Smart technology and connectivity will fundamentally transform our experience of the world in the next decade, driven by five key trends that will drive the future of connectivity, challenging head-on the impact of climate change, depleting natural resources and ageing populations, according to a report from Vodafone.
The Connected Consumer 2030 report, released in partnership with futures consultancy The Future Laboratory, predicts how innovation in sustainability, smart cities and transport, connected care, ethical connectivity and future technology will help solve once-in-a-generation challenges and improve everyday life.
The study argues that connected nature could help reduce global emissions by up to a third and help meet 2030 targets. It warned that with less than 10 years to meet the target for limiting global warming to 1.5°C, connectivity will be a key partner in global attempts to restore and manage biodiversity, providing real-time information on the state of the environment.
Towards the end of the decade, connectivity is expected to be built into trees, grasslands and even oceans, allowing the impact of regeneration schemes to be monitored and potential threats assessed. Vodafone recently partnered with Defra and Forest Research to investigate how Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) technology could help monitor tree growth and support research into the role of trees in tackling climate change.
The study indicated that data collection would also enable smart cities to identify and repurpose excess energy, allowing unused power and heat from buildings to be redistributed to surrounding homes or public spaces. Paired with tools that help consumers make more conscious decisions, such as the creation of digital “birth certificates” that show the movements and origins of products to assess their environmental footprint, Vodafone is confident that connectivity will be central to reaching sustainability targets.
The Vodafone report suggests that e-commerce brands will be able to use immersive holograms to showcase their latest collections to passengers as they travel, allowing them to swipe through products and even be dropped off at a retail destination to make a purchase. It suggests that on entering a vehicle, passengers will be able to control their journey through their personal devices, selecting from a series of settings ranging from sightseeing to work and leisure, to create a completely tailored passenger experience.
Perhaps one of the most significant predictions is that smart devices that detect and prevent disease will support a healthcare industry under unprecedented strain. The global health crisis in 2020 saw virtually all countries face disruption to essential health services, and as a consequence, the report says, collective concerns about well-being and immunity will drive a new era of connected care.
Within the next 10 years, it predicts, homes will be equipped with products that proactively monitor health and can diagnose conditions, detecting potential health issues earlier and facilitating a preventative healthcare model that could save the healthcare industry tens of billions per year, according to the University of North Carolina.
On a more futuristic basis, the report predicts that bathroom mirrors could be fitted with sensors that check for blood flow and abnormal changes in skin colour, or smart speakers that automatically request a prescription on the detection of sounds like coughs and sneezes. Such devices will be able to assess vital measurements such as hydration, blood sugar and blood pressure to predict or prevent chronic health conditions before they appear.
Connected care will also be critical in increasing independence among a steadily ageing population, empowering people to live independently for longer while also giving family members and caregivers reassurance.
Personal data will become a new form of currency. As awareness around the value of personal data grows, future consumers will demand hyper-personalised services and experiences in exchange for it. With people increasingly preferring to forgo personalised content than share information, the report predicts that personal data will become a currency that brands will either need to pay for or offer an elevated experience in exchange.
“Over the past two years, connectivity has become part of the fabric of our daily lives, helping people stay close to the people and things that matter most to them and solve everyday challenges,” said Lutfu Kitapci, managing director of Vodafone Smart Tech.
“The findings within The Connected Consumer 2030 report highlight just how the pace of transformation is growing, and how we will sit at the heart of it with our connectivity solutions to help governments, businesses and consumers tackle major societal challenges,” added Kitapci.
“A decade of exponential change awaits us,” added Chris Sanderson, co-founder of The Future Laboratory. “Connectivity represents the key to this transformation, helping us to disrupt differently and redefine what society is capable of.”