Technology embedded in the body, driverless cars and lots of biometrics

MIAMI BEACH – Storing a 1.27GB movie on disk, downloading it and watching it in 1978 would cost approximately $1 million compared to about $500 today, and next to nothing in 2038, estimated Don Rippert, chief technology officer and managing director with Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

Rippert used the movie “Enchanted” to illustrate the increasing commoditization of technology. “So your million-dollar movie now costs about a dime to download, and it costs about $500 to have a device to not only hold that movie but another 124 others,” he said.

Rippert spoke at Accenture’s annual Global Convergence Forum this week where industry executives gathered to discuss the event’s theme, “Achieving High Performance in a Multi-Polar World.” He shared his vision of where technology was headed in the year 2038.

Technology will be more “affordable and imaginable”, said Rippert, going as far as to predict that devices of all sorts that reside in the body like the heart defibrillator.

Other uses for devices like those that drive cars and act like micro sensors already exist in some form, he continued, noting that the audience had successfully arrived in Miami Beach most likely in an airplane that at some point was flying on autopilot.

The use of identifying documentation like passports and driver’s licences, he said, will be replaced with biometric technology that reads retina patterns and fingerprints. In fact, he added, retinal scans are already in use is some American airports.

But while technology will become increasingly accessible, more powerful with the emergence of better microprocessors, and eventually converge, Rippert said the challenge will be striking a balance between ubiquity and <a href="" target="_blank" usability. The technology will always be there, he said, but the goal is to create experiences that people can actually use. “It’s not the chips, but the coordination that matters, the ability to communicate between computers.”

IdaRose Sylvester, senior research analyst with research firm IDC in San Mateo, Calif., agreed that usability in future technologies is incredibly vital. However, she said that because users will be saturated with commoditized technology, the product and services development will be a natural process where usability may not be such a challenge.

Although with some emerging technologies, she said, there will always be those that target a niche group or early adopters or technology enthusiasts. It boils down to the needs of the average consumer, said Sylvester, which are very basic.

The changing face of technology is but one driver that is shaping this multi-power world. Openness of the trade environment and the emergence of multinational corporations in both the developed and emerging worlds are also serving to change that dynamic, said Mark Foster, group chief executive for management consulting & integrated markets with Accenture.

Foster urged the audience to recognize “the sheer speed and pace at which change is taking place” in an environment that is becoming increasingly global affects various industries in five ways, referring to them as “key battlegrounds.”

One, the changing demographics mean that companies will have to fight for loyalty as traditional markets shrink and new ones arise from emerging ones. The challenge will be keeping up with the new, and continuing to attract the old.

Two, as talent emerges globally and becomes mobile, companies should ensure those skilled professionals are fit to lead.

Three, the fact that “old centres of gravity for R&D” will be replaced by “new clusters of innovation occurring across the planet” means that businesses will need to be more open around their innovation model and take on new partners.

Four, new players will emerge that will become new areas for inflow of capital.

And, lastly, access to dwindling resources is granting a stronger position to those who have it.

“If an organization can move with pace, certainty and strategic flexibility to embrace the multi-polar world, there’s a huge world of opportunity,” said Foster.

Besides assuming strategies that are dynamic and flexible, Foster advised that businesses should understand this new competitive battlefield in that multinationals are up against small organizations offering innovative approaches and technologies.

But although the cost of future technologies like downloading and viewing a movie in 2038 will be miniscule, Rippert pointed out that this doesn’t mean businesses won’t make revenue. “People are still making money from 1978 to 2008,” he said, however it will just be more difficult to reap that profit from the raw technology itself.

Reiterating his point about the need for usability, Rippert said “those that can create usability to go with the environment will make money.”

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