At DFDS, we continuously track a select handful of technologies and related trends to better understand their impact on our business and the industry at large. We keep these trends in a "radar" which we update regularly. Here are the five most impactful trends we follow, in no particular order.
Much more than just Bitcoins, Blockchain is seen by many as the foundation technology of a new type of internet. What makes it so powerful? At its core, it is a distributed ledger of transactions that can't be corrupted. While this in itself does not sound very revolutionary, it allows for applications such as currencies or smart contracts without a central authority of trust. This has enormous disruptive potential, especially in transaction intensive and regulated environments.
While the opportunities are huge, there are multiple big hurdles for Blockchain to overcome before widespread adoption. Tearing down and rebuilding existing systems of trust will take time and the Bitcoin network is struggling with low transaction speed and high energy use (the entire Bitcoin network consumes more energy than many countries).
The huge potential of Blockchain keeps it on our radar. Look out for implementations in shipping and logistics.
Ever since the DARPA Grand Challenge back in 2005, when five of the contestant vehicles managed to drive the 240km track without a driver, progress of autonomous vehicles have steadily moved forward. Most major car manufacturers aim to have autonomous cars capable of driving on a highway before 2021 with urban driving capability coming a couple of years later.
Tesla is the most aggressive, with CEO Elon Musk claiming in mid-2017 to have self-driving capable cars available before the end of the year. Time is running short and he is likely to miss that target.
It might be that fully autonomous driving is a much harder problem than anyone seems to predict at the moment. It still seems clear, however, that for long highway trips it is not only possible but within reach. Truck platooning can reduce fuel consumption and increase safety and is a very real opportunity.
Autonomous vehicles have the potential to change not just long distance trips but our patterns for traveling, shopping, telecommuting and choosing where to live. Most cities are built around the car and it has been estimated that 30% of the cars driving around a congested city centre are looking for parking space.
Obviously, autonomous vehicles will change the logistics industry but there are numerous second and third order effects that might be even bigger, which is why it remains on our radar.
Related technologies are autonomous ships and flying drones. What this really is about is autonomous transportation.
The name of this trend might as well be "green and electric" because it mainly covers solar and wind energy and the development of better and cheaper batteries.
The cost/performance of solar energy has improved drastically the last couple of years and is now almost competitive with coal in many places. There seems to be a kind of "Moore's Law" in place, called Swanson's Law. This "law" is defined as "the observation that the price of solar photovoltaic modules tends to drop 20 percent for every doubling of cumulative shipped volume." Considering that we have gone from 4 Gigawatts of global solar power in the year 2000 to 302GW in 2016 and with strong growth figures going forward, that means a radically lower price.
Wind power is also dropping in price rapidly and if the trend for wind and solar continues at the same pace as it has been we might be moving to a world of recyclable energy much faster than almost anyone is expecting.
Add to that the rapid growth of electric vehicles, with major car manufacturers announcing the move to hybrid or pure electric models over the coming years, and we might very well be witnessing the beginning of the end of fossil fuels. This is why we keep "Energy 2.0" on our radar.
When a company such as Google states that they are "AI first" from now, you know something is happening. The ability to analyse huge amounts of data and draw new and unexpected conclusions from it using algorithms is one part of being an AI company. But, with that statement, Google is also moving from being a passive database responding to search queries to becoming an active assistant, helping you perform tasks such as planning a trip or booking reservations.
In the latest iPhone, the face recognition ability and its "bionic" chip are headline features, again showing how artificial intelligence is pushing the limits of technology. Are we approaching a world where all machines we interact with recognise us and can personalise the experience based on our preferences? Maybe they even act on our behalf. Why wouldn't they if they know what we want anyway? AI opens the door to a world where the user interface as we know it is gone and our relationship to our machines and devices and just things in general is completely changed.
At the very least, big data and machine learning are already critical tools for optimising business problems and analysing user behaviour. That's why it deserves a place on our radar.
An autonomous vehicle is, of course, a type of robot but the type we’re following is one used for other tasks, such as packing and loading cargo or for manufacturing. Examples can include robots helping warehouse personnel optimise the work flow and minimise risk of failure or ports that deploy automated tugs to increase efficiency and safety.
Boston Dynamics is a company specialised in creating humanoid robots and it's hard to not be impressed (and a little creeped out) when watching videos of two legged, walking robots performing backflips(!) and landing on their feet. A humanoid robot can interact with humans - and what about telepresence? Maybe the next generation of video calls is actually a robot?
Another dimension to robotics is the potential it has to move manufacturing away from low salary countries. All told, it makes robotics a trend we think is worth watching.
In addition to these five, we also follow virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing, Internet of Things and many more tech trends, all rewriting the industry landscape as we speak. It surely is a fantastic time we are living in with an abundance of opportunity to make the world better. Throughout 2018, we will be regularly talking about these trends, as well as our own tech initiatives, so stay tuned!