The Essential Eight

Your guide to the emerging technologies revolutionising business now

Transcend through new technology

Artificial intelligence. IoT. Virtual reality. Technology is evolving at breakneck speed and is already defining what’s next — for your company, competitors and industry. Business leaders understand this: 69% of CEOs in our annual survey are worried about the speed of tech change and they’re struggling to keep pace. Just 20% said they have made significant progress in getting smart about technology and its potential implications for their business.

With emerging tech so crucial to future success, how can you move forward?

Essential eight technologies

Essential Eight Convergence

The convergence of these technologies is unlocking the next wave of innovation, yielding new business solutions that are greater than the sum of their parts. The convergence of emerging technologies will multiply our capacity to work better, smarter and more seamlessly through technology.

Duration: 00:01:59

With emerging tech so crucial to future success, how can you move forward?

To help companies get started, we analysed the business impact and commercial viability of more than 250 emerging technologies to zero in on the “Essential Eight.” These are the core technologies that matter most for business, across every industry, over the next three to five years. The Essential Eight are the technology building blocks that we believe every organisation must consider right now. While each company’s strategy for how to best exploit — and combine — them will vary, these technologies will have a profound global impact on business, employees and customers.

The Essential Eight technologies that matter most for business today


The Essential Eight technologies that matter most for business today

Explore the Essential Eight

Artificial intelligence

Software algorithms are automating complex decision-making tasks to mimic human thought processes and senses. Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a monolithic technology. A subset of AI, machine learning, focuses on the development of computer programs that can teach themselves to learn, understand, reason, plan and act when blasted with data. Machine learning carries enormous potential for the creation of meaningful products and services. Examples include hospitals using a library of scanned images to quickly and accurately detect and diagnose cancer; insurance companies digitally and automatically recognizing and assessing car damage; and security companies trading clunky typed passwords for voice recognition. Learn more about AI insights shaping business strategy.

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Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a visual or audio “overlay” on the physical world that uses contextualized digital information to augment the user’s real-world view. AR-enabled smart glasses help warehouse workers fulfill orders with precision, airline manufacturers assemble planes and electrical workers make repairs. The power of bringing information to the point of action in a seamless, unobtrusive manner is undeniable. This blending of the physical and virtual worlds is cracking open a new realm for businesses across the board to explore. Learn more about how augmented reality’s potential for business.

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Blockchain

A blockchain is a distributed digital database or, more broadly, a digital ledger that uses software algorithms to record and confirm transactions with reliability and anonymity. The record of events is shared between many parties and information once entered cannot be altered. Blockchain has the potential to usher in an era of autonomous digital commerce. Learn more about the state of blockchain today.

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Drones

Depending on their design, drones vary greatly in their capacity. Some drones need wide spaces to take off, while quadcopters can squeeze into a column of space. Some drones are water based; others can operate and navigate semi-autonomously (via remote control) or fully autonomously (via onboard computers). Companies are using drones for wide-ranging reasons, including surveillance, survey, sport, cinematography and delivery. Learn more about the latest drone applications for business

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Internet of things

The Internet of things (IoT) is a network of physical objects — devices, vehicles, appliances — embedded with sensors, software, network connectivity and computing capability that enable them to collect, exchange and act on data, usually without human intervention. Industrial IoT (IIoT) refers to its use in the manufacturing and industrial sectors, aka Industry 4.0. Both types are integral to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Learn about the state of IoT today and how it's being used in key industries.

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Robotics

Robots are machines with enhanced sensing, control and intelligence used to automate, augment or assist human activities. The robot market is poised for growth in a broad range of services applications. These applications are transforming manufacturing and non-manufacturing operations with new capabilities that address the challenges of working in changing, uncertain and uncontrolled environments, such as alongside humans without being a danger to them. Learn more about next-gen robots.

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Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) abolishes logistical limitations. In a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment, viewers can use special equipment to interact with the simulation in realistic ways. The gaming and entertainment industries are obvious proving grounds for VR. However, VR has the potential to transform many other industries as well, especially in the realm of experiential training where workers can be put into hazardous, difficult or cost-prohibitive situations without the intense risks associated with these activities in the physical world. Learn more about VR’s economic potential for business.

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3-D printing

3-D printing creates three-dimensional objects based on digital models by layering or “printing” successive layers of materials. 3-D printing relies on innovative “inks,” including plastic, metal and, more recently, glass and wood. 3-D printing has the potential to turn every large enterprise, small business and living room into a factory. Learn more about the state of 3-D printing technology and the developments that are fueling innovations.

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What’s next? Essential Eight convergence

The most important trend affecting the Essential Eight is the convergence of the individual technologies to yield powerful business solutions that are greater than the sum of their parts. This next wave of tech innovation promises to multiply our capacity to work better, smarter and more seamlessly through technology. Here are the six themes of convergence shaping our world:

Automating trust

Technologies: AI, Blockchain, IoT

To automate trust, some Essential Eight technologies — such as blockchain, IoT and AI — work together to ensure the authenticity of data, verify identities and enable secure multi-party transactions. For example, IoT sensors can track a pallet of food from the farm to the warehouse to the store, verifying the entire supply chain. This authenticates where a shipment is along the route, as well as the conditions during each leg of the journey: Is the shipping container becoming too hot, too cold or too humid? This information is recorded in a secure, unchangeable blockchain. Together, IoT and blockchain create an immutable supply chain,  ensuring that buyers are getting an authentic product that has not been damaged along the way. These technologies can also verify whether a product that contains hazardous materials has been disposed of correctly and safely.

Immersive interfaces

Technologies: AI, AR, IoT, Robotics, VR

Immersive interfaces enable more natural and frictionless communications between humans, computers and digital environments. These technologies utilize human attributes such as touch and emotion to bring users closer to the digital world by humanizing interactions with technology. Capable of gathering and processing massive amounts of data locally with onboard AI, these interfaces can sense and react to emotions, full-body movements, brain waves and behaviors — in addition to traditional interfaces such as voice and text. By pairing this information with contextual data about users and situations, immersive interfaces will be able to offer insights and augment workflows, allowing users to intuitively interact with the physical-digital world.

 

Extended reality

Technologies: AI, AR, IoT, VR

Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) are a continuum of extended reality (XR) technologies. AR and MR are best used as job aids and for training, while VR simulates environments for users to practice soft skills and job-skill techniques. XR, which often uses AI in its applications and is experienced through IoT headsets or mobile devices, enables workers to practice even risky tasks in a safe, realistic way. Examples include training pilots to fly planes; educating oil rig workers on complicated safety procedures; teaching insurance adjusters to identify water, smoke and fire damage; and upskilling doctors to perform surgeries.

 

Working autonomy

Technologies:  AI, AR, Blockchain, Drones, IoT, Virtual Reality

Working autonomy will unlock the immense value created when automation, robotics and intelligent systems operate in unison, but a fully autonomous society is not quite yet on the horizon. Instead, multiple industries are developing, integrating and even retro-fitting autonomous systems into the value chain. Intelligent automation systems and AI-enabled machines are automating everything from backend data processing to ridesharing. Autonomous systems gather large amounts of previously inaccessible data from IoT sensors, transaction histories, machine data, human input and many other sources for analytics and feedback, resulting in better predictive maintenance and intelligence.

Digital reflection

Technologies: AI, AR, Blockchain, Drones, IoT, Virtual Reality

The ability to digitize the world around us has increased dramatically in recent years thanks to advances in IoT, simulation modeling and analytical tools. Digital reflection is a virtual representation of complex and interdependent physical processes and interactions. This digital world can evolve without human intervention to help us uncover new insights and test scenarios. On the horizon are digital worlds that are virtual replicas of physical objects — products, processes and even human societies — that can be experienced or even experimented on in simulations in order to gain a deeper understanding of their environment and life cycle. By building a virtual replica of a physical object, actions can be tested against real-time scenarios in order to predict an immediate outcome or inform business decisions. For example, businesses could use this tech to develop a virtual automobile, a factory, or even a city.

Hyperconnected networks

Technologies: AI, Blockchain, Drones, IoT

New technologies are pushing connectivity further and processing faster than ever before, enabling seamless interactions between humans and autonomous systems. Billions of IoT-connected endpoints, combined with the cloud, 5G and mesh networking, will create stable, high-speed, low-latency networks that will serve as the backbones of larger-scale infrastructure, making connectivity ubiquitous. Localized IoT device-to-device communication will produce AI-driven insights and responses, when and where they are needed, without involving the cloud. When processing time is not critical (and therefore does not need to be performed locally) data will be sent to the network through 5G, satellites, LPWAN and other emerging communication standards. Localized, efficient computing combined with continuous intelligence, will enable business opportunities that had been considered many years away.

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Scott Likens

Scott Likens

Emerging Technology Leader, US, China, and Japan, PwC United States

Tel: +1 (512) 708 5473

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