Spark Digital Chief Executive Jolie Hodson paints a picture of dramatic tech changes in New Zealand over the next 12 years
New Zealand now has world-class internet connectivity at globally competitive prices, she told the Digital Nation Summit.
The discussion in the past has focussed on us building the technology and aiming to driving down cost.
But now we have widespread mobile, fibre and wireless connectivity at substantially reduced price so the issue is no longer the technology, it’s making sure as a nation that we have the people, processes and culture to make the most of it.
In New Zealand our mobile technology is world-class.
We have 4.5G in many places – the stepping stone to 5G –and are well ahead of many other developing countries.
When 5G arrives in a few years’ time, the potential of what you’ll be able to do using wireless and mobile technology will be staggering and the challenge will be to keep up. The pace of change is incredible and seems to be getting faster and faster.
It’s clear that using the Internet of Things (IoT), your mobile device will be able to connect you to pretty much anything around your house if you want it to.
The lights, alarm, camera monitoring system, your appliances, water and power meters, your car, entertainment system, blinds and curtains and many other daily items that can have a small SIM chip attached.
Including your coffee machine that’s already made your preferred coffee as you wake.
This pace of change makes it almost impossible to predict exactly what life might be like in 2030. But I’m certain New Zealand will not be left behind.
Given our location at the bottom of the world, the government and the industry are focused on ensuring New Zealand has the best technology available.
I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see huge use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality devices, that may just take the form of a simple pair of sunglasses instead of using large screens and bulky headsets.
Kids will get their lessons virtually in this way and become connected citizens at a much younger age.
And they are likely to have companion robots in schools.
On the roads we’ll see driverless cars and trucks move with mathematical precision – hopefully alleviating traffic, jams and accidents.
And eventually governments will reduce the number of fuel-driven cars, promoting only electric cars.
3D printers will be used to create bigger and bigger projects – possibly even your house. Wireless technology advances will allow remote surgery and AI will allow remote assisted diagnosis.
The world will become a global economy using digital currency, removing traditional commercial borders.
Any language barriers will be solved by technology meaning talented Kiwis will become part of a global talent pool and will be employed regardless of where they live.
The exponential growth of data is speeding up so fast, that it will create new types of issues challenging the ethical use of that data.
I think the correlation between technology and sustainability will continue to converge into greener solutions, like the recycling of grey water in the home, solar panels in your window panes, and an integrated operating system in the home that recycles heat, manages smart lighting saves electricity and is all controlled by your smartphone.
Agriculture will become far more sophisticated and precise and may include robots performing many of today’s human tasks.
The monitoring of greenhouse emissions and water quality can all be done via sensors on every farm and waterway without any human intervention and will be able to pinpoint any problems and their source in real time.
Cash will become a rare commodity with consumers using mobile and other forms of digital currency to make payments.
By 2030, the very nature of disease will be further disrupted by technology.
So, disrupted, in fact, that we might have a whole lot fewer diseases to manage.
Wearable patient-monitoring devices will continuously feed in data from external second-skin sensors and networked neural sensors meshed into the brain will offer incredibly precise “micro-sampling” to be done in real time.
In this new system, 10 to 15 years down the road, much more healthcare will be delivered where the patient is—at home, at work or school, even travelling—using onsite and mobile clinics.
The next two or three years
The IoT (Internet of Things) is growing so fast that every piece of technology will soon need a wireless connection to the internet.
These technologies will include net connected smoke detectors, washing machines, fridges, farm animal sensors, thermostats, smart watches, sleep monitors, fitness bands, garbage bins and street lights with sensors for monitoring traffic, air pollution, noise and parking.
This will be enabled by better broadband connectivity all around New Zealand which is supported by both the UFB and RBI2 projects.
A greater number of mobile towers will be deployed covering only several hundred metres each compared to the kilometres between base stations today. They’ll also be smaller and more targeted.
We believe that the mass arrival of driverless cars will take a little longer than two or three years to come to New Zealand just based on the slower proliferation of brand new cars here and New Zealand’s long, narrow and mountainous topography.
But I think we’ll see pockets of it in the main centres over time and more and more electric cars and charging stations over the next few years.
AI and machine learning are driving a fundamentally different approach to software development. Spark is already using these tools to help solve customer issues and improve our processes.
We teach computers how to solve queries and identify anomalies and they learn to do this is a smarter, faster and more sophisticated way over time.
AR and VR will really change in industries like architects, builders, developers and real estate agents who can showcase their work virtually without need for scale models and open homes.
The health industry is seeing a rapid change in the way patients can be treated.
We already use virtual clinics in New Zealand where consultations are managed using a tablet in the patient’s home.
Doctors are going back into training with computer science skills, so they can integrate digital tools into their field of practice.
Wearable or implantable smart devices, robotics and artificial organs using living cells could all be part of New Zealand’s healthcare future.
The consumer sharing economy will grow even further, using an online platform that matches customers and suppliers, for services like Uber, Rideshare and Airbnb.
What will phase out by 2030?
I think it’s safe to say textbooks and daily delivered newspapers are likely to be gone.
There may be far fewer – if any cars – that still use traditional fuel.
Traditional landlines will be gone, replaced by digital alternatives with better functionality.
The mobile phone will become a ubiquitous device for virtually everything including the TV remote, garage door opener, wallet/cash, temperature controller and even your work ID card.
What IoT and AI will people see in their everyday lives?
The rise of AR and VR will really change in industries like architects, builders, developers and real estate agents, who can showcase their work virtually without need for scale models and open homes.
We are already working with clients who do some of their H&S using VR where staff are teaching themselves new physical tasks wearing a VR headset.
What about service delivery?
I’d say it’s virtually impossible to predict exactly what’s going to be happening in 2030 given the speed that technology is currently tracking.
We look five to eight years out when we plan how our Spark networks will need to be shaped to keep up with technology change and customer demand.
A new mobile generation has appeared approximately every 10 years since the first was introduced in 1982.
Assuming the trend continues, 6G will follow several years after 5G is adopted, which is expected to be around 2020 in NZ.
Many of the cellular devices connected nowadays are machines (IoT) rather than people, with the rise of Smart Homes, Smart Building and Smart Cities, so 5G and 6G will include increased demands for machine-to-machine communications, including robotic and autonomous drone delivery and transport systems.
The Internet-of-Everything (IoE) is a related development.
Our customers will be seamlessly connected to the internet no matter where they are, they will be controlling all their own communications connections and requirements on an app – without any need to contact us directly for changes and new equipment.
Landlines as we know them today will be gone, replaced by a converged communications network with much better digital functionality than today.
As we’ve seen with the government, businesses will start to forgo owning their own IT assets, instead buying these services on a ‘per user per service’ basis from a common platform and Spark is already delivering in this area.