The disruptions created by technological progress are ongoing and hard to keep up with, but they create numerous opportunities for smart entrepreneurs in 2024.
1. AI Takeover
AI and the seismic emergence of generative AI (Gen AI) in particular will transform businesses in ways hard to fathom. Although, since GenAI enterprise projects haven’t yet reached full maturity, it remains unclear how Gen AI’s impact will materialise at scale in the real world, McKinsey estimates that it “could add up to $4.4 trillion to the global economy annually, with most of the value coming from just a handful of business functions.” The biggest impact felt in software engineering (up to $1,210 billion) and marketing & sales (up to $1,150 billion), while tech and banking should derive the most value from an industry perspective.
However, Goldman Sachs warns that “for large-scale transformation to happen [from AI adoption], businesses will need to make significant upfront investment in physical, digital, and human capital to acquire and implement new technologies and reshape business processes.” Those investments could amount to around $200 billion globally by 2025, and “will probably happen before adoption and efficiency gains start driving major gains in productivity,” says the report.
2. Automation & Workforce
Productivity gains through AI-powered automation are where businesses will continue to benefit the most. The McKinsey research estimates that current Gen AI, combined with other technologies, has the potential to automate work activities that absorb 60 to 70% of employees’ time today, enabling labour productivity growth by 0.2 to 3.3% annually through 2040 – provided that workers get the support they need in learning new skills.
As the NTT’s 2023 Global CX Report explains, “With the shift to hybrid working reshaping employee behaviour globally […] the primary objective now is to engage and enable all employees with collaboration and mobility tools, no matter their location, in order to optimise productivity.”
For example, customer experience (CX), one of the functions on which Gen AI is poised to have the biggest productivity impact, will benefit from a strategic combination of automation and human agents. “About two-thirds of CX interactions will still require some form of human support. Automation will complement and enhance human capabilities,” writes NTT. Expect a proliferation of new AI app stores, customised to enhance the customer journey or offer specialised services, while innovative AI platforms, such as the one unveiled by OpenAI in November, will be designed to help developers build specialised chatbots.
Across functions and industries, one thing is certain: business leaders will place a greater emphasis on closing the mounting skills shortages that challenge their AI-led aspirations. “The fundamentals of AI and big data analytics will become baseline skills for a majority of jobs across industries,” says the NTT report.
3. Scalability & Security
Organisations seeking to really unlock the value of Gen AI must have a profound understanding of what’s at its foundation: data. Being able to govern, organise, process, and protect data, either in-house or through trusted partners, was already important for corporates; it will become paramount in this new era of IT and cybersecurity convergence.
Indeed, 2023 gave us a mere taste of the confusion Gen AI can cause (remember the deepfake of the Pope wearing Balenciaga?). However, cyberattacks are increasing in number, scale, and sophistication (bad actors know to leverage innovation too), with the cost of cybercrime expected to reach $10.5 trillion globally by 2025, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. Along with the likely emergence of stringent regulations across the globe, adapted systems will be an absolute must-have to ensure a company’s security and resilience. As stated in the NTT report, “Customers and employees need to know that their data is safe when they’re interacting with an organisation digitally, and organisations need to comply with regulations that govern this.”
On the upside, AI and cloud enablement can provide an additional layer of protection. Adopting hybrid approaches (cloud + mainframe) will ensure that AI and other capabilities can be deployed efficiently, securely, and cost-effectively.
4. New Products, Services, & Platforms
One area that Gen AI will surely continue to reshape is online search and, consequently, SEO. The launches of Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Bing have already transformed the quality of the responses to users’ queries, making them more detailed and personalised on the one hand but also more susceptible to mistakes and misinformation on the other. Regardless, the race to dominate the future of conversational, visual, and voice search is heating up, with the future of links and online content, promotional or not, in the balance.
Meanwhile, 2023 was the year when Meta released AI-enabled Ray-Ban glasses and Human unveiled it AI Pin. AI wearables might fully take off in 2024, starting a transition towards new types of hardware replacing computers and, potentially, phones. Similarly, Apple’s launch of its Vision Pro headset, slated for February, signals continued interest in experimenting with virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality, and in exploring the potential of immersive media for everyday use. In particular, metaverse-like capabilities are progressing in new directions, such as spatial computing and simulations. Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2024 report indicates that “Spatial technologies are especially taking hold in industrial applications, where companies are focused on digital twins, spatial simulation, augmented work instructions, and collaborative digital spaces,” adding that “Revenue driven by the industrial metaverse is projected to reach nearly $100 billion by 2030, far outpacing the consumer ($50 billion) and enterprise ($30 billion) segments.”
Across too many industries to list here, tech is driving rapid product change. In 2024, for example, we can expect strides in autonomous vehicles through sensor technology, machine learning, and connectivity; similarly, biotechnology will start moving increasingly faster, particularly in the fields of gene editing, synthetic biology, and personalised medicine, with the first publicly available medical treatment in the world to use Crispr technology, Olaghere, approved in the US and Europe in December.
5. Sustainable Technology in Focus
The drive towards ESG-first business development and investment will not let down in 2024, with the integration of sustainable solutions – be it clean, green, or climate technologies – within business practices at the core. Gartner expects that “by 2027, 25% of CIO’s compensation will be linked to their sustainable technology impact,” identifying opportunity in three critical business areas: internal IT (selecting and working with the right tools, hardware, and vendors to deliver the maximum possible output using the minimum viable resources); enterprise (providing transparency on sourcing and trade practices, improved energy and material efficiency, reduced emissions, and fair labour practices, among other aspects); and customer operations (delivering products and services that enable customers to meet their own sustainability goals).
As the need for computing power increases to meet the demand generated by AI, quantum computing is a solution that scientists are hard at work developing. Its market is projected to grow from $928.8 million in 2023 to $6.5 billion by 2030, according to Fortune Business Insights. With the potential to solve complex problems at a previously unimaginable speed and scale, quantum computing would have numerous applications, from science to financial modelling. No wonder that the likes of IBM, Microsoft, and Nvidia are racing to break this new frontier. While the world is still digesting the eruption of Gen AI, even more SciFi-esque innovations are already on the horizon.