AI driving business velocity, the company is building foundations for creating the customer experiences of the future!

About Author

Ray Hammond, Futurist, Keynote Speaker & U.N. Gold Medal Winner

For over 35 years Ray has been writing and speaking about the trends that will shape the future. His long record of accurate foresight is unique in Europe and he is now living in the future he first described 30 years ago. In 2010 former President Mikhail Gobachev presented Ray with a U.N. Gold Medal for Services to Futurology.

Ray is also a successful and proven business leader and serial entrepreneur. He has hands-on experience of creating and selling profitable businesses. Today, Ray is the author of 14 books about the future, a body of work which he began in 1980 and which stands as testament to the long-term accuracy and reliability of his foresight. His 1984 publication, The On-Line Handbook, was the world’s first book to identify the overwhelming importance of the Internet and to identify ‘search’ as the key driving force behind all future on-line advertising and digital commerce. He is based in London.

Follow him @hammondfuturist